CITY HALL — Tales of outstanding service and uncommon valor were hardly uncommon at the Santa Monica Police Department award ceremony Thursday morning, and there was no shortage of stand outs.
“It wasn’t my first time in a dangerous situation, but we have a job to do and sometimes things get messy,” said Officer Cain Mora, recipient of the department’s Medal of Courage.
Mora, along with fellow Officer Enrique Esparza, who also received the same award, responded to a call of a suicidal man, armed with a handgun, in Clover Park this past January.
When Mora ordered him to the ground, the man pulled out a pistol, placed it against his temple and approached Mora, yelling for the officer to shoot him, explained SMPD Chief Tim Jackman to a full house at the ceremony.
Risking their own well-being, Mora and Esparza stepped out of cover to protect the suspect’s mother, who was fighting with her son over the weapon. And though they were unable to prevent the suspect from taking his own life, the two are credited with likely saving the life of the man’s mother.
“I’m very happy to have been recognized for both my and my partner’s work out there,” Mora said after the ceremony, attributing the outcome of the situation to what he called the department’s excellent training program. “This department is filled with heroes, as we saw today.”
Among the nine others honored at the event was Capt. Alex Padilla, who was officially promoted and sworn into said rank before the gathering of his family and peers.
“It is an honor and privilege to be promoted to the rank of captain,” Padilla said. “I appreciate the opportunity the chief has given me to represent the department both internally and out in the community.”
Padilla, who has been with the Santa Monica police for three decades, was praised by those who attended.
“He’s a man that’s passionate not only about his family but about his career as well; his 30 years of dedication prove that,” said Padilla’s nephew Hector, who joined the captain’s wife Stella, and children Alex, Michael, and Priscilla.
“He’s a very hard-working man and we’re very proud of him,” Michael said. “He’s a leader in the household and in the community.”
Five officers were awarded the department’s Lifesaving Medal.
Sgt. John Hudson and Officers David Alvarez and Steve Perez were recognized for their efforts as first responders when a man suffered a heart attack in the Building and Safety Division office last December.
Officer Brian Spencer was honored for his work last November when he performed CPR on a 3-year-old boy who was unconscious and not breathing.
Officer Thomas Mastin, like Spencer, provided primary care to a drowning swimmer, but was called into action while on vacation in Hawaii when he and his wife saw a woman pulling an unrespiring man from the ocean.
“It’s a very nice award and I appreciate the acknowledgment,” Mastin said, adding that his reaction can be largely attributed to the experience and training he has had on the job. “I shifted into work mode and took action. It seemed like all the gears went into motion and it came out with a happy result.”
The department also awarded Carolin Larson the Medal of Merit for her leadership in the Criminal Investigations Division, and recognized long-time Santa Monica resident Shawn Nadery with the Citizen Involvement Award for his assistance in the apprehension of a serial burglar who targeted the Sunset Park neighborhood.
After the event, the chief spoke of the accomplishments and talent of the department as a whole.
“All of our employees are like these; circumstances dictated a different outcome for these individuals,” Jackman said. “This caliber of employee reflects our department and community. You can’t have a good police department without a good community.”