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Sheriff Lee Baca honors local deputy with award

Posted: September 10, 2010 11:35 a.m.
Updated: September 11, 2010 11:35 a.m.

Deputies John Davoren, Vanessa Chow, and Freddy Brown were awarded the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Silver, at the Medal of Valor and Meritorious Conduct Awards Ceremony on Sept. 8.

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On Wednesday, Sept. 8, Sheriff Lee Baca presented 29 members of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, including local deputy Mark Wood, with the department's highest honors during the Medal of Valor and Meritorious Conduct Awards Ceremony.

The Valor and Meritorious Conduct medals are awarded annually to those who have performed acts of great bravery or heroism, above and beyond the call of duty, to save the lives of others while potentially placing their own lives at risk.

In a special segment, two department members received the Line of Duty award, which is awarded to department members who, through no fault of their own, sustain serious or career debilitating injuries during the performance of job related functions. Both deputies fought back from severe injuries to return to work.

The awards ceremony, sponsored by Galpin Motors and the Commerce Casino, was held at the Quiet Cannon restaurant in the city of Montebello. The Master of Ceremonies, NBC-4 News Reporter Jennifer Bjorklund, narrated the awards, recounting the heroic actions of each award recipient before an audience of more than 500 department personnel and their guests.

All of the incidents described shared one common thread: that these men and women leaders of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, placed in extraordinary situations, acted with extreme courage while consciously facing imminent danger.

Local deputy receives award
Deputy Mark Wood was honored by Sheriff Lee Baca with the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Silver for his heroic actions on July 7, 2009.

On that date, a seemingly uneventful day quickly unfolded into a tragedy when a distraught off-duty police officer entered the Santa Clarita Valley Station Lobby. Unbeknownst to the deputies, the female officer planned to use their personnel to carry out a “suicide by cop” attempt to end her life.

After the officer briefly spoke with several department members at the counter, she asked to speak to a male deputy. Deputy Mark Wood then engaged the officer in a brief conversation and quickly determined the officer was agitated. Due to the officer’s fragile state of mind and potential danger to the personnel working, Deputy Wood tactfully inquired if the officer was armed.

After confirming she was armed, Deputy Wood continued speaking with her. Suddenly, Deputy Wood saw the officer reach for her waist area and pull out a handgun, which was concealed under her clothing. Deputy Wood, placing himself in imminent danger, jumped over the counter to prevent a shooting scenario.

As Deputy Wood attempted to engage the officer and wrestle her to the ground to secure the handgun, she moved out of his reach and began to position her handgun to engage Deputy Wood and desk personnel. Deputy Wood attempted to draw the woman’s attention away from desk personnel and toward the front lobby door in order to lure her outside. While the officer was distracted, desk personnel were able to take cover.

Deputy Wood quickly realized the officer was not going to follow him outside, and he ran to the back door to access the lobby. By the time he reached the lobby, the officer fatally shot herself after she pointed her gun in the direction of where the desk personnel had been seconds earlier.

Deputy Wood’s quick actions and unselfish thinking, placing himself in harm’s way, prevented an even more tragic event from occurring. For displaying great bravery above and beyond the call of duty, with full knowledge of the risk involved to his personal safety in order to save the lives of others, Deputy Mark Wood was awarded the Meritorious Conduct Medal, Silver.

Other acts of heroism
* Two deputies rescued an elderly male from a burning house in the city of La Habra Heights.

* A deputy rescued an injured hiker from the canyon floor in the Angeles National Forest.

* Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB) deputies rescued a team member after being shot by a barricaded suspect in Montebello.

* SEB deputies rescued several hostages after an armed robbery suspect broke into a residence in the city of Lakewood.

* Deputies rescued a suicidal man from the rooftop of a residence in Altadena.

* An off-duty deputy saved the lives of several shoppers at a retail store in West Hollywood from a woman armed with two knives and who had already stabbed several customers.

* Deputies saved several people from an armed gunman after the suspect had shot four family members in the city of Hawaiian Gardens.

* A motorcycle deputy was honored for his heroic recovery and return to work after he sustained severe injuries as a result of a collision in Malibu, when he was rammed by a fleeing bank robbery suspect.

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