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Azusa and Irwin Police Departments (California)

2016-2017 Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Recipients

Lieutenant Xavier Torres, Retired; Sergeants Seth Chapman, Terry Smith Jr., Retired; Thomas Avila III and Rocky Wenrick; Corporal Andrew Rodriguez Sr. Retired; and Senior Officer Carlos Plascencia (Azusa Police Department, California) and Detective Manuel Campos (Irwindale Police Department, California) are being honored for placing themselves in mortal danger and saving the lives of civilians and fellow officers during a mass shooting incident on Election Day, 2016.

On November 8, 2016, at about 2:00 p.m., the Azusa Police Department responded to a call about an armed man wearing body armor at a polling place in Memorial Park. The Azusa Police Department had activated a special detail unit to strengthen patrols in anticipation of potential incidents at the polls.

When they arrived at the polling place, the officers were faced with a chaotic and dangerous situation: Someone was shooting from a house across the street from the park; an unresponsive man lay wounded on the sidewalk; two vehicles had collided; and a woman in one of the cars was critically injured. An elderly woman had already been killed, and just east of the scene was a middle school and preschool where children and staff were about to leave for the day. From eyewitness accounts it appeared as though the polling location was being targeted by the shooter, but no one knew if he was acting alone or with others.

Several events unfolded simultaneously in the moments that followed. Officer Plascencia realized that the injured woman, who had suffered a gunshot wound to the head, remained exposed to gunfire and he tried to help her out of the car, but in her disoriented state she became combative. Sergeant Torres left his position of cover to help Officer Plascencia remove the injured woman from danger.

Meanwhile, Sergeants Smith, Retired, and Chapman and Corporal Rodriguez, Retired, arrived with other officers and returned the gunman's fire from east of his home, protecting their partners who had been pinned down by the gun battle. At the same time, Corporal Avila, Corporal Wenrick and Detective Campos left their position of cover west of the shooter's residence and, risking their own lives, drew the shooter out into the open. The shooter died as a result of the shootout.

Acting with composure and courage in the face of life-threatening danger, Lieutenant Torres, Retired; Detective Campos; Sergeants Smith, Retired; Avila, Chapman, and Wenrick; Corporal Rodriguez, Retired; and Senior Officer Plascencia saved countless lives and prevented an already deadly encounter from growing into an immeasurable tragedy.

Date Created: September 4, 2020