Murrieta Police Awards Go to 2 Citizens, 11 Outstanding Employees

There were 13 recipients when the department held its annual awards ceremony on March 13 at Murrieta City Hall.

Several members of the Murrieta Police Department and two Murrieta citizens were recently recognized for their work—on and off the clock.

There were 13 recipients when the department held its annual awards ceremony on March 13 at Murrieta City Hall.

Officer of the Year went to Ontario Williams, who serves as the school resource officer at Murrieta Mesa High School. Detective Danny Martin was named Investigator of the Year. Tina Jones, Dispatcher of the Year, and Julie Shannon, Civilian of the Year. Volunteer of the Year was Judy Robinson.

Employees of the year are selected by a committee comprised of their peers, supervisors and management, according to Murrieta police Lt. Rob Firmes.

“It is important to recognize our employees because we care about the contributions they make,” Firmes said.

This year, for the first time, Firmes said the department also gave out the Leanna McConnaughey Service Excellence Award. McConnaughey was a police dispatcher for Murrieta when she suffered a pulmonary embolism and died suddenly in February 2010. McConnaughey was the department's Civilian Employee of the Year in 2006 and was named the California Public Safety Radio Association's Dispatcher of the Year in 2007.    

Receiving the Leanna McConnaughey Service Excellence Award was Sgt. Sandra O’Donnell, who spends much of her time supporting the Special Olympics and other causes such as Tip-a-Cop, Firmes said.

Three Distinguished Service Awards went to Detective Andy Spagnolo, Officer Sandra Valle and Officer Scott Montez, based on multiple contributions they made during the past year, Firmes said.

Chief Mike Baray also handed out four Chief’s Citation awards.

The first went to Dr. Donald H. Chapton, a Murrieta dentist who recently retired. Chapton served as a reserve officer for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department for several years, and flew on their search and rescue missions. He was also known to spend family vacations in Mexico, doing pro bono dental work.

Another citizen, Walter Smith, was presented a Chief’s Citation. Smith, a local barber, called police out of concern one day when a regular customer of his appeared despondent—possibly even suicidal. Based on Smith’s call, dispatchers were able to locate a Murrieta address for the man.

The responding officers, Heather Adams and David Hernandez, also received Chief’s Citations for their handling of the call.

“They found him in his room,” Firmes said. “He was lying in his bed...he had a gun pointed at his head and was just seconds away from pulling the trigger. They talked with him, talked him out of it and saved him.”

Lynda StarWriter March 28, 2013 at 04:40 PM
Wow! Congratulations to all! It's assuring to know Murrieta is served by exemplary, public safety personnel and volunteers. Kudos!
jim monaco March 28, 2013 at 06:14 PM
The Murrieta police department is the most proactive force I have seen. Statistics do not reveal the amount of crime that has been pevented by their hard work.
SA March 28, 2013 at 07:01 PM
Unless one goes outside the “call of duty” awards are BS in all respects. Heck, I had a hard time accepting the two NAMs that I received for just doing my job.
Wayne March 28, 2013 at 07:13 PM
The police don't prevent crime. They show up after the fact. And murrieta is not even in the top ten of safest cities anymore. Apparently stealing 67% of the city's general fund isn't cutting it.
Lynda StarWriter April 16, 2013 at 04:49 PM
There are openings for service in the city, every now and then. By all means, your vision should be shared by helping to implement the valid change(s) you note. That's the beauty of free speech, democracy and community service.


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