Friday, August 25, 2017

San Bernardino officer’s ‘inspirational’ recovery after shooting applauded at retirement ceremony

San Bernardino Police Officer Gabe Garcia, center, receives a standing ovation during his retirement ceremony on Thursday, August 24, 2017 at the San Bernardino Police Station. (Micah Escamilla, The Sun/SCNG)  

By Brian Rokos | | The Press-Enterprise 

PUBLISHED: August 24, 2017 at 2:59 pm | UPDATED: August 24, 2017 at 7:43 pm 
San Bernardino Police Officer Gabe Garcia is honored during a retirement ceremony on Thursday, August 24, 2017 at the San Bernardino Police Station in San Bernardino, Ca. Garcia, who was shot in the head on August 22, 2014, has made great strides in his recovery but still suffers some paralysis on his right side. He worked for the San Bernardino Police Department for 9 years. (Micah Escamilla, The Sun/SCNG) 

San Bernardino police Officer Gabe Garcia, making a steady recovery from being shot in the head in 2014, retired Thursday, Aug. 24, in an upbeat ceremony in front of about 200 family members, co-workers and former colleagues who came to the San Bernardino Police Department to celebrate him. 

A video produced by Garcia’s father, retired San Bernardino police Capt. Ron Garcia, showed images of the officer from the time he entered the police academy, to when he lay in a hospital bed in a coma after the shooting, to his ongoing rehabilitation, to the present, when he is walking and speaking. 

The song that accompanied the images, “What Faith Can Do,” included the lyrics: “Even when the sky is falling / I’ve seen miracles just happen / Silent prayers get answered / Broken hearts become brand new / That’s what faith can do.” 

Seeing the video of Garcia barely responding to his parents made it all the more remarkable that Garcia, 34, could be present to receive from Police Chief Jarrod Burguan a shadowbox full of mementos from his nine-year career and a proclamation from the City Council. 

“I can tell you, watching Gabe through this process has been incredibly inspirational,” Burguan said. 

“Three years ago was a pretty dark time for the organization. This has been an emotional journey. Gabe, you know you are always part of the family. You defined the strength of this organization and the tenacity of the city,” the chief said. 

Former City Councilman Rikkie Van Johnson recalled the day three years ago when he rode with Garcia, a field-training officer, on a shift. 

“I could see our department was truly blessed that he was instructing people coming into our department,” Johnson said. 

Garcia then spoke briefly. 

“I’m happy to be here, to be alive to speak to you,” he said.
San Bernardino Police Officer Gabriel Garcia smiles during pool therapy on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 at Casa Colina Hospital and Centers for Healthcare in Pomona, Ca. (Micah Escamilla/The Sun) 

In the early-morning hours of Aug. 22, 2014, Garcia, a field training officer, was on patrol with probationary officer Marcus Pesquera. They came upon a group of people gathered around a car. Both officers stepped from their patrol car to see what the group was doing and one of the men opened fire, striking Garcia in the head. 

Pesquera engaged the shooter in a gunbattle, killing him. 

Pesquera was present Thursday to honor Garcia but tried to stay out of the limelight. 

“I’m happy for him,” Pesquera said simply after the ceremony. 

Also present was Cathedral City Deputy Police Chief Travis Walker, who was watch commander for the San Bernardino police the night Garcia was shot and responded to the scene. 

“He’s truly brought the community together,” Walker said afterward. “Truly inspirational for all of us.” 

Other law enforcement agencies represented included the Redlands, Riverside and San Bernardino City Unified School District police departments; San Bernardino County Probation; and California Highway Patrol. Cal Poly Pomona Police Chief Dario Robinson, a former San Bernardino police lieutenant, attended, as did San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos. 

“This is what a true family is,” Ramos said, addressing the crowd. 

Click here to read the full story and view more photos from the event.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

IN THE NEWS: Unwarranted jabs at those who pursue justice

Click here to view the following opinion piece by District Attorney Mike Ramos that was published Aug. 16, 2017 in The Sun

A recent Sun column headlined “Focusing on restitution, not incarceration, serves justice,” by Adam Summers (Aug. 10), takes two unwarranted jabs at the office of the district attorney in its attempt to address the rights of victims and their families.

While the columnist doesn’t specifically name a particular district attorney, I still feel it necessary to speak on behalf of this office and our county’s prosecutors who work tirelessly to secure justice for victims.

One of the statements in the column refers to the fact that, “Sentencing someone to prison may pad a district attorney’s ‘tough on crime’ bona fides, but it does little to compensate the victims.”

As a career prosecutor and 15-year district attorney who has sat beside multiple families of murder victims and tried over 125 cases, I have never once tried to “pad” my resume or the statistics coming out of this office with convictions, or anything for that matter. In fact, the very first thing I tell every new prosecutor who joins our office is, “Your first job, in every case, is to pursue truth and justice. This office does not count convictions, and we do not keep a scoreboard.”

The comment that we need a system that focuses on “the needs and wishes of the victims, not adding another notch on a DA’s belt before the next election” is also insulting not only to me, but to every hardworking prosecutor in our county. It suggests that prosecutors are more concerned with inflating their numbers than pursuing justice — as if we sit in some dark lair, plotting and scheming ways to stick it to some suspect who doesn’t necessarily deserve to be charged.

It’s a cliché, and to be quite honest, it sits right alongside the irresponsible stereotypes we read or hear about on a day-to-day basis. The inner workings of our justice system is far from some must-see TV drama, as well as the picture painted in this column. Are the cases mentioned in the column tragic? Yes, of course, but if the columnist is suggesting that just because an incident is “accidental” — and for the record, one of the examples appears to be far from accidental — the suspect should be given a free pass and merely sentenced to a lifetime of “torturous guilt,” then I wholeheartedly disagree. Each case should be held according to its own facts and circumstances and held up against the law, and then and only then, should a determination be made as to whether or not they are charged.

