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State Attorney General Honors Local Law Enforcement for Acts of Heroism

Tales of dramatic rescues and other outstanding efforts are recalled during a gathering at the Earl Warren Showgrounds

Peering into the dense fog hovering above the ocean, Santa Barbara County sheriff's Deputy Julio Gutierrez could see an outline of someone floating in the water, but it's what he didn't hear that concerned him most.

Gutierrez had responded to the Goleta Pier while on patrol just before midnight in March to reports that a woman was in the water and had been screaming for help.

Now, he and UCSB Police Department Cpl. Kevin Kilgore, who was the first to arrive on the scene, heard nothing.

Gutierrez recalled Thursday looking back at Kilgore to see that he had already stripped down to prepare to dive into the water.

"He made the decision to go in with me," Gutierrez said, and both men plunged into the cold waves to retrieve the woman's body. When they reached her, "she was totally unresponsive," Gutierrez said, and her skin had turned blue and cold.

The men brought her to shore and turned her on her side; water began running out of her nose and mouth. The men wrapped her in a blanket as they waited for the fire department to arrive.

The pair were just about to start chest compressions on the woman when they noticed she was taking shallow breaths.

The decision to dive in and retrieve the woman that night saved her life, and Kilgore and Gutierrez were two of several Santa Barbara County law enforcement officials recognized Thursday for outstanding service by Attorney General Kamala Harris at the Earl Warren Showgrounds.

Recalling the story Thursday, Kilgore said the men had no chance to hesitate that night.

"I think we both knew we couldn't wait or she'd have no chance of survival," he told Noozhawk.

As Harris was handing the men their awards, she praised their actions.

"Doctors credit these two for her survival," she told an audience of law enforcement from agencies in Santa Barbara, Ventura and San Luis Obispo counties.

Members of those agencies gathered before the awards to attend a meeting with the attorney general that covered international gang enforcement as well as how law enforcement can better use technology.

Harris also presented awards to individuals from the California Highway Patrol, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department and the Ventura County District Attorney's Office.

Also honored was Santa Barbara County Senior Deputy Christopher Gottschall, who Harris praised for his actions when he responded to a call of shots fired in October 2012. Gotschall saw a man emerge with a semi-automatic rifle, and the deputy shot and neutralized the man, who had made threats against family, before more shots could be fired.

"You saved lives that day and performed an incredible act of heroism," Harris told Gottschall.

Custody Sgt. Timothy Morgan was given an award after he was viciously attacked by an inmate, who stabbed him several times with a nail in October 2011. He received significant injuries in the attack, but subdued the inmate and even returned to work the same day after he was treated for his wound, Harris said.

Two civilians were also honored by Harris on Thursday.

Rick Roney was given an award for his significant work in reducing recidivism in the county, and David Russell, a U.S. Air Force airman, was honored for responding to a homicide scene in Orcutt in September 2012. Russell was able to get the gunman's license plate number and direct a citizen to call 9-1-1, while providing lifesaving aid to the two victims until paramedics arrived.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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