California Attorney General Kamala Harris, in town to speak to more than 100 local law enforcement officials, recognized four employees and two civilians of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday at Earl Warren Showgrounds. She presented the six men — all nominated by executive staff — with awards for their recent actions.
“That’s my favorite part of my job, to meet and talk with the heroes walking among us,” Harris said. “Even in challenging times, there are individuals willing to be heroes.”
Christopher Gotschall, a senior deputy with the Sheriff’s Department, received the H. Thomas Guerry Medal of Valor Award for responding to a call of shots fired last October, and then shooting the suspect, who was armed with a loaded semi-automatic gun.
At Goleta Beach in March, Sheriff’s Deputy Julio Gutierrez and former UC Police Department corporal Kevin Kilgore swam more than 100 feet to save a drowning woman, an act that earned them each an Attorney General’s award.
Custody Sergeant Timothy Morgan also earned an Attorney General’s award for his October 2011 response to an inmate brandishing a homemade knife. The inmate attacked Morgan, but Morgan successfully subdued the man. Morgan went right back to work after being treated for his wounds.
Rick Roney also scored an Attorney General’s award for his work with the Santa Barbara County Reentry Project, which has been credited with making huge dents in the county’s recidivism rate for parolees by providing them with counseling, medical care, and substance abuse treatment at the start of their parole terms. Attorney General Harris called the project “a model for our state.”
U.S. Air Force Airman David Russell was likewise given an Attorney General’s award, honored for his actions last September when, walking his dog with his wife, he encountered gunshots and a murder scene in Orcutt. Russell snagged the shooter’s license plate number and administered first aid to two of the victims, one of whom survived. ”I accept this for all the heroes who were there that day to assist,” Russell said.
A CHP captain, Ryan Stonebraker, was also presented with an award, as were nine investigators honored by the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office: Cloyce Conway, Tom Mendez, Russell Robinson, Robert MacInnes, Paul Walsh, Adam Wittkins, Sonia Sanchez, Ralph Elvira, and Juan Reynoso.
In a closed-to-the-press speech prior to the awards, Attorney General Harris spoke about how the local law enforcement agencies — those from Santa Barbara, Ventura, and San Luis Obispo counties — can best deal with transnational gangs. They also discussed a mobile app launched by the California Department of Justice called “JusticeMobile.” The app, which was piloted by the San Francisco Police Department, would allow officers to access confidential criminal information through their smartphones.
Sheriff Bill Brown, speaking after the ceremony, called the app “very exciting” and said it was a program that his department could look into in the future. He said that the app, which he added has tight security, could be especially helpful to the Isla Vista Foot Patrol.