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Calif. officer receives state’s highest award for police valor

Cop was honored for his quick and life-saving action in the gunbattle that wounded his field training officer

Ryan Hagen
San Bernardino County Sun

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Two men received the state’s highest award for police valor on Monday, including — for the first time — one from San Bernardino.

Officer Marcus Pesquera, 24, was honored for his quick and life-saving action in the gunbattle that wounded his field training officer, Gabriel Garcia, in August 2014.

At the time, Pesquera had graduated only seven weeks earlier from the San Bernardino County sheriff’s training academy, but he calmly followed academy training, Gov. Jerry Brown’s office said in a written statement.

“Due to Officer Pesquera’s courage under fire, he quickly ended the suspect’s deadly assault, while simultaneously calling the situation in to the communications center,” the statement said. “Officer Pesquera’s heroic actions allowed officers and medical personnel to safely and swiftly reach Training Officer Garcia and begin life-saving measures.”

Brown and state Attorney General Kamala Harris presented the Medal of Valor to Pesquera and Sonora Police Department Officer Ryan D. Webb, who also survived a shootout in 2014.

“It’s my understanding that they were the only two officers that received it out of 43 nominations, so it’s quite an honor,” said San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan. “It’s a huge testament to what he did.”

Pesquera and Garcia, a six-year veteran, were on patrol in the 1900 block of North Garner Avenue on the Westside of San Bernardino when they saw a suspicious-looking group.

“Gabe had his gun drawn, so I drew my weapon,” Pesquera said in an earlier interview. “Then I heard shots ring out. I went to the ground to gain cover as I was taking fire.”

Pesquera killed the gunman, while three other men present at the shooting accepted a plea deal in August that sent them to state prison for 15 years.

Garcia was severely wounded, but he’s been . While he still doesn’t remember the night that sent him into a coma, he does remember Pesquera, said Ron Garcia, Gabe’s father and a retired police captain.

“We just had dinner with the Pesqueras a few weeks ago,” Garcia said, but he chose not to attend the ceremony because he said it was Pesquera’s turn for the spotlight. “It’s a well-deserved recognition for Marcus. It’s our turn to take a step back.”

The intimate award ceremony included a contingent of Pesquera’s family, said Burguan, who also attended.

Alan Barcelona, president of the California State Law Enforcement Association and a member of the Medal of Valor Review Board, also extended his praise.

“Officer Pesquera demonstrated an extreme amount of valor and courage,” Barcelona said in a written statement. “What he experienced August 22, 2014, as a recent academy graduate and new to the job at SBPD, would shake up the most veteran of officers. He was under fire, his training officer was down and he relied on his courage and training to quickly put an end to the suspect’s assault. He is deserving of California’s highest public safety award.”

The state’s top officials said the two recipients went above and beyond the call of duty.

“The whole basis of any society is individuals who can act beyond their own particular interest and comfort and needs,” Brown said at the ceremony, according to a written statement. “This ceremony is a very important way of communicating to the people of California that courage is still a fundamental pillar of our society.”

Harris said Pesquera and Webb showed remarkable courage, skill and selflessness.

“These two individuals, like all men and women who wear the badge, do this work without any expectation of award or reward,” she said in a written statement. “They do it because they have taken a solemn duty to protect people they may never meet and people who may never know their names.”

Copyright 2015 the San Bernardino County Sun