2014: Sergeant Cord Vandergrift, Sergeant Eddie Esqueda, and Officer David Skube -
Silver Medal of Courage
On December 1st, 2014, WPD Officers responded to 6731 Westminster (24 Hour Fitness Gym) upon a complaint that a male in a vehicle was harassing a citizen and simulating that he had a handgun with him. Officers responded and located the vehicle as it was leaving the parking lot and initiated a car stop to investigate. The vehicle speed away and a pursuit was initiated onto the 405 freeway. Officers, including Officer David Skube were trying to catch up to the suspect’s vehicle when he intentionally slammed on the breaks trying to cause a collision and injure the officers. Due to the unexpected and abrupt stop, a collision with a police vehicle occurred. Then, the suspect used his vehicle as a deadly weapon and rammed Officer Skube’s police vehicle. The suspect fled again accelerating on the freeway at approximately 100 MPH and was able to get away.
Later that evening, the suspect returned to Westminster and was located in the same area. Sergeant Vandergrift, Sergeant Esqueda, and Officer Skube tried again to conduct a traffic stop of the driver, but again he fled at a high rate of speed. The suspect exited the freeway in Seal Beach and was able to temporarily get away as officers due to the extreme manner he was driving. Fortunately, a police helicopter was overhead and was able to follow the suspect’s vehicle as it drove without his headlights on and continued to run through red lights at a high rate of speed. Cypress Police Officer McBain was able to catch up to the suspect vehicle and continued the pursuit by himself until other officers could assist him. The suspect drove back onto the 405 freeway and as he was approaching the 710 interchange, he lost control of his vehicle and crashed down an embankment on the freeway. The vehicle’s engine caught on fire and the driver and passenger were stuck inside the vehicle.
Sergeant Vandergrift, Corporal Esqueda and Officer Skube arrived a short time later. Officer Skube tried utilizing his fire extinguisher to put out the growing flames, but the fire was too powerful.
The officers could hear cries for help coming from the vehicle. The occupants appeared to be stuck in the vehicle and facing imminent life threatening danger due to the fire. Despite the fact that the suspect was possibly armed and had intentionally tried to hurt officers during the night, Sgt. Vandergrift, Cpl. Esqueda and Officer Skube did not hesitate. With the assistance of Officer McBain and Seal Beach Officer Garcia scaled down the embankment to rescue the suspects. They were able to free the driver’s legs and carried him up the hill. After they took him to a position of safety, they went back and discovered there was a passenger in the vehicle which had critical injuries and was unresponsive. The also freed him from the vehicle and carried him up the embankment to safety.
These officers placed themselves in several dangerous, life threatening situations at many points during the apprehension of this dangerous suspect. Sergeant Vandergrift, Corporal Esqueda, and Officer Skube showed great courage by knowingly entering a burning car to save a suspect that just tried to cause them harm minutes earlier.
2014: Sergeant Mark Lauderback, Officer Bill Eifert, and Officer Tim Walker -
Bronze Medal of Merit
On 12-05-14 Officer T. Walker and [then] Cpl. Lauderback were in the area of 15555 Brookhurst, when an armed bank robbery call was dispatched. Corporal Lauderback and Officer Walker quickly located the suspect vehicle, a taxi cab, and attempted a felony car stop. The taxi driver exited and complied as he was unaware the passenger in his vehicle had just committed an armed robbery. The suspect jumped into the driver seat and fled in the vehicle. A high speed pursuit initiated east on Edinger near Mile Square Park. Officer Bill Eifert joined the pursuit.
The pursuit continued at speeds up to 90MPH and entered into the city of Santa Ana. The suspect showed no regard for the safety of the public, the officers pursuing him or himself. The suspect failed to stop for red lights and drove on the wrong side of the road, until he finally struck an innocent motorist head-on. This did not stop the suspect, and he fled from the vehicle on foot. Officers Walker, Eifert and Cpl. Lauderback knew that a dangerous and violent felony suspect had to be captured. He could not be allowed to escape into the surrounding area that was heavily populated. They took immediate action to stop this suspect and did so with minimal force just a short distance away from the crash.
While the suspect was escorted to the vehicle, Corporal Lauderback immediately went to the victims of the collision to render aid and checked their welfare. These two acts display a unique characteristic that only the finest officers possess--courage and compassion.
Corporal Lauderback remained with the victims and assured them they were safe. The officers also prevented surrounding vehicles from striking the victim vehicle again by securing the scene. The suspect was ultimately identified as the "Cal Bear Bandit" and responsible for 8-10 bank robberies in Orange County. He was wanted by the FBI and up until this point, his identity was unknown.
2013: Officer Dave Ferronato - Silver Medal of Courage
2013: Corporal Ron Weber - Silver Medal of Courage
2013: Officer Derek Link - Bronze Medal of Merit
2013: Officer Mike Ogawa - Bronze Medal of Merit
2013: Officer Paul Walker - Bronze Medal of Merit
2012: Acting Deputy Chief Derek Marsh - Bronze Medal of Merit
DC Derek Marsh has qualified for the department’s Bronze Medal of Merit because of his outstanding individual performance in the research, development and management of the Westminster Police Department’s computer automation program from infancy to a state of the art system that rivals any police agency in the country. His dedication and willingness to undertake this responsibility has set an unprecedented standard of achievement at the Westminster Police Department.
In 1996, having almost no formal computer training, DC Marsh immersed himself in the field of computer technology, and through his incredible dedication to duty, emerged a highly qualified computer administrator. Through this astonishing achievement, he volunteered to spearhead the implementation of a complex, networked computer system over the next 5 years that included a file server system as well as a new CAD/RMS system. He expanded the system over the years to include report writing, evidence, property and jail management modules. In the furtherance of his vision, DC Marsh had written multiple grants and obtained over $1 million in funding to implement this technology and transform our police department forever more.
