Orange PD honors officers, firefighters for saving life of officer hit by impaired driver

By Greg Hardesty

They came to honor the officers and firefighters who helped save the life of a grievously injured officer after a suspected drunk driver struck him while he stood behind his patrol car.

And although several Orange PD and Orange Fire personnel enjoyed their moment in the spotlight at a ceremony March 9 at the Villa, they said they were just doing their jobs, and all that mattered was that Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen was alive — and standing on both legs.

“Everyone is here to congratulate us, but today is actually a celebration of Sharif and for him being here — for him being with us today,” said Orange PD Officer Ivan Alvarez, one of three OPD officers recognized at the packed event with a Lifesaving Award.

While responding to a call about a man passed out in a parked vehicle that was blocking a driveway in the 500 block of N. Cambridge Street early Dec. 10, 2016, a female driver hit Muyazen, severing his femoral artery.

Quick thinking by his OPD colleagues — and a tourniquet — likely saved Muzayen’s life before Orange Fire personnel transported the married father of two and Marine veteran to the hospital (to read about Muzayen and his recovery, click here and here).

Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen, second from left, stands with fellow Orange officers who helped save his life after being hit by a drunk driver. From left is Sgt. Kevin Plog, Officer Muzayen, Officer Jesse Ochoa and Officer Ivan Alvarez. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen, second from left, stands with fellow Orange officers who helped save his life after he was hit by a suspected drunk driver. From left is Sgt. Kevin Plog, Officer Jesse Ochoa and Officer Ivan Alvarez.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange PD Chief Tom Kisela and Orange Fire Chief Jack Thomas presided at the afternoon ceremony, whose attendees included city officials and relatives of the honorees.

“I wish this didn’t happen, but it did… but thank God Sharif is with us today,” Thomas said.

Muzayen attended with his wife, Vanessa, and two young children, Luke and Leia.

“It was awesome, it means a lot to me — especially to be able to come and say hi to these guys,” he said.

After several surgeries, Muzayen was discharged from the hospital Jan. 17 and remains in physical therapy and in pain. Doctors at first thought he might lose his left leg but they were able to save it.

“Everybody who was recognized truly deserved it,” Vanessa Muzayen said.

The Orange PD Color Guard enters the room at the start of department’s awards ceremony at The Villa in Orange. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The Orange PD Color Guard enters the room at the start of a department awards ceremony at The Villa in Orange on March 9.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Mayor Theresa “Tita” Smith told the crowd the City of Orange was founded on faith, family and service nearly 130 years ago.

“You brought a city to its knees in prayer,” she told Muzayen and his family. “How Orange responds to a crisis is the best measure of who we are every day.”

Councilman Fred Whitaker praised the “servant leaders” of the OPD and Orange Fire.

Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen with his wife Vanessa Muzayen and their daughter Leia at the Orange PD awards ceremony. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen with his wife, Vanessa, and their daughter, Leia, at the Orange PD awards ceremony.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“Our society cannot exist as a free republic without servant leaders, and there’s no greater example of servant leadership — of service over self — than what our police and firefighters do every day, but especially what they did for you that evening, Sharif,” Whitaker said.

“It was simply amazing, and it shows how tight-knit our community is and how tight-knit our public safety agencies are,” Whitaker added.

Said councilmember Mike Alvarez: “Let’s get these drivers off the street.”

The honorees were:

Orange PD Officer Daniel OÕNeil-Tennant receives the Medal of Distinction from Orange Police Chief Thomas Kisela during an awards ceremony. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange PD Officer Daniel O’Neil-Tennant is honored with a Medal of Distinction for his large number of DUI arrests by Orange Police Chief Thomas Kisela.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Daniel O’Neil-Tennant

Medal of Distinction

O’Neil-Tennant was recognized for his DUI arrests. Since May 31, 2015, O’Neil-Tennant has been a member of the OPD’s DUI team. Since then he has made 488 arrests of impaired drivers. He is a back-to-back recipient of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers’ double-century award, which honors officers who make more than 200 DUI arrests per year.

Orange PD awards ceremony honoring the personal who helped save the life of a fellow officer after a crash from a drunk driver.

Orange PD Lt. Dan Adams receives a Medal of Distinction from Orange Police Chief Thomas Kisela. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Lt. Dan Adams

Medal of Distinction

Adams got the call about Muzayen at 3:30 a.m. Dec. 10 and responded to the scene. He went to the hospital and told Vanessa the news about her husband, and served as a liaison between the hospital, the OPD and the Muzayen family. For several weeks, Adams spent a lot of time at the hospital, handling visitation schedules and coordinating other things for the family. Adams also worked with the City of Orange to have a case manager assigned to Muzayen, and was in charge of providing regular updates about Muzayen’s condition to OPD personnel.

