The man burst into a Nicolas Junior High School classroom, screamed “get down” and, after crawling around, grabbed a student’s leg.
Recognizing the potential danger, teacher Robyn Clemente quickly called the principal’s office then rescued her students.
Positioning herself between the man and her students, she talked the man into letting go of the child by telling him she would let him hold her hand.
She then told her 35 students to run. Then she ran. Police arrived moments later and arrested the man, Aaron Bennett, 23.
On Thursday, a standing-room only crowd gave Clemente a standing ovation. She was among dozens of community members and police officers honored for making Fullerton safe at apromotion and awards ceremony at the Fullerton Community Center.
Police Chief Dan Hughes also introduced his new advisory board, and family members pinned badges on nine new police officers.
Speaking to the new officers, Hughes said, “I ask that you promise that you will never compromise what this badge represents. Always remember, we have committed ourselves to our profession where we put the welfare of the community before ourselves.”
Police officers have and will continue to have critics, Hughes acknowledged.
“The vast community will support you as long as you conduct yourself in an honorable manner,” he said.
The Distinguished Service Medal was awarded to Reserve Officers Randall Richards, Nick Rosner and Michael Lyman – all who have full-time day jobs – for donating more than 10,000 hours to the police department during the past 16 years.
Also earning the medal was Det. Mario Magliano, who was the lead investigator in last year’s shooting of a Fullerton Police K-9 officer.
Distinguished Community Service Award:
• Maria Avena founded the Coast-to-Coast Foundation, whose nonprofit works with police homeless liaison officers to reunite homeless people with their families.
• Clemente for rescuing her students.
Medal of Merit:
• Community service officer Kristy Wells for redesigning the department’s commander’s hallway to “convey a sense of duty and pride,” said Sgt. Jeff Stuart.
• Range master David Benedict for ensuring officers are well trained in weapons safety for his effort educating the public about police work and firearms safety.
Chief’s Certificate of Commendation:
• Det. Gary Sirin, a high-tech crimes detective, who installed the department’s new surveillance system and played a key role on a sensitive high-profile case.
• Cpl. Ray Flores, the School-Resource officer at Sunny Hills High School, who “exhibited tremendous amount of restraint and professionalism” during a struggle with a suspect.
• The department’s Echo unit of Sgt. Tony Rios, Cpl. Eric Song, Officers Luis Garcia and Ricky Reynoso. Also assisting were traffic Cpl. Ryan Warner and Officer Steve Bailor. Their approach to partnering with Downtown bar owners has resulted in less crime and a better experience for the community.
• Lt. Andrew Goodrich for his effort in leading the partnership with the Downtown bar owners, writing the department’s annual report and his overall “cup is half full” attitude.
• Technical Services Manager Julie Langstaff for implementing electronic probable cause, subpoena and complaint systems.
Hughes introduced his advisory board: Annette Magdaleno, Anthony Package, Christopher Reese, Edward Dahms, Karla Moran, Nancy Lee, Rhonda Shader, Richard Ramirez and Tom Knoll.
Promoted employees include: Sgt. Pedram Gharah; Cpls. Matt Martinez, Billy Phu, Bryan Bybee, Gabriela Soto, Josh Earnest, Manny Pulido, Carin Wright, Shiela Drew-Craig, Michael McCaskill; Officers Justin Francis, Orlando Lopez, Joshua Manes, Samuel Lee, Davis Crabtree, Matthew Green, Jae Son, Anthony Valle and Scott Flynn.
New cadets: Luis Ramirez, Christopher Cadman, Jessica Brunick, Breana Centano. Christopher Chiu,
Two new parking control officers: Brandon Brown, Victoria Rangel.
Dispatcher: Andrew Aquino.