2018 Heroes

 

2018 Honorees:

 

Senior Airman Austin Henson & Technical Sergeant Benjamin Cole

Davis Monthan AFB

 

 

Deployed from Tucson, AZ to East Africa, Team Leader, Benjamin Cole, and Element Leader, Austin Henson, led the operations of a combat rescue team. Ben Cole led a team of 6 Pararescuemen supporting high-risk operations in Southern Somalia, along with Austin Henson as the primary medic on the team. U.S. Military members were partnered with African forces to establish an outpost in al-Shabaab controlled territory when they came under attack. The team was in the air on helicopters within minutes of the attack and overhead within 20 minutes. There was a lot of confusion on the ground due to the ongoing fight, so Ben Cole elected to send in his helicopter to make sense of the injuries. Henson’s helicopter crew fought their way in without regard to their own safety. The fighting was so aggressive that they had to make a few passes with both helicopters .50 caliber guns to suppress the enemy so they could land while the second helicopter continued to fire overhead.

Senior Airman, Austin Henson, and Technical Sergeant, Benjamin Cole, moved through gun and mortar fire and linked up with the ground team to get casualty reports and make decisions on who needed to come out first. Austin helped load patients and started treating the most critical one right away. Once triaged, Ben loaded three other critical patients and they took off to cover additional patients and ensure everyone was brought to safety. The team treated the patients while the helicopter flew with aggressive combat maneuvers back to an American outpost where a team of doctors waited. While turning over their patients to the doctors, word came that their team needed to fly back into the same firefight to retrieve further casualties. Without hesitation, they flew back into the fight, having to conduct increased gun-runs to get back into the landing zone as the fight raged on. The teams extracted more American and African forces who were hurt in the ongoing fight and brought back under protection. Unfortunately, due to the extent of injuries sustained, one American service member was killed, but because of the leadership and heroic actions of Ben Cole and Austin Henson, four more Americans are alive today. Together, they truly live the rescue motto, “These Things I Do, So That Others May Live!”

 

 

 

Honoree: Sergeant John Malovich

Tucson Police Department SWAT

 

 

            During the early afternoon hours of June 8, 2018, Operations Division Midtown Patrol encountered a barricaded subject call for service. The subject had visited a friend, refused to leave the friend’s residence, and, ultimately, committed aggravated assault against the friend. At the earliest opportunity, the friend (victim) escaped the residence and called 911. Patrol officers responded to the address and attempted contact with the subject, who barricaded himself inside his friend’s home and threated to set it on fire if police interfered with him. The subject claimed to have taken the gasoline out of a motorized bike and spread it throughout the residence. The patrol officers were soon joined by the Mental Health Unit, and by Hostage negotiators. Negotiations continued for an extended period of time. Sergeant Malovich is a SWAT supervisor, and 19-year veteran of the Tucson Police Department. On the afternoon in question he conducted administrative duties. Sergeant Malovich heard the radio traffic pertaining to the incident and volunteered to respond and assist.

            On his arrival Sergeant Malovich realized evacuations had not been completed on the neighboring duplex units, the SW Gas line had not been turned off, there was little containment of the location, and although TFD was present at the scene, they were too far away to assist in the event of a fire. Additionally, the route the fire truck would take to the residence was blocked by several other emergency vehicles. Sergeant Malovich took immediate action and ensured that his critical observations were remedied. He personally initiated and oversaw the process of clearing the roadway and moving the fire truck about 100 yards closer to the residence where it would be effective. He then coordinated with the firemen and ensured they had their lines hooked up, charged, and ready to take immediate action. With fire as their first concern, Sergeant Malovich next developed a plan, and entered the duplex property where he supervised the evacuations of nearby residents who had not received those instructions from the first responding patrol officers. Sergeant Malovich performed an additional critical duty while inside the property boundary. He and his team covertly approached and shut off the SW Gas utility line. The meter was attached to the wall of the aggravated assault suspect’s location. The close proximity to the suspect, and obvious danger thereby associated due to the proximity had prevented the patrol officers from accomplishing that task. To ensure the safety of the public, Sergeant Malovich next conducted a thorough reconnaissance of the property. He relocated and assigned additional officers to previously overlooked positions to prevent the suspect from escaping and potentially harming others.

