They were recognized as heroes by the Spokane County sheriff, but all four deputies who received the prestigious “Medal of Valor” Thursday insisted they didn’t deserve it.
“I just do the job just like the rest of the guys,” said Deputy Steve Stevens, clutching the blue velvet box that displayed his new medal.
“It was a matter of being in the right position and doing what I had to do,” said jailer Jay Shuman.
“When it’s your turn in the barrel, you get the call and you go,” shrugged Deputy Jim Dresback.
“I work with a whole bunch of professionals out there,” Deputy Randy Strzelecki said. “That’s probably one of the reasons I’m standing up here today.”
Only three other deputies in Spokane County have received the medal in the past five years, when the department first started awarding it.
Undersheriff Mike Aubrey said it’s difficult for a deputy even to qualify for the distinguished green pin. That four were given in one year is unprecedented, he said.
“It requires displaying an extraordinary act of bravery or heroism,” Aubrey said. Deputies who get the award put their lives in danger to protect someone else’s, he said.
Despite what they may humbly say, all four men who received the medal at the department’s awards ceremony Thursday deserved it, Sheriff John Goldman said.
At a Valley apartment complex this fall, Stevens negotiated with a man who pointed his gun at the deputy and refused to drop it. Seeing a woman behind a sliding-glass door behind the gunman, Stevens didn’t fire his weapon even though he would have been justified to do so, Goldman said.
Instead, the deputy used a ruse to get near the gunman and tackle him. During the struggle the gunman fired a shot into the ground, but no one was injured.
Shuman tackled an armed man who was being booked into the Spokane County Jail this summer. The inmate pulled a knife out of his belt, flipped the blade open and “took an aggressive stance” toward Shuman and two other officers, Aubrey said.
The jailer’s quick, precise movements diffused a situation that could have resulted in injuries, Aubrey said.
This fall, Dresback and Strzelecki showed up at a murder-suicide call in the Valley, where a man was threatening to kill deputies and set his house on fire.
Two injured women were in the front yard - one had been shot, the other couldn’t move after jumping from a window to escape the gunman.
Suddenly, an explosion inside the house sent flames within 3 feet of the victims. Dresback exposed himself to gunfire to help move one of the women to safety.
Then both Dresback and Strzelecki returned to the yard to carry the other injured woman away.
“These deputies continue to distinguish themselves,” Goldman said. “And we appreciate you all very much.”
The sheriff also gave public service awards to several civilians, including Clyde Starr, a loyal volunteer with the department’s community policing program.
Starr’s “battery never quits,” Aubrey said. He was given the volunteer-of-the-year award.
Even Starr, who set up 20 Blockwatch groups and volunteered hundreds of hours in the past year, seemed embarrassed by the recognition.
“There are others just as deserving of this plaque as I am,” he said. “But thank you just the same.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.