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Sheriff’s Office Salutes Exemplary Performances in 2016

One civilian among those recognized for their service

Medal of Valor recipients Sgt. James Zbinden, Deputy Justin DiPinto and Special Duty Deputy Michael Harris with Sheriff Bill Brown.
Medal of Valor recipients Sgt. James Zbinden, Deputy Justin DiPinto and Special Duty Deputy Michael Harris with Sheriff Bill Brown. (Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office)

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office congratulates the Sheriff’s employees and a member of the public who were honored May 18 at a Recognition Awards Program and Luncheon. The recipients were recognized for their exemplary service in 2016.

The Sheriff’s highest award for heroism, the Sheriff’s Medal of Valor, was given to Sgt. James Zbinden, Sr. Deputy Michael Harris, Deputy Justin DiPinto and Deputy Michael Hollon for their actions during a life-threatening incident on June 11, 2016.

The incident took place at Paradise Campground in Los Padres National Forest when an axe-wielding camper, who was under the influence of LSD, threatened campers and first responders.

The subject threw axes at friends, battered an elderly camper and assaulted several people including a firefighter and several deputies. It took deputies more than 10 minutes of struggling with the violent camper to take him into custody.

Even though at several points during the confrontation lethal force would have been justified, the officers put their personal safety at risk and used several less lethal options to resolve the incident.

The Sheriff’s Medal of Courage, given for the first time this year, was awarded to 14 deputies, 11 of whom were involved in the dangerous pursuit and confrontation with a suspect wanted for the armed kidnapping of Pearl Pinson, 15, from Solano County.

The suspect was located on Hwy. 101 near Buellton and pursued into Solvang where he got out of his still-moving vehicle and fired upon deputies.

Deputy Nathan Flint returned fire and shot the suspect in the leg. The suspect fled on foot and broke into a mobile home where a resident was inside but managed to escape. The suspect located keys to a truck parked outside and tried to flee.

He was confronted by several deputies, refused to surrender and opened fire on the deputies. The deputies returned fire, killing the suspect, thus ending the tragic situation.

Sheriff’s Deputies Brice Bruening, Ray Gamboa and Jesus Gutierrez also received a Sheriff’s Medal of Courage for their response to a report of a vehicle over the side of a steep embankment off Hwy. 101 at Three Bridges.

The deputies worked with CHP and fire personnel to extricate a woman who was trapped in her vehicle which had caught on fire. The deputies' quick-thinking and immediate actions are credited with helping save the woman’s life.

Three deputies and a custody deputy received the Sheriff’s Lifesaving Award for heroic actions during a medical emergency.

Deputies Philip Farley and Shane Moore were honored for their response to a report of a man having a heart attack at a Goleta business.

They arrived on scene quickly and provided lifesaving medical care, including use of an automated external defibrillator and application of chest compressions, until paramedics arrived and could take over.

Sheriff’s Special Duty Deputy James Kurowski and Sheriff’s Deputy Bradley Adams received the Sheriff’s Lifesaving Award also for helping to save a heart attack victim, this one in the backyard of a residence in Santa Ynez.

They, too, used an automated external defibrillator and provided life-saving medical care until paramedics arrived.

Custody Deputy Crystal Batterson received the Sheriff’s Lifesaving Award for helping save an inmate who was found unresponsive and not breathing in his cell.

She began CPR chest compressions and continued to assist jail medical staff and paramedics with chest compressions until the inmate could breathe on his own.

The Sheriff’s Criminal Investigations Bureau (CIB) received the Sheriff’s Unit Citation Award for its outstanding work and teamwork throughout 2016 on a continuous flow of challenging cases.

The 34 honorees from CIB included detectives, their supervisors and support staff as well as forensics personnel. The group worked together to help solve a high-profile triple homicide investigation and bring it to trial.

They also investigated a number of cases which included a homicide in Lompoc, two officer-involved shooting cases from outside agencies, a 2013 Deltopia stabbing in Isla Vista, a card theft case, several sexual assaults and child abuse cases, elder abuse cases and a case that started out as a homicide but through the course of the investigation was determined to be a suicide.

The dedicated personnel worked nonstop from case to case and showed great teamwork and effort throughout the year.

The Sheriff’s Distinguished Service Award went to Chief Deputy Sam Gross for his 46 years of service to the Sheriff’s Office and the Santa Barbara County community.

During his time at the Sheriff’s Office, Chief Gross has held numerous assignments and has more than 60 letters of commendations in his personnel file.

He is the most senior member of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office and has displayed professionalism, integrity and an unsurpassed devotion to duty throughout his career.

The Sheriff’s Meritorious Service Medal was given to two deputies for their commitment and dedication to the Sheriff’s Explorer Program. Senior Deputies David Robertson and David Valadez have trained and mentored teens in this program,

The Explorer Program teaches life skills and character development, and offers pre-professional training in law enforcement and related professions.

The two senior deputies are credited with revamping and rejuvenating both Explorer Post 32 and Explorer Post 830, both of which are looking for new recruits.

Richard Kline, president of the Sheriff’s Benevolent Posse, received the Exceptional Citizen Award for outstanding leadership within the Posse and his tireless efforts to help raise funds to assist the Sheriff’s Office during these financially challenging times.

— Kelly Hoover for Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.


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