IRVINE : Officer's Restraint Wins Medal of Valor

A police officer who refused to shoot an armed, suicidal man who fired twice at the officer was awarded the Irvine Police Department's first Medal of Valor on Thursday.

The medal, awarded for service and bravery beyond the call of duty, was presented to Dennis McNeely, a senior police officer, for calmly talking a 44-year-old despondent man into surrendering last September, even after the man fired a .22-caliber handgun at McNeely, Cmdr. Gene Norden said.

McNeely, 44, showed great restraint during the incident, Norden said. At one point, he said, the armed man stood only 10 feet from McNeely and repeatedly begged officers to shoot him, occasionally pointing his gun at them.

"You always feel like you're in danger," McNeely said Thursday. "In this particular incident, I never felt the threat was so great that I needed to take action toward him."

Added Police Chief Leo Peart: "We're very proud the officer had such maturity and state of mind to use that extra restraint to finally take (the armed man) into custody without injury."

Other top honors given at an awards ceremony Thursday night at the Irvine Marriott went to Larry Montgomery, selected as Police Officer of the Year for 1990, and Greg Talbott, chosen as Reserve Officer of the Year.

Montgomery, 37, was honored because of his professionalism and knowledge of the law and administrative procedures. He is a 15-year veteran with the department currently assigned to investigate crimes against persons.

Talbott was recognized for his long hours in a stakeout that led to the arrest of a burglar who had committed a series of thefts, Norden said. Talbott, 36, is the chief financial officer for Pomona First Federal Savings & Loan in Pomona. He has been a part-time officer in Irvine since 1984.

Meritorious service awards will go to senior Police Officers Rudy Malik and Bob Richardson, Investigator Mike Welch, administrative coordinator Diane Lawrence, administrative secretary Christine Torres and public safety assistant Mary Ann Moffitt.

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