Photostory: SMCPD honored for June shooting response
With the one year anniversary of the Santa Monica College shooting looming, the Santa Monica Police Department and the SMC Police Department honored officers on Wednesday for their actions during the rampage.
SMCPD Captain Raymond Bottenfield and SMPD Officers Jason Salas and Robert Sparks were awarded the Medal of Valor of their respective departments for entering into the library and immobilizing the suspect John Zawarhi.
Each officer received a standing ovation from the crowd that gathered at the SGI-USA auditorium in downtown Santa Monica.
"I was just amazed, to look out and see everyone applauding you and recognizing what you've done," Bottenfield said. "It's something we've been trained to do and hope we never have to do."
SMCPD Sergeants Jere Romano and Mark Kessler each earned the SMCPD Medal of Courage for confronting Zawarhi at the site of the car crash and shooting on Pearl Street that killed SMC custodian Carlos Navarro Franco and his daughter Marcela Dia Franco, then proceeding to evacuate the Counseling Center.
"It's just so difficult for me to find those words," SMC Board of Trustees member Nancy Greenstein said. "If those officers did not react the way they did, there would probably have been more loss of life."
SMCPD Dispatcher Kathy Kerce was awarded the SMCPD Medal of Merit for relaying the information from the flood of 911 calls while working alone in the dispatch center.
Also receiving an award was Cadet Jonathan Cook, who was the first officer to identify that Zawarhi had moved into the library.
SMPD Officer Miguel Rodriguez earned the SMPD Medal of Merit for running into the library after the gunfight began.
"It was really a surreal day," Bottenfield said. "You know what's going on, but it's hard to believe that it's real. Obviously, it became very real and we went forward and did what we had to do to end it."
Greenstein agrees that the day is still surreal.
"That something you hear about on news reports was happening right at home, at my school. It's a year and I don't think I've quite put the pieces together for myself," Greenstein said.
According to SMC Police Chief Albert Vasquez, the awards were much deserved.
"It's been a long time coming," said Vasquez.