Orange PD Sgt. Phil McMullin receives the Medal of Distinction from Orange Police Chief Thomas Kisela during an awards ceremony. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange PD Sgt. Phil McMullin receives the Medal of Distinction from Orange Police Chief Thomas Kisela.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Sgt. Phil McMullin

Medal of Distinction

McMullin served as a liaison between the OPD and Vanessa Muzayen. He was sent to the hospital and identified how the department could help the family. He shopped for fresh clothes for Vanessa and assisted relatives in their travel needs. He also made several trips to airport for friends and family and helped with their lodging and meals. McMullin also picked up Sharif’s medications and took Vanessa Christmas shopping so she could buy gifts for her husband and children.

Orange Police Chief Thomas Kisela, left, thanks the Orange Firefighters who helped save the life of Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange Police Chief Thomas Kisela, left, thanks the Orange firefighters who helped save the life of Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen on Dec. 10, 2016.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange Fire Department

Distinguished Unit Citation

Engine 1 and Rescue 1 personnel:

Battalion Chief Chris Boyd

Capt. John Weigand

Paramedic-Engineer Greg Baudot

Firefighter-Paramedic Tyler Randall

Firefighter-Paramedic J.D. Jackson

Firefighter Jesse Mulder

Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen thanks City of Orange Firefighters who helped save his life. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen thanks City of Orange firefighters who helped save his life.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Decisive action by Orange Fire personnel were critical to Muzayen’s survival. The firefighters also provided breakfast to hospital staff and visited the hospital on several occasions. They attended a Dec. 20 fund-raiser for the Muzayen family hosted by the American Veterans Association.

“Never has this bond between the fire department and the police department been stronger,” Thomas said.

Orange PD Sgt. Kevin Plog receives the Life-Saving Medal from Orange Police Chief Thomas Kisela during an awards ceremony. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange PD Sgt. Kevin Plog receives the Lifesaving Medal from Orange Police Chief Thomas Kisela.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Sgt. Kevin Plog

Lifesaving Medal

Orange PD Officer Jesse Ochoa receives the Life-Saving Medal from Orange Police Chief Thomas Kisela during an awards ceremony. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange PD Officer Jesse Ochoa receives the Lifesaving Medal from Orange Police Chief Thomas Kisela.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Officer Jesse Ochoa

Lifesaving Medal

Orange PD Officer Ivan Alvarez receives the Life-Saving Medal from Orange Police Chief Thomas Kisela during an awards ceremony. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange PD Officer Ivan Alvarez receives the Lifesaving Medal from Orange Police Chief Thomas Kisela.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Officer Ivan Alvarez

Lifesaving Medal

Plog and Ochoa were the first to respond to the Dec. 10 call. Plog and Ochoa rushed to Muzayen’s side after he was hit. Plog reassured Muzayen he would be OK. At first, the two couldn’t control the bleeding. While Plog stayed with Muzayen and applied pressure to his upper left leg, Ochoa got a tourniquet from the squad car. Alvarez showed up and he and Ochoa applied the tourniquet. All three officers remained calm and optimistic during the ordeal. Ochoa stayed with Muzayen in the ambulance when he was transported to the hospital.

Orange PD Officer Ivan Alvarez gives Officer Sharif Muzayen a hug during a ceremony honoring those who saved the life of Officer Muzayen. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange PD Officer Ivan Alvarez gives Officer Sharif Muzayen a hug during the ceremony honoring those who saved Muzayen’s life.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

City of Orange Mayor Theresa Smith thanks the officers and fighters who helped save the life of Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

City of Orange Mayor Theresa “Tita” Smith thanks the officers and firefighters who helped save the life of Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Councilmember Fred M. Whitaker during a ceremony honoring those who helped save the life of Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Councilmember Fred Whitaker delivers remarks during the March 9 ceremony honoring those who helped save the life of Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Councilmember Mike Alvarez during a ceremony honoring those who helped save the life of Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Councilmember Mike Alvarez makes some remarks during the ceremony honoring those who helped save the life of Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange Mayor Theresa Smith greets the family of Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen, including his son Luke, during a ceremony honoring those who helped save the life of Officer Muzayen. Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Orange Mayor Theresa “Tita” Smith greets the family of Orange PD Officer Sharif Muzayen, including his son Luke.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC