The Citizens Council on Crime hosted the 48th Annual H. Thomas Guerry Awards to recognize on Wednesday 20 law enforcement officers for their valor and superior performance in the field.
As the 20 walked into the room for the ceremony, the entire audience proudly rose to their feet. Husbands, wives, kids, friends, and members of the public filled the room to capacity to show their appreciation for law enforcement’s dedication to Santa Barbara County’s community. The ceremony began with Jane Grant telling the story of how her husband, Thomas Guerry, died valiantly in the line of duty and how she founded this award and ceremony in his honor.
Among the Superior Performance honorees was Chief Deputy Sam Gross, who has served for 46 years in the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office. Gross served the office in many capacities such as Sheriff’s deputy, senior deputy, sergeant, lieutenant, commander, and as a chief deputy. He has covered almost ever facet of law enforcement work from serving on patrol to crime analysis to polygraph examination to hostage negotiation.
Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley presented the Guerry Award to Supervising Investigator Greg Wilkins, who provides litigation support and conducts special investigations throughout the county on challenging and perilous cases for the District Attorney’s Office. “Greg can always be counted on to stand up for what is right, as he guides our office in achieving our mission to pursue truth and justice,” Dudley said in praise.
Santa Maria Police detectives Michael Huffman and Scott Casey also received recognition as the primary leads for Operation Matador: an all out effort to track down and prosecute MS-13 gang members. Due to their strong gang and criminal investigation skills, as well as a strong work ethic, their work resulted in 16 arrests for murder and attempted murder charges.
The 48th Annual H. Thomas Guerry Awards Honorees were as follows:
H. Thomas Guerry Award for Valor
James Zbinden, Justin Dipinto, Ray Gamboa, Michael Harris, Michael Hollon, Bruce Bruening, and Jesus Guiterrez from the Santa Barbara County Sherriff’s Department
Todd Johnson, Kyle Rapp, and Adrian Gutierrez from the Santa Barbara Police Department
Steve Bennet, Toby Hall, and Clifford Powers from California Highway Patrol — Buellton
Superior Performance Award
Sam Gross from the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department
Michael Huffman and Scott Casey from the Santa Maria Police Department
James G. Richards Jr. from the California Highway Patrol — Santa Barbara
Harry Wright from the Santa Barbara County Probation Department
Greg Wilkins from the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office
David Lamar from the Lompoc Police Department