SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, May 12, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) — The Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office and Unified Police Department held their annual awards banquet Wednesday to honor individual law enforcement officers, administrators and citizens throughout the valley for their exceptional performance and ongoing commitment to service.
Sheriff James M. Winder presented awards in an effort to recognize others for their individual acts of heroism, sacrifice and dedication.
As an annual tradition, the banquet started with the Fallen Officer’s Tribute, which includes an empty table with a place setting for one which symbolizes members of their law enforcement family who are missing from their ranks. For the first time in more than 20 years, among a room full of heavy hearts, a picture of one of their own was displayed next to the table as this year’s tribute was read.
Winder said Unified Police Officer Doug Barney, who died January 17, 2016 in the line of duty, gave the ultimate sacrifice for the protection of others.
“The loss of human life is the most precious things we must honor. When that loss of life happens, we have to put that as a special place in our hearts,” Winder said. “Barney gave his life, how do we honor that? He went to work each day with the idea that he may not return. Do we continuously weep, fold up, or discontinue our forward moment? We cannot do that, we have to step up and move forward. How better to serve his memory than to honor him by providing service?”
Winder presented Erica Barney, Officer Barney’s wife, and their three children Matilda (Matti), Meredith (Merri), and Jacob (Jack) with Officer Barney’s Medal of Honor and Purple Heart. Officer Jon Richey, who was also shot, but survived, was given his own Medal of Honor and Purple Heart.
Sergeant Ben Steiner and Officer Matthew Brownlee, both involved in the shootout that ultimately killed the suspect, were also presented Medal of Honors.
Four other law enforcement officers, Jose Lopez, Jared Evens, Terry McQueen and Matt Gezik, who offered emergency services to Officer Barney and Officer Richey, were given the Sheriff’s Star for their actions.
This year, more than ever, the banquet served as a reminder that those who serve in law enforcement put their lives on the line every day and often play an intricate role in saving the lives of others.
Two Unified Police officers who were injured last year in the line of duty and received Purple Hearts, Jared Cardon and Martin Berdaguer, are a prime example of how quickly any situation can escalate.
Cardon, who was hit by a suspect’s car that was traveling 100 mph as he set out spikes to stop him, said that he never gets up and consciously thinks he is putting his life at risk.
“When I put on my uniform, that’s the only time I mentally prepare for what may happen,” Cardon said. “If there is a call for someone who needs help, I think about how it would feel if it were my own kids, my mom, or my sister, and I really want to get there to help them. If it is a call to stop a bad guy, then the adrenaline kicks in and it masks all of those self preserving common sense things that you would not normally do. You don’t think about the risk involved.”
Cardon said he has had several moments where he pauses and reflects on how bad situations could have turned out, like being hit by a car going 100 mph, could have ended.
“Who survives that? Both officers who witnessed the incident said they thought I had been killed,” Cardon said. “By all means, I should not have come home that night.”
Berdaguer, who was severely beaten in an ambush by two suspects in a reported domestic incident last July, said he does not consider himself special, he just does what he has to, what he was trained to do and without training he may not have known what to do when he suddenly he found himself fighting for his life.
“The girlfriend of the suspect involved jumped on my back and hit me over the head and knocked me out, when I awoke this guy was just beating on my face,” Berdaguer “I suffered whiplash and a massive concussion, but I am OK.”
Berdaguer said he has a three-year-old son at home who always loves to help his mom, saying it should be that natural to want to help others.
Officer Nate Clark, given one of the Chief’s Awards, said he never goes into the job thinking it could be his last, and after 16 years he still loves his job.
“I have definitely had my ups and downs in my career but I get to work with some of the best people,” Clark said. “The detectives I work with are second to none, they are fantastic police officers. They are people I admire and they are all willing to put in the hard work to go out and find the people who want to do harm.”
Clark, who spent seven years with the Metro Gang Task Force and three with SWAT, has his own proactive approach to patrol. During 2015, he helped to recover 43 stolen vehicles, which resulted in the apprehension of eight felony suspects.
Officer Ben Ricks and his K-9 Capone were given the Unified Police K-9 team of the Year Award for their capture of 33 individuals, performing over 51 narcotics searches and 28 tactical deployments during 2015, before Capone passed away in October from leukemia.
Sgt. Cody Stromberg received Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, Sgt. C. David Glad received the Sheriff’s Correctional Officer of the Year and Officer Athena M. Walser was given the Protective Services Officer of the Year Award.
Other categories where citizens, administrators, and officers were given awards included Citizens Service Awards, Distinguished Unit Citation Awards, Chief’s Awards, Volunteer of the Year Awards, Civilian Employee of the Year Awards, Sheriff Star Awards, and Medal of Distinction Awards.
The banquet, narrated by Doug Wright of KSL, included a special musical number by 13-year-old Viviena Wolfgramm and a surprise marriage proposal between two officers, Matthew Vanwagoner and his girlfriend Mollie Donnells.