            None of Sergeant Malovich’s efforts had been in vain or wasted. Shortly after the completion of Sergeant Malovich’s self-assigned tasks, the suspect set the duplex on fire. Because of the gasoline the unit became fully engulfed in flames within seconds. Were it not for Sergeant Malovich’s dedicated efforts, attention to detail and hard work, the entire property consisting of multiple units, and potentially the gas line itself, would have been lost. However, because of his planning and hands-on supervisory actions, two fire hoses fought the fire within seconds. Not only were the other residential units and the gas line saved, but the suspect himself was saved. Sergeant Malovich’s plan was so thorough, the man wasn’t even critically injured. Having witnessed the entire sequence of events from beginning to end, there is no doubt the suspect would have died in the inferno if it were not for Sergeant Malovhich’s critical thinking skills and ability to implement the necessary scene remediation in a highly stressful, dynamic, and chaotic environment. Sergeant Malovich is clearly a public service hero!

 

 

Honorees: LPO Erika Munoz & Officer Marcos Ramirez

Tucson Police Department

 

 

            In the early morning hours of June 10, 2018, officers responded to the report of a domestic violence incident at an apartment complex. Officer Munoz and Officer Ramirez arrived on scene and could smell something burning. Shortly after their arrival, they found one of the apartments was fiercely ablaze. Officer Ramirez went to the apartment below the unit on fire to evacuate the couple inside and safely escort them to the parking lot. Officer Munoz was flagged down by a female that said she knew one of the residents in the apartment and stated that there was a 1-year old child inside. Officer Munoz observed as a male exited the apartment, with no child, and then go back inside. The male turned out to be the suspect who was responsible for setting the apartment on fire. While Officer Ramirez continued evacuations of surrounding apartments, Officer Munoz bravely entered the engulfed apartment with no protective gear on, in hopes of rescuing the child as the suspect exited the apartment once more, with no child. While inside, the smoke and flames from the fire were tremendous. At one point, a fire extinguisher inside the apartment in close proximity to Officer Munoz exploded, due to the extreme temperatures, causing the window to shatter. Officer Munoz was eventually forced out of the apartment due to the heat, fire and immense smoke.

            After leaving the unit, Officer Munoz and Officer Ramirez continued the evacuation efforts while waiting for the Tucson Fire Department to arrive. In a review of the body worn camera footage of the incident, it was clear that Officer Munoz was struggling to breathe, yet she still managed to transmit clear direction to civilians and responding officers, alike, during the evacuations. Officer Munoz and Officer Ramirez never once stopped thinking of others above themselves, and it is clear by their actions and directions to those involved ensuring no one was seriously hurt or killed during the incident. A Tucson Fire Department Captain who was on scene stated that the coordination between officers and firefighters that night was the best he had ever seen in his career—there is no doubt that the heroic actions of both officers were the reason this occurred. During the course of the attempted rescue, Officer Munoz faced potential deadly encounters on multiple occasions. The body worn camera shows Officer Munoz leaving the apartment just a few feet in front of the flames.

            At the conclusion of the call, Officer Munoz was transported to University Medical Center to be treated for smoke inhalation and burns to the inside of her mouth, throat, and vocal cords, causing her to be out for two weeks. Both Officer Ramirez and Officer Munoz exemplify what it means to be a Hero, not only through their actions, but through their selflessness of putting others before themselves every single day. They are true guardians of the community and the Tucson Police Department is proud and honored to have them serve with us.

 

 

 

 

 

Award of Distinction: Staff Sergeant Joseph L. Collett

Davis Monthan AFB

 

            On June 22, 2017, while returning to his POV at a local Wal-Mart, SSgt Collett encountered a hostile individual attacking a Wal-Mart security officer. Without hesitation or knowledge of weapons, SSgt Collett ran to the defense of the security officer who was being badly beaten by his assailant. Relying upon training, SSgt Collett applied a near naked choke to the individual to stop the assault and prevent from further injury to the security officer. SSgt Collett detained the individual until Tucson police arrived and arrested the individual for assault. Additionally, on May 30, 2017, while conducting a Summer Night Navigation Exercise with the Civil Air Patrol’s Advance Pararescue and SERE Orientation Course (APJOC), SSgt Collett encountered an unconscious Cadet soaked with sweat and pale and clammy skin. Recognizing the signs of heat exhaustion, SSgt Collett gave lifesaving first aid to the Cadet. Shortly after receiving care, the Cadet regained consciousness and responded well over a 2.5 hour long recovery process. Ssgt Collett executed a 2.75 mile Night Medical Land Evacuation, over rugged desert terrain, transporting the cadet to a recovery point, while simultaneously arranging for a higher level of medical care. The quick, decisive actions of SSgt Collett prevented the onset of Heat Stroke/Death of the Cadet. The Cadet made a full recovery with no further complications or injuries. These two actions reflect the willingness to go above and beyond in the aid of others.

