Lifesavers Celebrated for Their Heroic Actions

October 26, 2017
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Corporal Martin Weinreb

LA VERNE, October 26, 2017 — Cited for their unique acts of courage, bravery and split-second, lifesaving decision-making, seven local heroes were honored at the La Verne Police Department’s First Annual Awards Ceremony on Wednesday night at the University of La Verne’s Sara and Michael Campus Center.

The honorees were Corporal Martin Weinreb, Sergeant David Mortazavi, Communications Officer Anita Baca, Corporal Devon Harden, Corporal Shannon Sullivan, Corporal Shannon Sullivan, Corporal Jay Alvarado and citizen Patricia VanLeeuven.

La Verne Police Chief Nick Paz said the occasion was to honor and give “humble recognition,” to the “guardian angels” whose quick actions helped save lives in the community.

Recognizing a quality that all of the honorees shared, La Verne Mayor Don Kendrick said, “When trouble happens they run toward it, not away from it.”

Chief Paz then recalled why each of the first-responders were so deserving of their awards:

Corporal Martin Weinreb, Lifesaving Medal

Officer Mortavazi with the woman whose life he helped save.

Corporal Weinreb was filling out a report in the 99 Cents Only Store parking lot on July 16, 2014 when he was flagged down and informed that an older man had collapsed inside the store and was not breathing. Officer Weinreb immediately rushed inside and began performing CPR until the La Verne Fire Deparment could arrive. His actions helped the man regain consciousness after which he was transferred to the hospital. Although the victim later died, he was able to be surrounded by loved ones who had a chance to be with him one last time.

Sergeant David Mortavazi

Sergeant David Mortavazi, Lifesaving Medal

Then Corporal Mortavazi was traveling westbound on Foothill Blvd. on Aug. 24, 2010 when he found a driver unconscious, slumped over the steering wheel of her car. The driver, it was later discovered, had cardiomyopathy, which had caused her heart to stop. Officer Mortavazi broke a window of her locked car so he could extricate her and begin CPR. His speedy intervention kept her alive. The La Verne Fire Department arrived and transported her to the hospital. After her recovery, the victim wrote a letter to officer Mortavazi: “I thank God every day that you were there for me.”

Communications Officer Anita Baca

Anita Baca, Lifesaving Medal

With her partner on break, Communications Officer Anita Baca was working dispatch on Jan. 16, 2017 when a 911 call came in from a citizen who said his friend had fallen off a chair and was lying on the floor unconscious. After dispatching La Verne Fire to his house, Baca asked the caller if he felt he was up to performing CPR. He said yes, and Baca walked him through the life-saving chest compressions while she was also handling another incoming call. By the time the Fire Department arrived, the man’s friend was faintly breathing. At the hospital, it was determined, the victim had overdosed on drugs. Fortunately, for the victim, Baca had just completed her CPR re-certification two months earlier.

Corporate Devon Harden, Fire Rescue Medal

Corporal Shannon Sullivan, Fire Rescue Medal

Corporal Harden was patrolling near Panera Bread on March 29, 2017, when he noticed black smoke rising from behind Kohl’s department store. When he reached the rear of the building in his vehicle, he realized that instead of a dumpster fire, the smoke was coming from the adjacent mobile home park.  Once inside the trailer park, he found a home whose porch was engulfed in flames. Not knowing whether there were occupants inside, he began banging on the door. In the vicinity, Corporal Sullivan also responded to the Code 3 call that went out. When they realized occupants were inside, but still weren’t responding, a dispatcher placed a phone call inside the home. Finally, two elderly women, a mother and daughter, opened the door. As smoke quickly filled the room to waist level, the daughter was first evacuated. The mother, however, was reluctant to leave without her pets. With the fire spreading quickly, the officers placed the woman in her wheelchair and removed her to a safe place. Minutes later, the La Verne Fire Department knocked down the blaze. Had not it been for the quick actions of the first responders, the results could have been far worse.

From left, Police Chief Nick Paz, Corporal Jay Alvarado with Logan and Patricia VanLeeuven

Corporal Jay Alvarado, Lifesaving Medal
Mrs. Patricia VanLeeuven, Citizen Commendation

A panic-stricken man ran frantically across the street to the home of nurse Patricia VanLeeuven who had just come home from work. A young boy had fallen into a pool and was now unresponsive, his skin ashen and eyes fully dilated. VanLeeuven raced across the street and began performing CPR until paramedics could arrive. But at first the paramedics didn’t arrive. The initial emergency call had been made on a cell phone and the call had been routed first to Baldwin Park and then San Bernardino. When an exhausted VanLeeuven asked that another call be made, this time the call was made from a landline, and La Verne Fire was there in two minutes. Meanwhile,  Officer Alvarado had arrived, and both he and VanLeeuven worked together to perform CPR. Despite their ongoing efforts, the prognosis for the young boy didn’t look good. Other emergency personnel who had witnessed similar drownings weren’t hopeful. Yet, with Officer Alvarado leading the way, his siren blaring, the young boy made it to the hospital, and with an expert trauma ready to treat him, the boy eventually made a full recovery. Before responding to the drowning, neither VanLeeuven nor Officer Alvarado had performed CPR on a child, but their actions made all the difference.


It was quite an extraordinary evening and a sobering reminder that many life-saving actions take place in our community without being recognized. Wednesday’s affair was a good start to honor and praise the men and women whose training and selflessness have made all the difference.

Events sponsors included Vons, Costco, Target and the La Verne Chamber of Commerce.

Reporting coverage sponsored by longtime La Verne Realtor Colleen Bennett, Sotheby’s International Real Estate, and Tim Manfro, ManfroMortgage in San Dimas.


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