FULLERTON : 6 Officers Given Valor Awards

Four police officers who ignored the danger of explosion and fire in trying to remove three crash victims from their car were among those recognized for their bravery Friday at the Fullerton Police Department's fourth annual Valor and Service Awards.

The crash occurred last September when a car carrying three Troy High School students went out of control on Skyline Drive, went over an embankment, flipped over and slammed into the unoccupied bedroom of a home. The crash ruptured a gas line, spewing fuel over the wreckage. Before firefighters arrived, Fullerton Police Sgt. Steve Matson, 35, and Senior Officers Bill Regan, 39, Don Haid, 34, and Tak Kim, 27, ignored the danger of explosion and fire in trying to pull the three teen-agers from the wreckage.

Their effort was not successful, however. Firefighters, who arrived later, had to cut the teen-agers from the vehicle. One 17-year-old was killed, and the two other teen-agers were critically injured in the crash.

Fullerton Police Chief Philip A. Goehring, at a program at the Fullerton Main Library, said the four officers' performance was "above and beyond the call of duty and in the highest tradition of the Fullerton Police Department."

Two other police officers were recognized for valorous service in another incident, and a civilian police employee was recognized for distinguished service.

The ceremony was attended by Mayor Don Bankhead and about 100 others, about 30 of whom were either officers, family members or city employees.

Officers David Yettaw, 26, and Rockne Crisp, 27, were honored for their efforts last November in capturing three fleeing burglary suspects who fired upon them in their patrol car, hitting it four times. The officers were not injured, and the suspects were captured after a 90-minute highway chase that involved other police agencies and ended in Ventura County.

In facing the gunmen, Crisp and Yettaw "displayed outstanding courage and bravery," Goehring said.

Alma Buis, 40, the only civilian police employee honored, was recognized for her work as the first minority affairs officer.

Buis, a liaison between the department and the city's minority communities, was commended for her efforts in Operation Cleanup, a neighborhood improvement program begun in an older part of the city and one that Goehring said has reduced crime, eliminated graffiti and flagrant drug dealing and helped enforce housing codes in the area.

The program has created a greater level of trust in that community, and it has been instituted in other parts of the city, Goehring said after the program.

Buis, who is bilingual, is "very effective at the assignment," Goehring said. "The community thinks the world of her."

The six officers received citations for their personnel files, medals to be worn with their Class A uniforms, which are for special ceremonies, and ribbons to be worn on their Class B, or daily uniforms.

Last year, only one Fullerton police officer received an award of valor. Detective Tommy De La Rosa was recognized posthumously. De La Rosa, 43, was killed June 21, 1990, in an undercover drug operation in Downey . He was a 10-year veteran of the force.

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