Last April, Daniel Burkhalter, a manager at Blenders in the Grass, was closing the front of the State Street store when he heard a crash and a scream from the back room. A masked man who had burst in through the business’s back door was trying to sexually assault one of his employees with a knife to her throat.
Without a moment’s hesitation, Burkhalter rushed over and started grappling with 26-year-old Oscar Javier Aguilar-Jimenez while the female employee escaped and called for help. Burkhalter’s left hand was slashed in the fight, which was caught on security camera, but he was also able to remove Aguilar-Jimenez’s mask and some of his clothing. Using the security camera footage (see below) and evidence at the scene, police later arrested Aguilar-Jimenez. He was sentenced to eight years in prison for the assault.
This Wednesday, Burkhalter and six other Santa Barbara residents were honored with the annual Santa Barbara Police Department’s Extra Step Award, given to citizens who display true acts of civic heroism. The awards, sponsored by the Kiwanis Club of Santa Barbara, were distributed during a low-key but heartfelt luncheon at the Mesa Café.
In addition to Burkhalter, the other award recipients were:
Jorge Montano, an apartment complex manager on Cota Street, who assisted officers investigating a violent robbery and false imprisonment case by providing lengthy Spanish translation and access to his office to conduct interviews.
Joe Clemens, who observed multiple suspects committing an armed robbery at a downtown jewelry store; he acted quickly to take video of the suspects and their getaway car.
Frank Lopez, owner of Santa Barbara Towing, who has consistently provided outstanding, reliable service to officers and citizens.
James Baugh and his friend Austin Vierhus, who recovered property stolen from Baugh in a burglary and aided in the suspect’s arrest.
And Moises Medina, owner of La Aroma de Havana Cigar Lounge. Medina provided eyewitness accounts of criminal activity on the 400 block of State Street, and he helped Community Service Liaisons during their encounters with confrontational subjects.
Editor’s Note: This story has been corrected to say that Frank Lopez is the owner of Santa Barbara Towing.