 

 

Award of Distinction: Sgt. Violet Maestas

Eloy Police Department

 

            On November 22, 2017 an excited email was received from Eloy Police Sgt. Violet Maestas. She was on a burglary call when she noticed a citizen’s home was in a state of disrepair. Doing some investigation, she learned many sad details related to the family. Mabelean, a long-time Eloy resident who married her high school sweetheart Arthur White, had recently lost her husband in 2016. Mabel had been ill and was recently told by her doctor that she had a serious case of lupus and spine disease which will eventually take over her whole body; she was unable to work. She stopped seeing her doctor in order to continue to care for her adult daughter with disabilities. Besides the health issues, Mrs. White’s family was dealing with her house that had just been burglarized. She lost many valuable items, but one of the most tragic losses was insurance money to purchase her husband’s headstone.

            The burglar damaged a window which had been boarded up and inaccessible for over two years. After an inspection of the house it was determined that a new roof and a new air-conditioning unit were required. Sgt. Maestas jumped into action and began making calls to local businesses to see what help could be done. For start, she was able to get the family placed on the Christmas list for the Eloy police Department and CAHRA’s holiday meal list. In January of 2018, Progressive Commercial Roofing tore down the old roof and replaced it. Two days later, Andrew’s Refrigeration took out the non-working A/C heating/cooling unit and replaced it with a new system. During this time, Motel 6 gave White a five-day complimentary stay while the work was being done at her house.

            Sgt. Maestas did not stop there. She rolled up her sleeves and got to work. In March, she enlisted an army of community members and organizations to help out! AmeriCorps NCCC team, Eloy Mayor Joel Belloc, the St. Helen’s Catholic Church Altar Boys and Daughters of America members, and Vista Grande High School’s Marine Corps JROTC cadet Lance Cpl. Kathrine Cera Nolasco. Desert Sun Heating and Cooling removed two inefficient window-cooling units and Rusty Barber assisted in removing several vehicles from the property at White’s request. Everyone was busy painting trim, dumping trash, cutting down dead trees, filling in large holes in the backyard and finishing the rest of the yard clean-up. Along with that, St. Helen’s Knights of Columbus, Johnny Ruiz and Paul Rodriguez, painted the house. Sgt. Maestas was determined to make Mrs. White’s home a safe and comfortable place to live. She kept pressing for any need that she saw come up. The Knights of Columbus purchased a new stove, Somner’s Jewelers Glass replaced two broken windows at no cost, and as a matter of fact, all of the businesses donated the supplies, products, and labor. The paint was donated by Eloy Veteran’s Center, and another of Eloy’s finest, Sgt. Cortney Wonder, donated tools and the City donated the use of Big Red Roll Off Dumpsters. I don’t believe Sgt. Maestas fully understands the impact she made, not only on the White family, but the Eloy Community at large. She is a shining example of Service Above Self and I am so proud to call her a friend.

 

 

Award of Distinction: Joshua Zent, John Harshbarger, Shane Medlen, & Frank Munoz

Northwest Fire Dept

 

            On July 10, 2018, the Northwest Fire District experienced heavy monsoon activity that produced approximately three inches of rain in two hours. The significant rainfall in a concentrated area of the Northwest Fire District resulted in eight water rescues and a train derailment. Engine 333, led by Captain Josh Zent that day, had just cleared the scene of a swift water rescue and was responding to the train derailment when they came across a heavily flooded section of Silverbell Road in Continental Ranch. The fast-moving water was flowing across Silverbell Road and was approximately 150 feet wide and 3-4 feet deep. The rush of water was crashing into a five-foot tall wall on the east side of Silverbell and, in some areas, crested over the top of the wall, before entering a runoff area and eventually dumping in to the Santa Cruz River. Captain Zent recognized that this rapidly flowing water was the runoff from the swift water rescue he had just cleared, and that the intensity of the water flow had not yet peaked at this section of the roadway. Realizing the full force of water was yet to come, the flow of water was still powerful enough to lift and move three cars that were in the flooded section of the roadway.

