Both the worst and the finest sides of human nature were apparent on May 23, 2014, the horrific night when six UCSB students lost their lives. The worst side was exhibited by 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, who murdered six people and injured 14 more before killing himself. The finest side, though, was demonstrated over and over again by the first responders who displayed courage during that dreadful Friday night last May.
Such was emphasized Wednesday afternoon, when more than 50 Sheriff’s Office personnel and UCSB police officers were individually recognized on the stage in the Isla Vista Theater, just blocks from the where the 8-minute violent rampage unfolded.
Sheriff Bill Brown made a point not to mention Rodger’s name on Wednesday, instead referring to him as a mentally ill college student who took the lives of six “bright, accomplished, and innocent” UCSB students — David Wang, James Hong, George Chen, Veronika Weiss, Katie Cooper, and Christopher Michaels-Martinez.
Emceeing the ceremony was Catherine Remak, a journalist who has a 19-year-old son who was in Isla Vista that night. As it turned out, her son missed the violence by about 10 minutes. “I always thought in my mind, ‘Ten random minutes,’” Remak said. “But as I stand here before you today…I realize that it wasn’t so much the random 10 minutes as it was the intentional and courageous thoughts and actions of those who responded.”
Perhaps most significantly, the first responders were credited for stopping Rodger from harming more people. “[They put] themselves between his bullets and the people of Isla Vista he had hoped to kill,” said 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr, who represents I.V. “They protected the vulnerable, assisted the injured, and comforted the dying.”
Sheriff Brown first called to the stage dispatchers who answered the first 911 call at 9:27 p.m. that night. Within a half hour, 121 incoming phone calls, 63 of which were 911 calls, flooded their dispatch center. Brown went on to call up the paramedics and deputies who performed CPR and other lifesaving techniques to save the lives of two who bled profusely from gunshot wounds.
Five Sheriff’s officials — Deputy Adrien Marquez, Sergeant Brad Welch, Deputy Brian Flick, Deputy Jorden Walker, and Deputy Wayne Johnson — received the Sheriff’s Medal of Valor, a very rare award only given once before during Brown’s tenure for extraordinary and above and beyond service in the face of imminent peril. These officials were the last to face Rodger as he fired directly at them. Brown also singled out Detective Joseph Schmidt, the primary investigator who worked for months drafting the incident’s final report.
As for the UCSB police department, police chief Dustin Olson called up about 15 UCSB officials, including sergeants, dispatchers, and detectives, who worked in unison with the Sheriff’s Department. Five officials — Sergeant Daniel Wilson, Corporal Gregory Pierce, Corporal Bradly Prows, Corporal Jeffery Lupo, and Officer Tyler Oldread — received the police valor award. Though they were not all individually recognized on Wednesday, more than 200 responders were part of the “commendation bar.”
UCSB Vice Chancellor of Administrative Services Marc Fisher commended the county and university personnel for their work on May 23 and their continuous efforts in the past 11 months to make Isla Vista safe.