The Racine Police Department gave out five awards Tuesday to citizens who took dramatic action to help protect the community. The winners met with the Police and Fire Commission, including Police Chief Kurt Wahlen, and received plaques to honor their actions. Here's the winners and their deeds:
Robert Flores and Ruben Martinez
On March 9, 2008, Robert Flores and Ruben Martinez, employees of Racine Public Safety Security Company, were working security at International House of Pancakes. While conducting crowd control, they heard a single gunshot in the parking lot. Both guards immediately responded to the parking lot and observed the suspect standing in the parking lot, holding a handgun. Both reacted, appropriately, by drawing their own duty weapons and ordering the suspect to drop his weapon. The suspect threw the handgun and fled on foot. Without hesitation or thought for their own safety, they pursued the suspect and captured him after a brief struggle. Mr. Flores and Mr. Martinez then detained the suspect until officers arrived.
This incident occurred during bar time, when the restaurant was crowded, which added to the confusion and danger of the situation. Mr. Flores and Mr. Martinez confronted and disarmed a dangerous person. Their courageous actions, culminating in the suspect’s capture, prevented any additional gunfire or injuries.
Both Flores and Martinez said the man with the gun came with the intention of shooting someone. They said by intervening they prevented further violence.
"It happened so fast we didn't consider our safety," Flores said.
On April 26, 2008, at approximately 12:43 a.m., Officer Freidel and Officer Boeck responded to a civil trouble at 1661 Douglas Ave. Upon their arrival, a nearly-full-term pregnant woman tried to explain, in Spanish, the multiple problems she was having with her husband and his mother. This call was complicated and involved many people in several different locations. The officers were experiencing difficulty getting to the root of the problems because of the language barrier.
Fausto Esquivel, 15, volunteered to translate. Fausto translated many conversations for the officers and did so in a rapid, professional manner. He translated for over 30 minutes and did everything that was asked of him.
Fausto is recognized for his helpfulness and maturity, notable for someone his age. Without his help, the officers would have been unable to help the family, because there were no Spanish-speaking officers on duty, that night.
Mr. Josiah Williams is currently serving the Racine Explorer Post 286 in the capacity of an Associate Advisor and has done so since June of 2004. As an adult leader and former Explorer, Mr. Williams represents a wealth of knowledge and is a living history of Post 286. As a youth Explorer, Mr. Williams joined Post 286 in 1996 and has held every youth leadership position available in the Post. At age 21, all youth are forced out of the program, but Mr. Williams stayed on as an adult leader.
Mr. Williams is a capable young man, on whom we have come to rely, for not only running Explorer Post meetings and providing a history of past activities and dealings of Post 286, but for being the anchor by which Post 286 is grounded. Mr. Williams is an invaluable member of the Post 286 leadership team as he possesses a special connection with the youth that not only challenges them, but with his friendship and candor, also keeps them honest.
Mr. Williams is commended for his continued dedication and service to the Racine Police Explorer Post 286, the Racine Police Department, and the City of Racine.
On May 13, 2008, Jared Smerchek, Alexander Lopez, and Mark Lopez were in the drive-thru of the Burger King restaurant, at 5400 Durand Ave., when they witnessed an armed robbery in progress. They observed one of the offenders holding a gun to the head of a female employee of Burger King. Realizing what was happening, Mr. Smerchek and the Lopez brothers waited and, then, observed the offenders enter a waiting vehicle.
Jared and Alexander decided to follow the offenders and contacted the police, via cellular phone, to report the robbery, as well as a description of the get-away vehicle. Mr. Smerchek continued to follow the vehicle and provided officers with its direction and location, until Racine Police Department officers were able to locate and stop the vehicle. William Walrup, Jaschiro Willis, and Michael Lewis were taken into custody as suspects in the robbery. All the money taken in the robbery and several items of evidentiary value were also recovered from the vehicle. During interviews of the suspects, it was learned that Julian Rutherford, a Burger King employee, was also involved in the planning and execution of the robbery. He was charged on May 14, 2008.
Jared Smerchek, Alexander Lopez and Mark Lopez are recognized for their courageous actions as private citizens, when they placed themselves in peril to follow the offenders in an armed robbery until officers were able to apprehend the offenders. Due to their quick thinking, the arrests of all the offenders were completed within hours of the robbery.
After seeing the gun to the head of the female employee, Smerchek said he and his friends didn't question the need to follow the suspects. They received high praise from the police chief and Police and Fire Commission Chairman Charles Johnson.
"The system really works better when citizens are involved," Johnson said.
Wahlen added: "The system doesn't work at all without citizens getting involved."
On Aug. 30, 2008, Andrew Kothe was working at Erickson Ambulance Company, when he witnessed a person who had been shot, at 9th Street and S. Memorial Drive. Mr. Kothe called police and then entered a large crowd of people surrounding the victim, to administer CPR. The victim was later transported to St. Mary’s Medical Center, where he died from his injuries. Mr. Kothe remained at the scene and provided information to the investigating officers.
Mr. Kothe did not hesitate to render emergency assistance to another person, even at a fresh crime scene having a large crowd in the area. Mr. Kothe is recognized for his willingness to act and come to the aid of a fellow citizen and the police.
After receiving his award, Kothe said he was doing his job.
"If I didn't want to do it, I wouldn't be in the business," he said, adding any EMT or paramedic would have done the same. "Any of us would have done what we did that night."
Johnson responded: "But you actually did it."
On June 17, 2008, at 1:26 a.m., Officer Boeck responded to 1017 Birch Street for a welfare check. Upon his arrival, he learned that a five-year-old female had wandered out of her home after her older sister, supposedly babysitting, left the home. William Thompson noticed the young girl, outside, without adult supervision. Mr. Thompson thought it very unusual, so he stayed with the child and called the police.
Mr. Thompson was aware of the many things that could go wrong for an unsupervised child, in the early hours of the morning, and made sure “Nioka” would be safe. Mr. Thompson is commended for taking the time to do the right thing and protecting the child.