From preventing armed suspects from harming others, to exhibiting bravery at the tragic scene of a fallen officer, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department deputies acted professionally and selflessly on several calls in 2019 and in previous years.
On Feb. 21, they were honored at the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association Awards Banquet.
The gala event, held at the Riverside Convention Center, was co-sponsored by the Riverside Sheriff’s Association and the Riverside County Deputy Sheriff Relief Foundation.
RSA President Bill Young welcomed guests.
Young was assisted by RSA Executive Director Michael Abel, RCDSRF President Chad Marlatt, and Sheriff Chad Bianco in handing out the awards.
Bianco served as master of ceremonies.
The following are the 2020 award recipients:
Deputy Sheriff Ulises (Joey) Otero
Deputy Otero has been with the Riverside Sheriff’s Department since 2006. Since July of 2018, he has served in the courtroom of Commissioner to the Superior Court, Nicholas Firetag.
Commissioner Firetag stated in his nomination of Otero that Otero has consistently displayed every characteristic that a judicial officer would want in a courtroom deputy. He maintains order in the courtroom with professionalism and grace. This demeanor is critical in a family law courtroom, where emotions tend to run high.
Deputy Otero does an outstanding job of maintaining a calm atmosphere where members of the public can feel safe and be heard.
OUTSTANDING COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARD
Community Service Officer Connie Duke
“There is not one person that I have ever met that loves this department and dedicates more time or effort to this department than Connie,” Sheriff Chad Bianco said. “The mother and the love that she has for our explorers is hands-down second to none.”
For details about Duke’s award, click here.
LAW ENFORCEMENT LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Deputy Sheriff Timothy Mahoney
Timothy Mahoney began his career in law enforcement over 30 years ago with the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department. For the past 12 years, he has served the citizens of Riverside County as a Riverside Deputy Sheriff. Deputy Mahoney has served in multiple capacities at the Perris Station, and in his most recent assignment to Central Court Services, where he serves as a Field Training Officer and a Court Training Officer.
Deputy Mahoney is dedicated to his duties as a training officer. He takes the time with each new deputy to create scenarios and provide thoughtful and constructive feedback on their reports. Deputy Mahoney prepares deputies to go into the field, giving them the knowledge and skills needed to keep themselves and the public safe. His knowledge, experience and dedication have equipped him to be not only a valued training officer, but also someone his coworkers can rely on.
Deputy Mahoney is a dedicated family man who speaks proudly of his children and grandchildren. He is always available to help out a friend, or to mentor the youth in a variety of ways. Deputy Mahoney’s dedication to duty and to the community project a positive image upon the law enforcement profession, and exemplify the meaning of service.
TOP DOG AWARD
Deputy Sheriff Mathew Saidlemen and K9 Django
In June 2018, Deputy Saidleman responded to the city of Jurupa Valley to assist patrol deputies who were in pursuit of a possible DUI driver. It was reported that the driver was armed with a handgun and an assault rifle.
Deputy Saidleman joined in the pursuit and assisted the patrol deputies. At the end of the pursuit, the suspect jumped out of his vehicle and began running toward a trailer. Deputy Saidleman deployed K9 Django, who then chased after the suspect. During the chase, the suspect picked up a bicycle and struck K9 Django.
Django, even after being struck with the bicycle, continued to chase the suspect. Deputy Saidleman and deputies lost sight of the suspect as he ran into the patio area of the trailer. As Deputy Saidleman and the other deputies approached the patio area, the suspect, who armed himself with an assault-style rifle, posed an immediate threat to Deputy Saidleman and other deputies on scene. During this altercation, Django held onto the suspect’s arm, which delayed and distracted the suspect who was preparing to shoot at deputies.
It is with the quick thinking of Deputy Saidleman to deploy K9 Django, and the courage, strength, and perseverance of K9 Django to apprehend the suspect even after being struck with a bicycle by the suspect. Without a doubt, K9 Django’s apprehension prevented the suspect from harming deputies on scene.
