Heroes in our midst

This is a story of ordinary events that unexpectedly escalated into extraordinary circumstances, of dangerous situations that were resolved peacefully—events that in other communities have resulted in tragic, even deadly consequences. But not in Hollister.

In the late morning on the day after the Fourth of July holiday, a San Benito County Sheriff’s deputy attempted to stop a vehicle for a traffic violation in the area of East Fourth Street. The deputy activated his emergency lights, but the driver kept driving.

The deputy pursued the vehicle through Hollister at slow to moderate speeds, when suddenly in the area of Paseo Drive, just west of Veterans Memorial Park, the driver fired a single gunshot. No one was hit or injured. Several blocks later, the driver stopped his car and fled on foot into the neighborhood. By this point, Hollister police officers had arrived to assist.

The first deputy running after the man noticed he was holding a handgun in his right hand. The deputy and officers ordered him to drop the gun and surrender. Facing drawn police guns, he refused, and challenged the officers to shoot. They held their ground, guns drawn.

Nearby houses were evacuated. Officers talked to the man, urging him to put the weapon down and give up. At one point during the standoff, one officer fired a “less-than-lethal” beanbag round at the man, but he did not immediately drop his weapon or surrender.

Then officers and deputies used their mobile phones to establish communication between the man and a family member, and the family member was able to help officers convince the suspect to drop the gun and surrender.

A Sheriff’s Office press release later would report, with some understatement, that the deputy’s and officers’ “patience and professionalism were paramount to the safe conclusion of this case.”

One day earlier, on the morning of the Fourth of July, Hollister Police Sgt. Michael Paddy was patrolling the area of Vista Hill Park, off Locust Avenue and Hill Court, when he saw a suspicious vehicle occupied by three people who appeared to be sleeping. The vehicle was parked in a handicapped parking space near the park’s playground and displayed no handicap placard.

Paddy contacted the person in the driver’s seat. The man was initially uncooperative and said he was a transient with no local address. A routine records check revealed the driver was an Oregon man wanted on suspicion of multiple charges, including rape, rape of a child and other sexual assault charges. He was immediately arrested without incident.

A little less than two weeks later, on Monday, Hollister police officers were dispatched to Santa Ana Road to investigate a report of domestic violence. There was a brief high-speed car chase, a pursuit on foot, and a neighborhood search that led to a confrontation in which the suspect kicked a detective. The man was arrested with no further incident.

These officers were shot at, led on dangerous cases, kicked, and probably cursed. But they did their job, with no discharge of their weapons and minimal danger to the public. And the accused are in jail.

We have all read of these kinds of incidents in other cities that ended in tragedy, where police or suspects were injured or killed. The training and experience, the humanity and maturity, the judgment required of our officers in these situations—and countless others—prevented similar tragedies here. This kind of police work often goes unnoticed and unrecognized. Let’s take a moment to thank our Sheriff’s deputies and Hollister police officers, and pray for their safety. Make no mistake: There are heroes in our midst.

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