Recently, DC Marsh stepped into the role of acting Information Technology Director for the City and took on the monumental task of reworking the City’s infrastructure and transitioning to a state of the art data center in a new police facility. DC Marsh worked tirelessly on making this instrumental move as seamless as possible. His efforts resulted in WPD being a DOJ compliant facility, only one of two in Orange County. He also made great strides in integrating Wi-Fi in the Civic Center and providing a strategic plan for IT.
DC Marsh’s vision and insight has positively impacted how our police department functions. The manner in which officers respond to crime has vastly changed because of his dedication and understanding of how officers can use technology to be more effective. The Westminster Police Department is more efficient and provides a higher level of service to the community because of DC Marsh’s exceptional hard work and innovation.
2012: Officer Matt Edinger – Bronze Medal of Merit
While investigating a commercial burglary investigation, Officer Edinger contacted a potential witness in the case. Officer Edinger is a seasoned officer with prior detective experience and knows the value of building a good rapport with witnesses during an investigation. In this case, it most definitely paid off. The witness provided detailed information about a commercial burglary crew operating in Southern California. The crew was reported to be responsible for burglaries of several items, most concerning of which were weapons.
Officer Edinger gathered the information and began corroborating as much of the information as he could. He located surveillance flyers which matched the description of the suspects that the witness had described. He shared the information with the Westminster Police Department's Special Investigations Unit. While the investigation continued, he discovered a wanted flyer issued by the Corona Police Department involving gun burglaries from the city of Corona and Torrance. During these thefts numerous guns, including multiple assault rifles, were taken. Officer Edinger felt that the suspects described in this flyer matched the suspects he was also investigating. Officer Edinger re-contacted the witness who confirmed the suspects she had referred to were the same suspects on the flyer. In addition he learned the suspects were gang members and were selling the guns to other gang members. With this information confirmed, Matt contacted detectives at Corona PD, Torrance PD and the agents from the ATF who were investigating the case.
As a result of Officer Edinger's information and coordinated efforts with the other agencies involved, several search warrants were conducted and multiple assault rifles and handguns were recovered, along with a large amount of narcotics and ammunition. Three suspects were arrested and are in custody. Officer Edinger's outstanding investigative skills, attention to detail, persistence and commitment lead to the capture of the criminal and took guns off the street.
2012: Officer Brian Mayer – Bronze Medal of Merit
On December 5th our patrol officers were sent to an accident in which witnesses reported a subject was trapped in a vehicle. Although he was not assigned to the call, Officer Mayer knew he was the closest unit to the scene. He responded with lights and sirens to assist. Upon arrival, he found he was the first officer on scene.
He saw a badly damaged vehicle and a young female laying unconscious in the passenger seat. He immediately checked on her condition and realized she was not breathing, but had a weak pulse. Officer Mayer attempted to get the victim out of the vehicle, but found she was crushed inside the car. Brian immediately requested paramedics and continued to monitor the girl’s pulse. Prior to paramedics arriving, Brian could no longer feel a pulse and attempted to maneuver into a position to begin CPR. Unfortunately, due to the severe damage the vehicle sustained, Ofc. Mayer could not get into a position to perform CPR. When paramedics arrived on scene they were able to free the girl from the wreckage, but were unable to resuscitate her and she died from her injuries.
Patrol officers know they are going to encounter situations like this; after all it is part of the job. This realization; however, does not make these situations easy to handle when you arrive on scene. Some officers may have handled this differently. Some may have called for paramedics and began to set up traffic control. Others may have stood by not knowing what to do. Brian Mayer chose to show as much compassion to a young girl as he could during the final moments of her life. After every attempt to render aid failed, he chose to stay by her side until paramedics arrived. Although seemingly very simple, I can tell you until you have someone so young die in your arms, it is a task you cannot imagine and you hope you never have to perform.
2012: Reserve Officer John Phan – Bronze Medal of Merit
On the evening of November 24, 2012, Res. Officer John Phan was working in the Westminster City Jail. Another officer had brought in a female arrestee for DUI. This was seemingly a rather routine arrest and she was processed without incident.
Little did Officer Phan know, nothing about this night would be routine. Unbeknownst to him, the arrestee was in the process of a heated divorce battle and had been medicating herself with alcohol and prescription medication.
Officer Phan walked by the female and saw her on the phone in her jail cell and she seemed to be having an emotional conversation, but nothing else of note was observed. As he carried on his jail duties he heard that the female’s jail cell was now remarkably quiet. Although she was not scheduled to be checked, he felt in his gut that something didn’t seem right. He stopped what he was doing and went to her cell, only to find that she was in the process of hanging herself with a bed sheet. It turns out that the woman called her husband and something in the conversation triggered her to want to take her own life. Officer Phan rushed in the cell just seconds after the woman had put the make-shift noose around her neck. He was able to remove the noose, call for help from the Watch Commander, and summon paramedics in a timely manner----All of this done while remaining calm, professional, and compassionate for the injured woman.
The woman survived that evening and only suffered minor injuries. She was taken to a hospital for mental health evaluation. Due to Officer Phan’s diligence, professionalism, and quick thinking this woman’s life was saved as she was alone in her darkest hour.
The Westminster Police Department seeks nominations each year for the medals of distinguished service. The Distinguished Service medals include the Gold Medal of Valor, the Silver Medal of Courage, and the Bronze Medal of Merit. These awards are the highest honors bestowed upon our officers.
Although we seek nominations for these awards each year, they are not awarded unless the actions of the nominees meet the specific criteria. The Medal of Merit is awarded to members of the Westminster Police Department who demonstrate outstanding individual performance on a specific incident that benefits the Westminster Police Department or the Westminster community.