They came to honor the officers and firefighters who helped save the life of a grievously injured officer after a suspected drunk driver struck him while he stood behind his patrol car.
And although several Orange PD and Orange Fire personnel enjoyed their moment in the spotlight at a ceremony March 9 at the Villa, they said they were just doing their jobs, and all that mattered was that Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen was alive — and standing on both legs.
“Everyone is here to congratulate us, but today is actually a celebration of Sharif and for him being here — for him being with us today,” said Orange PD Officer Ivan Alvarez, one of three OPD officers recognized at the packed event with a Lifesaving Award.
While responding to a call about a man passed out in a parked vehicle that was blocking a driveway in the 500 block of N. Cambridge Street early Dec. 10, 2016, a female driver hit Muyazen, severing his femoral artery.
Quick thinking by his OPD colleagues — and a tourniquet — likely saved Muzayen’s life before Orange Fire personnel transported the married father of two and Marine veteran to the hospital (to read about Muzayen and his recovery, click here and here).
Orange PD Chief Tom Kisela and Orange Fire Chief Jack Thomas presided at the afternoon ceremony, whose attendees included city officials and relatives of the honorees.
“I wish this didn’t happen, but it did… but thank God Sharif is with us today,” Thomas said.
Muzayen attended with his wife, Vanessa, and two young children, Luke and Leia.
“It was awesome, it means a lot to me — especially to be able to come and say hi to these guys,” he said.
After several surgeries, Muzayen was discharged from the hospital Jan. 17 and remains in physical therapy and in pain. Doctors at first thought he might lose his left leg but they were able to save it.
“Everybody who was recognized truly deserved it,” Vanessa Muzayen said.
Mayor Theresa “Tita” Smith told the crowd the City of Orange was founded on faith, family and service nearly 130 years ago.
“You brought a city to its knees in prayer,” she told Muzayen and his family. “How Orange responds to a crisis is the best measure of who we are every day.”
Councilman Fred Whitaker praised the “servant leaders” of the OPD and Orange Fire.
“Our society cannot exist as a free republic without servant leaders, and there’s no greater example of servant leadership — of service over self — than what our police and firefighters do every day, but especially what they did for you that evening, Sharif,” Whitaker said.
“It was simply amazing, and it shows how tight-knit our community is and how tight-knit our public safety agencies are,” Whitaker added.
Said councilmember Mike Alvarez: “Let’s get these drivers off the street.”
The honorees were:
Medal of Distinction
O’Neil-Tennant was recognized for his DUI arrests. Since May 31, 2015, O’Neil-Tennant has been a member of the OPD’s DUI team. Since then he has made 488 arrests of impaired drivers. He is a back-to-back recipient of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers’ double-century award, which honors officers who make more than 200 DUI arrests per year.
Lt. Dan Adams
Medal of Distinction
Adams got the call about Muzayen at 3:30 a.m. Dec. 10 and responded to the scene. He went to the hospital and told Vanessa the news about her husband, and served as a liaison between the hospital, the OPD and the Muzayen family. For several weeks, Adams spent a lot of time at the hospital, handling visitation schedules and coordinating other things for the family. Adams also worked with the City of Orange to have a case manager assigned to Muzayen, and was in charge of providing regular updates about Muzayen’s condition to OPD personnel.
Sgt. Phil McMullin
Medal of Distinction
McMullin served as a liaison between the OPD and Vanessa Muzayen. He was sent to the hospital and identified how the department could help the family. He shopped for fresh clothes for Vanessa and assisted relatives in their travel needs. He also made several trips to airport for friends and family and helped with their lodging and meals. McMullin also picked up Sharif’s medications and took Vanessa Christmas shopping so she could buy gifts for her husband and children.
Orange Fire Department
Distinguished Unit Citation
Engine 1 and Rescue 1 personnel:
Battalion Chief Chris Boyd
Capt. John Weigand
Paramedic-Engineer Greg Baudot
Firefighter-Paramedic Tyler Randall
Firefighter-Paramedic J.D. Jackson
Firefighter Jesse Mulder
Decisive action by Orange Fire personnel were critical to Muzayen’s survival. The firefighters also provided breakfast to hospital staff and visited the hospital on several occasions. They attended a Dec. 20 fund-raiser for the Muzayen family hosted by the American Veterans Association.
“Never has this bond between the fire department and the police department been stronger,” Thomas said.
Sgt. Kevin Plog
Officer Jesse Ochoa
Officer Ivan Alvarez
Plog and Ochoa were the first to respond to the Dec. 10 call. Plog and Ochoa rushed to Muzayen’s side after he was hit. Plog reassured Muzayen he would be OK. At first, the two couldn’t control the bleeding. While Plog stayed with Muzayen and applied pressure to his upper left leg, Ochoa got a tourniquet from the squad car. Alvarez showed up and he and Ochoa applied the tourniquet. All three officers remained calm and optimistic during the ordeal. Ochoa stayed with Muzayen in the ambulance when he was transported to the hospital.