MAJOR INCIDENT RECOGNITION AWARDS
(Most of these events happened years ago but just recently have been legally adjudicated.)
First Award Group
Deputy Sheriff Christopher Varela
Deputy Sheriff Daniel Householder
Deputy Sheriff Michael Schmidt
Lt. Christopher Durham
While on duty on Dec. 10, 2014, Deputy Chris Varela and Lt. Chris Durham, both assigned to the gang task force, spotted a vehicle that had been reported as stolen. A pursuit ensued and Deputy Daniel Householder, along with his fourth-phase trainee, Deputy Michael Schmidt, eventually caught up and took secondary in the pursuit.
The pursuit ended when the suspect vehicle crashed into a garage that was attached to a private residence. A female passenger got out of the suspect vehicle and was later taken into custody. The driver attempted to escape by backing up at a high rate of speed, and intentionally colliding with the gang unit vehicle (which was, thankfully by that time, unoccupied).
The suspect accelerated forward and once again intentionally crashed into the garage. The suspect then attempted to angle the vehicle so that he might have room to maneuver around the patrol units behind him. He accelerated backward directly toward Deputy Householder.
All four deputies fired several rounds, stopping the suspect from striking Deputy Householder with his car.
Second Award Group
Deputy Sheriff Devin Schmidt
Deputy Sheriff Jason Green
Deputy Sheriff Brian Burgess
Deputies Devin Schmitt, Jason Green, and Brian Burgess responded to a domestic violence call on Oct. 9, 2015 in Idyllwild, where a female was reportedly threatening family members with a handgun. The deputies arrived and established a perimeter. The suspect came to the front door of the residence holding a handgun to her head. Deputies repeatedly asked her to put the gun down. However, she eventually pointed the gun in their direction.
Sheriff Investigator Michael Callahan
On June 12, 2016, Sheriff Investigator Michael Callahan was working an overtime detail in Moreno Valley when he noticed a vehicle drive into the corner of a T-intersection and park. Callahan observed a male exit the vehicle and walk around the rear and driver’s side. It was obvious to Investigator Callahan that the man was a gang member.
Callahan watched as the man walked away from the parked car, walked past the rear of Callahan’s patrol vehicle, crossed the street, and approached a single-family residence.
Callahan entered the license plate and discovered the car was, in fact, stolen.
Callahan called for emergency backup and told dispatch that he would attempt to hold the man at gunpoint until the arrival of backup deputies.
The man turned to face Callahan and defiantly challenged the order, asking him why he needed to follow his instructions. Callahan was certain that he was about to be shot by the man.
Fearing for his life, Callahan fired several rounds from his service pistol. One or more of the rounds struck the man, who fell to the ground.
Deputy Sheriff Bradley Marshall
Deputy Marshall, while on patrol in San Jacinto, was attempting to conduct a vehicle stop on a red Ford Mustang in the area of Cottonwood Avenue and State Street. He believed the driver was under the influence due to erratic driving. The driver failed to yield, and a vehicle pursuit ensued.
The pursuit traveled through several cities, eventually entering Hemet, where the vehicle slowed down and a female passenger jumped from the moving vehicle, as did a male passenger.
The vehicle came to an abrupt stop, with the driver quickly exiting his vehicle and pointing a pistol at Deputy Marshall through the windshield.
Deputy Marshall ducked down, drew his firearm, and fired six rounds from his pistol, striking the suspect in the leg.
Deputy Sheriff Jarrod Meissen
On May 19, 2017, Deputy Sheriff Jarrod Meissen was on duty, in uniform, driving a marked black-and-white vehicle. He responded to a call for service, a 415 (Disturbing the Peace). While en route to the call, Deputy Meissen heard dispatch announce that the suspect was armed with a shotgun and had announced that he was prepared to, or wanted to, shoot the police.
