ONTARIO — Five Ontario Police officers have earned Distinguished Service awards for work they did that went “beyond the typical call of duty,” when responding to events in April and June. Ontario Police Chief Steven Romero presented the awards to the men at the top of the Ontario City Council meeting on July 13, saying it was an honor to recognize their lifesaving measures. Family members of the officers also attended the meeting to see the honor bestowed on the officers.
“The community doesn’t know what we do every day, day in and day out. … Your police officers every day are going out there risking their lives and putting it all on the line to help other people,” said Romero.
The chief said it was important for people to see some of the things not typically seen or that they weren’t aware of, adding that police officers are not typically looking for recognition for doing their jobs.
Lt. Jason Cooper provided an overview of the two scenarios that led to service awards for Sgt. Jon Esplin, and Officers Adam Clinton, Brian Cook, Todd Harnden and Casey Walker.
The first event was in the early morning hours of April 22 near the area of Sunset Drive and Southwest 18th Avenue. There, an elderly man had driven off the roadway into “a functioning irrigation canal.”
Walker, Harnden and Clinton were the heroes in this incident, Cooper said, explaining how they quickly developed a plan to perform the rescue, while water was rapidly filling the vehicle. The men were able to work alongside Oregon State Police Lt. Mark Duncan, who also responded to the call, according to a letter of appreciation he sent Romero later that day, with a request it be placed in each officers’ personnel file.
The canal was murky and chest-deep, Cooper explained, and Walker and Harnden stayed behind with Duncan while Clinton “without hesitation” entered the water with a safety rope to reach the crash victim.
“Once Officer Clinton had the male in his arms, both were pulled from the water to safety,” according to Duncan’s letter.
“It was the strength and determination” of all officers involved, Cooper said, that enabled a rescue without any further injury to the victim.
In Duncan’s letter to Romero, he stated that Ontario Fire & Rescue was slightly delayed due to another call for service, and that Fire Chief Terry Leighton expressed his gratitude for the officers’ quick actions.
“I have worked in this community for 28.5 years, and throughout have enjoyed a phenomenal working relationship with your staff,” Duncan wrote. “Today your officers acted selflessly and in an exemplary fashion.”
Another ‘lifesaving rescue’
The second event happened not to far from the first event. On June 17, officers Esplin, Cook and Harnden responded to the Baker-Murakami onion packing plant, where a car had landed after veering off Southwest 18th Avenue. According to Cooper, the driver was headed west, when he and the vehicle left the roadway, traveling through a fence and over a large drop-off, then proceeding a couple-hundred feet before hitting a semi trailer that was on pallets. The impact moved the trailer about 10 feet, and the vehicle was damaged enough that an extrication was needed.
The Ontario police officers “all jumped right into action with the Ontario Fire Department and assisted with logistics and extracation of the motorist,” Cooper said. Although the wreckage was dangerous, he said the men all entered the vehicle and were instrumental in assisting with the removal of the roof and rescuing the driver.
Their actions “demonstrated the true sense of one team and demonstrated a level of service that goes beyond the typical call of duty,” Cooper said, which “lead to the lifesaving rescue of a community member in need.”
Following a round of applause, Romero handed out the awards to officers in attendance; Esplin and Cook were unable to be there.
“These are not anomalies,” the chief said. “They are doing this every day around here.”