In every case that comes to our office, we are guided by the law and our best judgment to ensure that the guilty are held accountable. We represent and act on behalf of the people of San Bernardino County. Each case has its own set of facts and circumstances, and those are always taken into consideration, whether a case is deemed “accidental” or one of “extreme violence.” If charged, a judge and jury make the final decision as to whether a defendant should be held accountable.

That is the justice system our forefathers put into place, and in carrying out this mission, we make sure that the rights of our victims and the accused are never forgotten, never overlooked, and always addressed. It’s the law. This is not about notched belts and numbers. There is no dark lair or special playbook that tells us to disregard the law and the rights of the accused. If the evidence deems that a crime has been committed, then our office will take every step to hold the guilty accountable.

Michael A. Ramos is San Bernardino County’s district attorney.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

MMA Fighter convicted

Deputy DA Sheila Monjazeb and the Desert-Mountain Division support staff secured a guilty verdict in the case of MMA fighter Nathanial Newbiggin who violently slapped, strangled, punched and backhanded his wife, causing her to fall to the floor and momentarily lose her sight.
He faces 7 years and 8 months in prison when sentenced Sept. 1.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

IN THE NEWS: Bureau of Victim Services Chief featured in recent news article

San Bernardino school shooting hit first responders harder than other incidents

By Doug Saunders, The Sun

SAN BERNARDINO >> “Walking in the building, you could still smell the gunpowder,” said San Bernardino police Officer Robert Snyder.

He and dozens of first responders had raced to North Park Elementary School that sunny spring day where they found a horrifying scene inside Classroom B1. A teacher’s estranged husband had shot her and two children before killing himself.

Synder had seen other tragedies during his police career, but this one deeply affected him.

“For me, this was worse than the
terror attack at the (Inland Regional Center) because of the kids,” he said. “When I arrived on scene at North Park, I immediately put on body armor and was directed to the classroom.”

Snyder went directly to the side of 8-year-old
Jonathan Martinez, who had been shot in the head by Cedric Anderson, of Riverside. Anderson also fatally shot his wife, special education teacher Karen Smith.

“Jonathan was still breathing, although he had significant injuries, and I just didn’t leave his side,” Snyder said. “Once the helicopter landed, I stayed with him all the way to the hospital.”

The boy didn’t make it: He was pronounced dead at Loma Linda University Medical Center almost immediately after he arrived.

“It was hard for everyone,” Snyder said, tears welling in his eyes. “Most of us, including the hospital staff, are parents, so something like this is extremely difficult to deal with.”

Saving Lives

The crew that flew in and landed on school grounds to take victims to the hospital is part of an aviation team made up of San Bernardino County firefighters and sheriff’s deputies.

“We heard the call come out over the radio and immediately went airborne,” said Cpl. Mike Ells, the crew chief. “Once the information came out, as a crew, we just loaded up and launched.”

The rescue team isn’t required to wait to be dispatched, Ells said.

“We hear the need for help, and we just go,” he said. “We go on a lot of calls that are just plain bad.”

Experience and training keep team members steady under pressure.

Flight Paramedics Jennifer DeShon and Jason Williams were calm and steady as they worked together that day, Ells said.

“They were focused on saving lives,” he explained.

San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office Victim Services Chief Flerida Alarcon and her team quickly made their way to the scene. Tagging along were Lupe and Dozer, 4-year-old black Labrador retrievers, who are the main components of the DA’s Special Victims K-9 Unit.

“We knew the children of North Park were going to be removed from the school grounds to an off-site area where they could be reunited with their parents,” Alarcon said. “They were greeted by Dozer and Lupe when they arrived.”

Students came up and petted the dogs, which are used to calm victims after incidents such as the murder-suicide at North Park school.

“Watching those students surround Lupe and Dozer and petting and loving them gives an added purpose to what we do,” Alarcon added.

Critical Incidents

San Bernardino County has had more than its share of high profile incidents in recent years from the manhunt for
rogue ex-LAPD cop Christopher Dorner in Big Bear to the terror attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino and, most recently, the shooting at North Park.

“It’s a sad state of affairs when we get very good at responding to critical incidents,” Sheriff John McMahon said. “The only way you get good at it is when you have a lot of experience dealing with critical incidents like that.”

DeShon, who’s worked as a paramedic with San Bernardino County Fire for more than 20 years, said such incidents keep her committed to her job.

“This unit deals with the worst of the worst incidents, and we debrief after each mission,” she said. “But helping people is why I wanted to get into this.”

Finding an outlet to relieve the stress is important to the police and firefighters.

“Going to the gym helps me deal with what we see out there every day,” Snyder said. “After the North Park incident, I still had my kid’s soccer game to get to. I still have to be able to function as a loving parent. But, honestly, that was an extremely tough day.”

Alarcon, whose team works with victims of violent crimes, including children who have been sexually assaulted and abused, said team members can seek help from mental health professionals if needed, but they also debrief daily by sitting around and talking things out.

They did that after North Park.

“Afterwards, we all sat together to talk about what happened,” Alarcon said. “Many of us were still in a state of shock, but we had to be strong for others.”

Thursday, August 3, 2017

National Night Out

National Night Out is a community-police awareness-raising event in the United States, held the first Tuesday of August. This year, members of our office participated in several events all around the county.