Coachella Valley Honors Police and Fire Heroes
They saved lives, they saved property, they went above and beyond the call of duty. And on Tuesday, Nov. 20, a grateful Coachella Valley thanked them.
The 11th Annual Coachella Valley Peace Officer and Public Safety Awards luncheon, sponsored by the Palm Desert Chamber of Commerce at the Hyatt Grand Champions in Indian Wells, featured such notables as:
- Medal of Valor, Fire Service -- Ignacio "Chopper" Otero, Jr., who ignored his own personal safety to shove a fellow firefighter out of the way of a collapsing wall, thereby saving his life. Everybody thinks Chopper is a hero, except maybe Chopper. Of course, this sort of behavior runs in the family-Ignacio's father, Nacho Otero in previous years was the first public safety officer to receive two annual awards at the luncheon.
- Coachella Valley Medal of Valor, Law Enforcement-Riverside County Sheriff's Sergeant Robert Brooker and Cathedral City Police Officers Brian Barkley and Ernie Vasquez pulled a man out of a burning car just before it exploded in flames.
- Citizen of the Year, Law Enforcement-Oliver Alvarez, private citizen, stepped in to stop the beating of a local high school student and helped police arrest the assailant.
- Citizen of the Year, Fire Safety-Fire Engineer Robert Yturralde, Palm Springs Fire Department, saw a man with a gun attempting to rob a bank within a store, moved customers to the back of the store, and provided police with a description of the perpetrator and the getaway vehicle.
- There were many others, sworn and not sworn, professional and amateur, who were honored for their service to community, including: Non-Sworn Employee of the Year-Community Service Officer Thomas Fowler, Riverside County Sheriff's Department. Volunteers of the Year-Warren and Diana Olson, Cathedral City P.D. Citizens on Patrol. Service to Youth Group Award-Officers Melissa Desmarais and Juan Jimenez, Palm Springs Police Department. Service to Youth Individual Award-Deputy Kevin Moore, La Quinta Middle School SRO, Riverside County Sheriff's Department. Outstanding Community Service Program-Palm Springs Emergency Response Team, P.S. Fire Department. Reserve Officer of the Year-Henry Chan, Cathedral City Police Department. Narcotics Enforcement, Team Member-Deputy Joshua Button, Riverside County Sheriff's Department, Coachella Valley Narcotics Task Force. Narcotics Enforcement, Individual-Officer Miguel Torres, Cathedral City Police Department. Outstanding Performance for Specialized Duties, Law Enforcement-Detective Frank Browning, Palm Springs Police Department. Significant Cases of Incidents Worked, Law Enforcement-Lt. Dan Wilham, Sergeants Gregg Miller, Mark Hoyt, Ken Reichle, Andrew Nielsen, Armando Munoz, Randy Wedertz, investigators Rob Roggeveen, Rick Espinoza, Mario Martinez, John Reinbolz, Paul Tesinsky, James Merrill, Cindy Cervello and Ken Black, all with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, Palm Desert Station Investigations Bureau. Outstanding Canine Team-Agent Luis Hermosillo and K-9 Asta-C, U.S. Border Patrol, Indio Station. All Around Excellence, Law Enforcement, Sworn-Senior Investigator Robert Nagels and Investigator Joe Quintero, Riverside County Sheriff's Department, Indio. All-Around Excellence, Fire Service-CALFIRE/Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins.
Honorary Chairman of this year's event was Riverside County District Attorney Rod Pacheco.