Sheriff Jim McDonnell on Wednesday honored 29 Sheriff’s Department personnel and one U.S. Forest Service firefighter whose heroic actions saved the lives of others.
Among those presented with Lifesaving medals were two sergeants and seven deputies from the Palmdale Station – Sgts. Richard Cartmill and Paul Zarris and Deputies Joana Gomez, Adrian Guillen, George Hanley, Dennis Miller, Travis Ogle, Scott Sorrow and Erika Wilts.
The local officers were honored for rescuing a woman who was shot inside an East Palmdale home last year. According to a Sheriff’s Department press release:
On January 17, 2014, Palmdale Station received a call from two distraught teenagers who stated their mother had been shot by their stepfather. The teenagers said they were locked inside their bedroom and believed the suspect was inside the residence.
As deputies responded, they learned the suspect was a retired California Department of Corrections officer and had body armor and weapons inside the residence. When the deputies arrived on scene, they set up a containment on the house and immediately made announcements for the teenagers to exit the home. The teenagers, in fear for their safety, did not immediately exit their home.
Believing there was a person wounded and two teenagers trapped inside the home, the deputies immediately formed a rescue team. Palmdale Station desk personnel, who were still in contact with the teenagers, continued to make repeated requests for the teenagers to exit their home. As the rescue team [was] preparing to enter the home, the teenagers ran out of the home.
They told deputies that their mother was unresponsive and bleeding in the entry way of the residence. They also believed the suspect was still inside the residence. Deputies led the teenagers to safety, contained the residence and formulated a plan to rescue the victim.
Aware of the probability the armed suspect was still inside the residence, deputies courageously made entry. Deputy Guillen held the second story while Deputies Hanley and Miller, accompanied by Sergeants Cartmill and Zarris entered the residence. They found the victim, who was unresponsive and severely wounded, inside the home and near the front door. They relayed her location to other members of the rescue team. They covered and protected the victim while Deputies Ogle, Sorrow, Wiltz and Gomez carried the victim to safety.
Los Angeles County Fire Department paramedics treated the victim and rushed her to a local hospital. The victim underwent surgery and survived her injuries. The suspect was located deceased in an upstairs bedroom with an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Los Angeles County Fire chief praised the deputies, stating their actions saved the victim’s life.
The victim, Teresa Van Dongen, and her sons, John Austin Van Dongen and Dameon Baber, attended the Lifesaving Awards presentation ceremony Wednesday.
“Teresa’s will and determination to live is beyond words. Austin and Dameon’s bravery and genuine love for their mother without a doubt were key in assisting deputies with expeditiously locating their mom,” sheriff’s officials stated in the press release.
To read the lifesaving stories of the 21 other honorees from sheriff’s substations across Los Angeles County, as well as the U.S. Forest Service, click here.