Rep. Jay Obernolte recently presented “Everyday Heroes” awards to two San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies from the Victor Valley who survived life-threatening events.
For their heroic actions over the past year, Obernolte recognized sheriff’s deputies Tiffany Kautz and Dustin Whitson, along with13 other first responders residing in California’s 8th District.
Obernolte handed out Congressional certificates to the heroes during the Nov. 8 ceremony and was joined by SBC Sheriff Shannon Dicus, SBC Fire Chief Dan Munsey, and California Highway Patrol Inland Division Chief Dan Minor.
Families of the first responders were also invited to the award ceremony held at the Town of Apple Valley's Conference Center.
“The first responders serving California’s 8th District are the heroes that keep our families and community safe,” said Obernolte in a written statement. “I was proud to recognize fifteen of these heroes in particular who have demonstrated exemplary service in the course of their duties during the past year.”
Obernotle said the group of brave men and women had responded to hostage situations, taken bullets while guarding streets, supported and protected our youth, rescued family members in medical crises, improved safety on our roads, and provided leadership in their units.
Everyday Heroes - High Desert
Sheriff’s Deputy Dustin Whitson
In March, Deputy Whitson responded to a call for service about a suspicious vehicle at Bear Valley RV and Self Storage, near Bear Valley and Mojave Fish Hatchery Road in Hesperia, the Daily Press reported.
Before Whitson arrived, Robert Elvis Sparks, a former Patton State Hospital patient, was asked to leave the storage facility by management, said former Sheriff John McMahon.
Sparks later returned and allegedly tried to reenter the secure portion of the property, which prompted an employee to call 911.
Sparks then left the storage business in a Ford SUV, moving to the nearby Mojave Plaza shopping center situated south of Victor Valley College.
When Whitson arrived at the plaza, he approached a vehicle in the parking lot near the AutoZone. Sparks then produced a handgun and, without provocation, opened fire, striking Whitson and rendering him unconscious on the ground.
A good Samaritan arrived and helped Whitson. They also called Sheriff's Dispatch, who called for emergency rescue personnel to help the deputy.
McMahon said a split-second decision by a Sheriff’s Department helicopter team helped save the life of Whitson.
"Originally, they were told to wait for another helicopter so they could intubate Dustin while they were flying," McMahon said. "They decided to go, and if they hadn’t made that decision, he wouldn't have survived."
In addition to the helicopter team's efforts, McMahon said aid rendered by the good Samaritan and deputies on the ground, as well as the work of dispatchers and the staff at Loma Linda, helped keep Whitson alive.
Whitson was flown to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he was treated for life-threatening injuries.
In May, friends, family, and colleagues welcomed Whitson home, so to speak, during an outdoor reception at the Hesperia Sheriff's Station.
Whitson continues to recover after undergoing multiple surgeries to treat his significant injuries.
Obernolte said Whitson’s determination and will to survive have proved extraordinary despite his initial grave condition.
Sheriff’s Deputy Tiffany Kautz
In June 2020, Sheriff’s Deputy Kautz was on her way home from work when she was involved in a traffic collision that caused multiple fatalities and left her with serious injuries.
Before her accident, Kautz had begun her career with the Sheriff’s Department in 2016 and had become instrumental in protecting the lives and well-being of children.
In 2018, her rapport with students as a school resource officer helped lead to the arrest and conviction of a man who was sexually abusing his stepchildren.
Kautz has continued to protect children while assigned to Child and Family Services at the Victorville Sheriff’s station. She has investigated allegations of abuse generated from referrals from outside agencies.
After several months of rehab and multiple surgeries, Kautz was finally able to return to work, and the department continues to be grateful for her service, Obernolte said.
CHP Officer William Keeshan
William Keeshan joined the Victorville CHP Station in 2020, two years after graduating from the agency’s academy.
Keeshan leads his shift in enforcement as well as assisting motorists in peril.
His maturity and common-sense approach to situations have helped prevent injury and fatality-causing collisions in the High Desert, according to Obernolte.
Apple Valley Fire Protection District crew
Obernolte recognized Fire Captain Bobby Clemmer, firefighter/paramedic Chad Baeskins, engineer Dave Martinez and fire student Brock Arredondo.
The four crew members of AVFPD Engine 332 demonstrated exemplary service to the community in responding to a call for a male patient experiencing chest pains.
After the fire paramedics arrived, the man initially appeared stable until his heart rhythm changed to a full-blown heart attack with cardiac arrest.
The paramedic team defibrillated the man out of cardiac arrest and provided critical treatment while transporting him to Providence St. Mary’s Medical Center in Apple Valley.
Thanks to this crew’s swift action, the man was able to make it to the hospital and survived, Obernolte said.
CHP Officer Donald Perez
During his 11 years with the CHP, Perez has exemplified himself as a patrol officer, a field training officer, and an officer in charge, consistently going above and beyond the call of duty to help allied agencies and provide leadership amongst his peers, Obernolte said.
