Sept. 28, 2010 — Local police officer Kelley Merritt is in Sacramento today to receive the Governor’s Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Merritt is receiving the award for his actions on June 16, 2009, during a shootout in North Lassen County that resulted in the death of one suspect, the arrest of six other suspects and injured Lassen County Sheriff Sergeant Dave Martin and deputy Dave Woginrich.
According to Susanville Police Chief Jeff Atkinson, Merritt had actually disengaged from the ensuing firefight to give first aid.
“On June 16 of last year, members of the Interagency Narcotics Task Force responded up north on what was reported as a large scale marijuana grower,” Atkinson said to the Susanville City Council at its Sept. 15 meeting. “As they came upon that growth, they found some people there who were tending the garden, and unfortunately a firefight ensued,” said Atkinson During the firefight, officer Merritt applied first aid to an officer (Martin) who had a severe bullet wound to the arm. That sergeant believes that Kelley’s actions at least saved his limb, if not his life.”
Atkinson explained how he wasn’t surprised by Merritt’s actions, simply because that’s the type of guy Merritt is. Atkinson said the department is very proud of Merritt, and is very proud of the fact that everyone who responded that day was able to make it home.
Police Captain Tom Downing submitted an application to the Medal of Valor Review Board on behalf of Merritt. Chairperson of the board, Rick Mattos said in a letter to Atkinson that out of the 62 nominations submitted across the state, Merritt was selected as one of the recipients.
“He is a credit to your department’s recruitment and training and serves as a role model for others through his selfless devotion to duty,” Mattos said.
In his own words
As for his own involvement in both the incident and receiving the award, Merritt is humbled by the experience, even though he said he is generally a man of few words.
“I’m honored to be recognized by everybody for the award,” Merritt said. “I really appreciate all the support everyone has given over this. I just wish everyone could have received the recognition. I just went out and did what I’m paid to do.”
Merritt, who has lived in Lassen County since coming to work for the prison system in 1994, said he truly enjoys living in Lassen County. He has worked for the Narcotics Task Force for three years and has been with the SPD for roughly nine. Originally from Sacramento, Kelley moved to Susanville after working as a police officer in Stockton, Calif.
“I took a big pay cut to come and work for the police from the prison, but it’s what I like to do,” Merritt said. “And people here are a lot nicer than where I grew up.”
As for the incident on June 16 of last year, Merritt said nobody ever wants to get into a gun battle, but he would not hesitate to do it again, especially if it meant saving a life.
Merritt was on the LCNF, along with agents from the Bureau of Land Management when they were scouting for marijuana cultivation in the Dixie Valley area.
The team discovered a marijuana garden containing about 8,500 to 9,000 plants. As the team was backing out of the garden, it ended up on top of a small camp on the side of a hill.
Two suspects were arrested right away, while a third decided to engage the police. Martin received the first volley of gunfire, causing him to sustain major damage to the back of his hand. The bullet traveled up and exited his arm then re-entered his body above his lungs. Woginrich was shot twice, both in the thigh. He was able walk out from the scene on his own when back up teams arrived.
The remaining four suspects were arrested after they were caught trying to flee the scene.
|< Prev||Next >|