On Friday, May 21, five Santa Barbara police officers received one of the county’s highest honors for bravery in the line of duty — the H. Thomas Guerry Award.
The award, named after a former Santa Barbara police officer, was bestowed upon a handful of Santa Barbara Law Enforcement personnel by the Santa Barbara Citizens Council on Crime (SBCCC) for “their extraordinary bravery and commitment to the safety of the residents of Santa Barbara County.” Award recipients are nominated by their respective municipal departments and are granted the award upon nomination, according to SBCCC President Bob Hart.
During a press conference preceding the ceremony, Hart spoke about the importance of recognizing such acts of valor. “I always say that high schools students should attend the ceremony and see the positive side of law enforcement. These men are risking their lives … it’s important that we show our support.”
Among those recognized for their heroic efforts were Officer Richard Washington and Officer Keld Hove. They found themselves directly in harm’s way on February 1 when they apprehended a naked man who had been reported masturbating in public and recklessly operating a vehicle. Officer Washington ordered the suspect, then on La Cumbre Lane, at gunpoint to turn off his vehicle. The suspect ignored his commands and accelerated toward Officer Hove’s patrol car, which he missed, instead ramming into a parked pickup truck.
Later, the suspect attempted to once again run over Officer Hove. Officer Washington attempted to draw fire, but then realized that Officer Hove, having dodged the path of the car, had come into the line of fire. Office Hove noticed the suspect’s side window was open and drew his taser, successfully incapacitating the suspect and allowing Officer Washington to break open the passenger door and take the victim into custody. “This is a situation where deadly force was clearly justified, yet the officers showed restraint and professionalism in their decision to protect rather than take the life of a repeat offender who was trying to harm them,” said a spokesperson for the Citizens Council on Crime.
Also honored were Officer David Lamar, Officer Mark Powell, and Agent Joseph Stetz of the Lompoc Police Department, who forced entry into a burning structure to rescue a handicapped woman and check for other possible victims trapped inside. In response to the flurry of praise he and his team were met with, Officer Lamar said, “It was just a matter of circumstance that [we] were there. Anyone would have done the same.” Officer Powell agreed: “You’re not just thinking as an officer, but as a human being … this was one of the easiest cases I’ve ever worked on. There was no hesitation because it’s about saving a human life … any warm-blooded human being would.”