As a shift leader for the Barstow area CHP office, his work has helped remove impaired drivers from California highways and earned Perez awards from Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
San Bernardino County Probation Corrections Supervisor II Gina Lenay Martinez (posthumously)
After nearly 21 years of service to the SBCPD, Martinez lost her life on Sept. 23 after she was diagnosed with COVID-19, according to her family.
She had a vision for the youth in custody and strove to ensure each youth had a high school diploma, employment, and a place in which they could feel safe and call home.
Martinez served on the Victorville-based nonprofit God’s Hand Extended board, where she spent her off-duty time working with the underserved, providing clothing, food, shelter, and other resources to the community.
“One of my favorite pictures of Gina was taken at the Old City of Jerusalem, where she put her God’s Hand Extended Business Card in the Wailing or Western Wall,” said God’s Hand founder Susan Conway. “She was always our prayer warrior, and now she is our angel.”
Martinez was remembered on Oct. 19 during a service at High Desert Church in Victorville.
Sheriff Deputy Molly Leiker
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Deputy Leiker worked closely with the SBC Juvenile District Attorney’s Office to foster positive relationships and support the social-emotional needs of today’s youth during the unprecedented transition from in-school to virtual learning.
She has been highly involved with local school districts in building a strong rapport with CA-08 youth, routinely volunteering and participating in school functions and community-oriented policing events like Coffee with a Cop and Shop with a Cop.
Her selfless dedication to duty and her overwhelming level of compassion to educate and serve the citizens of SBC stands out amongst her peers, Obernolte said.
SBC Sheriff Corporal Brian Wovtovich
As corporal for the Trona Sheriff’s Station, Wovtovich has used his tenacious attitude to support his deputies and create an open relationship with the local residents. He also takes pride in living and working in the community and is an integral part of the department, Obernolte said.
Before becoming a sheriff’s deputy, Wovtovich served four years in the Army.
SBC Fire Captain Spencer Brumbaugh
Brumbaugh is a 14-year-veteran of the SBC Fire who serves as a firefighter paramedic, Urban Search and Rescue team member, and flight medic.
While assessing the medical status of an older woman who had been held against her will by an armed individual, Brumbaugh and other officers decided to carry the hostage down a flight of stairs with the gunman still on the loose.
Spencer was also called to duty after San Bernardino SWAT officers were struck by gunfire resulting in critical injuries in August.
Due to his quick action, short on-scene time, and decision to transport, the injured officer is expected to make a full recovery.
CHP Officer Garret Morris
Morris serves as the CHP Arrowhead area accident review officer and range/weapons and driving instructor.
Garret is credited for going “above and beyond” when it comes to supporting the youth in the mountain communities, Obernolte said.
Since 2013, he has volunteered with the Rim of the World High School Racing Team, part of the San Bernardino County STEM program that provides students a safe alternative to illegal street racing.
The RIM racing team races nationally with the Pacific Streetcar Association, and Garret has played a large role in student motivation and the program's success.
CHP Officer Casey Farwick
An 8-year veteran of the CHP, Farwick, was involved in an on-duty motorcycle collision on Feb. 6, 2021, where he was ejected from his motorcycle onto the freeway.
Farwick worked diligently towards a full recovery and, as a result of his determination, strong will, and commitment to fulfill his duty to serve, was able to return to full duty ahead of schedule, Obernolte said.
Additionally, Farwick frequently receives positive comments from the public for going above and beyond the call of duty.
CHP Officer Aaron Zousel
Throughout his 15-year career representing the CHP in Needles, Zousel has consistently provided excellent service to the public.
He is humble, professional, knowledgeable, helpful, and dedicated to providing safety and security for the public daily. The community of Needles is grateful for his dedication and many years of service, according to Obernolte.
Minor said the men and women of the CHP’s Inland Division are proud to serve the people of the 8th Congressional District. He also shared how proud he was of the work done by the personnel under his command.
It is extremely gratifying to see their efforts recognized by Congressman Obernolte, said Minor, who added that his department cherished the opportunity to work with Obernolte to make his district a good place to live, work, and visit.
“Congressman Obernolte’s Everyday Heroes event acknowledges the dedication and achievements of public safety employees,” Munsey said. “Captain Spencer Brumbaugh is an exemplary individual dedicated to making a difference in the communities he serves.”
“Jay Obernolte is an amazing example of a public servant. He never waivers in his support for law enforcement and public safety,” Dicus said. “Thank you, Jay, for honoring the men and women of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department at your annual Everyday Heroes event.”
Daily Press reporter Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227 or RDeLaCruz@VVDailyPress.com. Follow him on Instagram @RenegadeReporter and Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz
This article originally appeared on Victorville Daily Press: Rep. Jay Obernolte recognizes 'Everyday Heroes' from the High Desert