Meissen chose to take his assault rifle when he exited the police vehicle. Subsequently Meissen heard three shotgun blasts and believed that the suspect was either shooting at victims in the reporting parties’ home or firing at the deputies assembled around the perimeter.
This caused Meissen to believe the situation had moved into an “active shooter” situation.
Deputy Meissen encountered the suspect standing at the front door of the reporting parties’ home with his shotgun pointed directly at the front door. Deputy Meissen fired three rounds from his assault rifle. The third round struck the suspect, who eventually fell to the ground.
Deputy Sheriff George Scott
On March 4, 2017, Deputy Scott responded as a back-up deputy to the area of Malki Road south of the I-10 freeway, near the railroad tracks. A suspect had fled on foot from a deputy near the outlet stores and had crossed the freeway on foot.
Deputy Scott encountered the suspect near the railroad tracks and started chasing him on foot. The suspect turned toward Deputy Scott, extending his arm straight out as if he were holding a handgun. Deputy Scott could see that the suspect had a dark object in his hand and fired several rounds at the suspect.
The suspect continued running before seeking cover behind a tree.
As Deputy Scott approached the tree, he saw the suspect sitting on an embankment with both hands extended toward Deputy Scott in what appeared to be a shooting stance. Deputy Scott could see that the suspect was still holding what looked to be a handgun. Deputy Scott fired several more times, striking the suspect.
Deputy Sheriff Zachary Taylor
On March 9, 2017, Deputy King and Deputy Henson were dispatched to an in-progress 242 Battery involving a male hitting a female near the Caliente Springs Mobile Home Park. Deputy Henson arrived and located the subjects. He advised on the radio that he had a male at gunpoint who was holding a female hostage and threatening her with a knife.
Deputy Henson requested that Deputy Taylor deploy his AR-15. Deputy Taylor arrived and was able to flank the suspect and deploy his AR-15 while avoiding detection. From a distance of about 50 yards, Deputy Taylor fired a single round when he saw the suspect put the knife to the victim’s throat. The round hit the suspect, instantly disabling him. The victim was unharmed and deputies administered CPR until medics arrived.
Third Group Award
Deputy Sheriff Brian Kristensen
Deputy Sheriff Carlos Martinez
Deputy Sheriff Matthew Saidleman
Sgt. Edward Soto
On June 3, 2018, around 5:30 p.m., a possible driving while under the influence call came out at 54th Street and Pedley in Jurupa Valley. A female called 911 stating her ex-boyfriend was parked in his truck at the location, intoxicated, armed with a handgun and an AK-47.
Several deputies responded. They arrived but were unable to locate the vehicle or suspect. As deputies continued to search for the suspect, the female called back and advised the suspect had Facetimed her and she could clearly make out her residence in the background of the suspect during the call.
The female provided her address to dispatch and deputies arrived at the location.
Deputy Katherine Valenciano and Deputy Carlos Martinez encountered the suspect at the end of a long dirt driveway. The suspect was unloading unknown items from his vehicle. The suspect saw the deputies, ignored their commands, got into his vehicle, and backed down the driveway at a high rate of speed, almost running over Deputy Kristensen.
The suspect fled in his vehicle from the location as Sgt. Ed Soto arrived on scene. Sgt. Soto immediately went into a vehicle pursuit of the suspect. Deputy Kristensen and Deputy Martinez joined Sgt. Soto in the vehicle pursuit.
The high-speed pursuit lasted approximately 10 minutes and reached speeds of over 100 MPH with the suspect weaving in and out of traffic and into oncoming traffic. Deputy Matt Saidleman, with his K9 partner Django, joined the pursuit as Riverside Police Department’s Air1 called out the pursuit from overhead.
The suspect returned to the female’s residence and skid to a stop in his smoking truck right in front of the house. The suspect ran out of his vehicle and smashed into the front door of the house. The suspect then exited the house while screaming at the deputies he had a gun. K9 Django was deployed and the suspect ran into a covered porch where he picked up a bike and struck Django. Django fought back and bit the suspect on his right arm as Deputies Saidleman, Kristensen, Martinez, and Sgt. Soto converged on the suspect.
