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Citizen Heroes Honored by Santa Barbara Police With ‘Extra Step Awards’

From intervening in assaults to apprehending thieves, department recognized a wide array of citizen acts of heroism

Ten people were honored for civic heroism Wednesday by the Santa Barbara Police Department and the Kiwanis Club of Santa Barbara.
Ten people were honored for civic heroism Wednesday by the Santa Barbara Police Department and the Kiwanis Club of Santa Barbara. (Sam Goldman / Noozhawk photo)

Nathan Ogan saved the life of a boogie boarder at East Beach when he performed rescue breathing after seeing her floating unconscious in the water.

Gyselle Pantoja drove away a man assaulting a woman in an alleyway before leading the victim to safety — at age 14.

Ogan, Pantoja, and 10 others were honored Wednesday with the Santa Barbara Police Department’s 2016 Citizen Extra Step Awards for acts of civic heroism.

The luncheon was hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Santa Barbara, which has been sponsoring the awards since 1972, said club President Pete Georgi.

The recipients received their meritorious citations at the Mesa Cafe, where the officers who nominated them recounted in detail the crime scenes that the honorees found themselves in as well as how they prevented the dangerous crimes or tragic accidents from devolving into something much worse.

“She was headed toward danger, which is something most people don’t do,” said Officer Mark Corbett of LaShawndra Fenner-Lopez, who physically intervened when she witnessed a man beating a woman in a parking lot, driving him away and staying with the victim until help arrived.

Many of the recipients took action only professionally equipped law enforcement might dare take.

Hadi Nassar and Mark Copeland pursued a theft suspect on their mopeds until they caught up to and restrained him, even as he fought back.

Other recipients, including Gilbert Antonio Navarro, Linda Malhotra, and Juan Carlos Solis, apprehended robbery suspects, intervened in a carjacking, or prevented an elderly UPS customer from losing thousands of dollars through fraud.

Christine Ramirez, William Julian, and George Pappas saved a woman being attacked and severely injured by three dogs.

The intimate lunch room at Mesa Cafe was packed with the recipients, family members, their nominating officers, and even a couple of those who were rescued by the honorees.

Representatives of local elected officials including Congresswoman Lois Capps and Assemblyman Das Williams, as well as Kiwanis Club representatives, bestowed their own recognition on recipients after congratulations by interim Police Chief John Crombach.

“I don’t normally nominate people for these things, but this time I had to, for the incredible bravery she displayed,” said Officer Justin Cruz of Pantoja.

Each honoree was nominated by an Santa Barbara officer who was either at the crime scene or investigated the incident at hand.

Ogan, a lifeguard on vacation at the time, drew on that experience and his time as a firefighter and EMT when he saw the boogie boarder “face-down in the water.”

“You’re always scanning the water; you’re never off-duty, really,” he told Noozhawk. “I was just bending down to put some sunscreen on my kids, and I’m scanning the water at the same time, and it just didn’t look right, so I went over to investigate. … I saw a boogie board without anybody, and that’s a pretty big red flag.”

“Santa Barbara City was there so fast,” he said. “They were quick on-scene, once 9-1-1 was called. You blink your eyes, and they were there.”

Noozhawk staff writer Sam Goldman 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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