SAN BERNARDINO (CBSLA.com) — A rookie officer who killed the suspect who gravely wounded his training officer during a gunfight will be honored with the governor's Public Safety Officers Medal of Valor Award.
San Bernardino Police Officer Marcus Pesquera will be the first in the history of the department to receive the honor, the highest state award for valor presented to a public safety officer. The award will be presented to Pesquera during a private ceremony by the governor next month.
"No officer in the city of San Bernardino has ever received such a high award. And there are only two people in the state of California receiving that award this year," San Bernardino police spokesman Lt. Rich Lawhead said.
Pesquera had been in training for just 45 days when he and his training Officer Gabriel Garcia approached a group of men about stolen vehicles and other crimes in the area at about 2 a.m. on Aug. 22, 2014.
He didn't have a lot of formal training but he was very familiar with his weapon.
"I grew up shooting glocks," Pesquera says, "and we're issued glocks, so that helped out a lot."
Garcia had just spoken to one of the men when shots rang out. Pesquera didn't realize it at that moment, but Garcia had been shot in the head and lay gravely wounded on the ground.
"At first, I was almost in shock when I heard the gunshots," Pesquera said Thursday.
The entire gun battle might have lasted two minutes but it still reverberates.
The rookie officer immediately began backing toward his patrol car for cover while firing back at the gunman, who started the gun battle with a revolver and later armed himself with an assault weapon fitted with laser sighting, according Lawhead.
Pesquera said seeing the laser sight on the suspect's gun gave him an advantage even though they were in the dark.
"My whole logic was I was going to shoot at his laser," Pesquera said, "So I'm not going to have a light on my gun because he's probably going to be shooting at that."
The suspected gunman, 38-year-old Alex Alvarado, was killed in the firefight.
Garcia, 31, and a six-year veteran of the department, was gravely injured but continues to improve in health. He was able to leave a rehabilitation center earlier this year.
"Probably every other weekend, we hang out," says Pesquera, "He's doing awesome. It's phenomenal, the progress he makes."
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