Three deputies received a standing ovation from a room full of law enforcement’s top officers today when they received, for acts of selflessness and heroism during the Big Bear man hunt in February, the state’s top honor.
Detectives Justin Musella and Larry Lopez and Deputy Danny Rosa were given the Award of Valor by the California Peace Officers Association at a ceremony today in Ontario. The CPOA, one of the state’s foremost law enforcement organizations, presents the Award of Valor for outstanding acts of bravery.
Musella, Lopez and Rosa are credited with risking their own lives in order to save the life of Deputy Alex Collins during a gun battle with a disgraced former police officer who was intent on seeking vengeance against law enforcement. Detective Jeremiah MacKay was killed during the gun battle but was rescued from further harm because of the actions of the three award recipients.
“These men ran into a gun battle, putting aside concern for their own personal safety, and helped their fellow deputies,” Sheriff John McMahon said. “They not only saved Alex Collins’ life but potentially many others, as their actions helped stop the reign of terror this suspect had inflicted on so many families.”
As the honorees received their awards they invited Dep. Alex Collins on stage with them to share the honor. The crowd rose to its feet again as the San Bernardino Sheriff’s deputies exchanged hugs, congratulations and mutual gratitude.
On Tuesday, February 12, 2013, deputies responded to a report of a home invasion robbery by former rogue officer Christopher Dorner, who had shot at several police throughout the course of the week, killing Riverside Police Officer Michael Crain. A team of deputies tracked the suspect through the snowy Angelus Oaks terrain, nearing a cabin where the suspect eventually barricaded himself. As Detective MacKay and Deputy Collins approached the cabin they were shot.
Deputies shot suppressing fire toward the main cabin, in an attempt to prevent Dorner from continuing to shoot at MacKay and Collins, who were down in the roadway.
After a few seconds, Musella realized he needed to reposition himself in order to throw smoke canisters to conceal MacKay and Collins from Dorner’s sight. Musella ran across 50 yards of open ground to a building just east of the cabin. He did this knowing he was risking his life. Musella successfully took a tactical position at the corner of the building and threw his first canister of smoke.
Deputy Rosa also deployed a canister, which provided excellent concealment for the downed deputies. Rosa and Lopez then took on the responsibility for rescuing MacKay and Collins as the additional deputies on scene provided cover fire. Lopez ran to MacKay and dragged him to safety behind cover. Rosa then ran to Collins and dragged him to safety.
MacKay succumbed to his injuries. Collins was transported to Loma Linda Medical Center where he underwent several surgeries and began his long road to recovery. The actions of Musella, Lopez and Rosa reflect a high level of training, skill, teamwork and tenacity under extremely dangerous circumstances. They remained steadfast in their responsibility to protect the public’s safety.
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