A female driver of one of the vehicles had exited her car and was standing on the median in waist-deep water. The entirety of the evaluation just described took place in a matter of seconds and Captain Zent realized that the woman was in imminent danger of being swept away by the rushing water. Captain Zent advised the Engineer of Engine 333, John Harshbarger, to drive the Engine directly into the water and rescue the female. As the Engine pulled up to the woman, Paramedic/Firefighter Shane Medlen opened the rear door where he and Paramedic/Firefighter Frank Munoz pulled the woman from the water into the cab of the truck. The Engine continued driving through the flooded section, with water rising to the height of the windshield (approximately 5 feet), to a safe area of the road. The crew of Engine 333 made a quick decision which placed themselves in harm’s way to rescue a woman in a life-threatening situation. Had they not acted immediately, it is highly probable that the woman would have been swept away by the rushing water and into the Santa Cruz River.

 

 

Award of Distinction: U.S. Marshals Service Arizona WANTED Violent Offender Task Force

US Marshal Service Arizona

 

On the evening of July 29, 2018 a male subject was operating a motorcycle in midtown Tucson when it struck a vehicle that was stalled in the middle of the road. A female passenger on the motorcycle was found in the roadway with serious injuries (she would later succumb to her injuries at Banner University Medical Center). The male motorcycle operator fled on foot from the scene. The suspect was subsequently identified as Jason Patty. Shortly thereafter, the Tucson Police Department requested the assistance of the U.S. Marshals Service Arizona WANTED Violent Offender Task Force in locating and apprehending Patty.

As the investigation progressed it was determined that the Pima County Sheriff’s Department had identified Patty as a person of interest in a threats/intimidation and weapons incident that occurred on the northwest side of town in June of this year. It was alleged that Patty had threatened to kill an individual and possessed the means to do it. By the morning of August 22, 2018, task force members DUSM Shane Livingstone, DUSM Audra Bidegain, DUSM Jonathon Moran, DUSM Zachary Seward, DUSM Pedro Diaz-Florez, DUSM Patrick Conover, DUSM F. Michael Coronado, DUSM Nicholas Bahen, DUSM Nathan Warner, SDUSM Jennifer Rippey, and TFO James Small, determined that Patty was likely residing at a house in the area of Oracle Jaynes and Mona Lisa. In the early afternoon, task force members contained the residence, and initiated commands to the residents to exit the property. A male and female eventually left the residence. It was then discovered that Patty, who was likely armed with a handgun, had concealed himself in some type of vent. Task force members continued to give command to Patty that he was under arrest and to exit the residence. Those commands continued into the late afternoon but went unanswered. Due to this, task force members started to evacuate neighbors to the North and South of the location Patty was in.

In addition to the residence being contained, the street was blocked by marked patrol units with emergency lights activated approximately two houses in either direction. After a short time, a yellow school bus appeared to the South, letting grade school children off the bus. The kids started running in the direction of the patrol cars and task force members immediately started flagging down the bus and gathering the kids to be placed back on the bus to return to a safer location. All of this was occurring while lightning and dark storm clouds could be heard and seen in the distance. As it intensified and drew closer, the skies opened up. Rain was coming down sideways with hail striking as task force members held their ground, continuing to give commands to Patty to exit the residence. The rain continued for almost an hour, with task force members standing in water with all of their gear soaked through. Task force members remained in their positions. The rain eventually resided and gave way to the sun’s 90 plus temperatures and humidity. With no movement or sound coming for the residence, task force members approached the residence when suddenly a gunshot rang out. Task force members immediately egressed back and continued to give commands. This standoff continued to the early evening when it was determined that Patty had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

While the USMS Arizona WANTED Violent Offender Task Force is accustomed to life threatening situations in their daily work, some situations rise to the level of extreme danger. This incident was one of those. Rarely in day-to-day operations do those trained and employed in law enforcement come face-to-face with all of these realities at once. Even with the ongoing threat of gunfire from the fugitive, his past history of violence that was escalating and the long hours in extreme weather conditions, this team remained focused and steadfast for immediate and precise action when needed. The USMS Arizona WANTED Violent Offender Task Force demonstrated extraordinary bravery during this situation.