While fighting with Django, the suspect grabbed an AR-15 he had staged at the location. Deputies were just feet away when the suspect came up with the assault rifle and Deputies Saidleman, Kristensen, Martinez, and Sgt. Soto engaged the suspect with gunfire until he was no longer a threat.
Django was not injured despite being beaten by the suspect and near the gunfire. During the incident, Deputy Martinez, Kristensen, Saidleman, and Sgt Soto displayed true composure and courage. Everyone remained calm and pursued the suspect despite the danger, possibly preventing a greater tragedy with more loss of life.
It was later learned the suspect had tossed a handgun out during the pursuit. The suspect also had hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his truck and it was unclear what he was unloading from his truck or what his plan was for the female later at her residence.
MEDAL OF COURAGE
Deputy Sheriff Jolene Zavorka
On Feb. 25, 2018, Deputy Sheriff Jolen Zavorka responded to a man with a gun call at a local Subway restaurant in Perris. The reporting party called 911 to report an adult male armed with a handgun inside the business. The male had pointed the gun at the employees and was attempting to rob the business.
Deputy Zavorka was the first to arrive on scene and she maintained a visual of the armed suspect, who was still inside the business. The suspect was seated at a table in the restaurant.
When deputies arrived, the suspect stood and pointed the handgun, shooting one round toward Deputy Zavorka. Deputy Zavorka fired her AR-15, injuring the suspect and causing him to drop the handgun.
The suspect was unable to continue his assault on the deputies due to Deputy Zavorka’s quick actions. The suspect was arrested for attempted murder of a police officer.
MEDAL OF VALOR
The details of this event are still coming in. We continue to learn of more peace officers who responded and were instrumental in resolving the situation on this tragic day. All officers from several agencies will be recognized at a later date.
CHP Officer Robert Paul
RPD Officer Kevin Feimer
RPD Officer Jerry Post
RPD Officer Derek Kopitch
RSO Deputy Sheriff Mario Chappell
RSO Deputy Sheriff Bryan Esparza
RSO Deputy Sheriff Dustin Goetz
RSO Sheriff Sergeant Jason Vickers
and posthumously, CHP Officer Andre Moye, EOW Aug. 12, 2019. Accepting the award for Officer Moye will be his mother, Shareece Davis-Nelson.
On Monday, Aug. 12, 2019, at about 5:00 p.m., CHP Motor Officer Andre Moye conducted a traffic stop on the Eucalyptus overpass of the 215 Freeway. After speaking with the driver and learning that his license had been suspended, Officer Moye called for a tow truck.
While waiting for the truck to arrive, the suspect removed a fully automatic rifle from a hiding place and murdered Officer Moye.
CHP Officer Robert Paul arrived and attempted to rescue Officer Moye. The suspect turned on Officer Paul who sustained several gunshot wounds while trying to save his brother officer’s life, but was still able to return fire.
RSO and RPD officers started arriving from all directions.
Deputy Bryan Esparza was still on training with his FTO, Deputy Mario Chavez. When they arrived, the scene was described as a war zone. Both deputies engaged the suspect and Deputy Chavez ran directly into the line of fire to assist Officer Paul.
In the meantime, RPD Officer Kevin Feimer and RSO Deputy Dustin Goetz arrived from the opposite direction and started to engage the suspect.
Sgt. Jason Vickers and Deputy Mario Chappell drove directly into the line of fire so that Deputy Chavez could load Officer Paul into the back of their patrol car. Deputy Chappell, a trained medic, provided lifesaving measures to Officer Paul as they drove him to the hospital.
RPD helicopter pilot Officer Jerry Post knew that Officer Moye had been critically wounded and was still in need of help. He also knew the dangers of landing the helicopter into what had essentially become a war zone. He did it anyway. Officer Moye was loaded onto the helicopter and flown to the hospital.