Westminster PD’s Shop with a Cop hosts 20 Boys & Girls Club children at annual event

By Jessica Peralta

Fourth-grader Valeria Perez walked alongside Westminster Police Cpl. Phuong Pham, making sure she didn’t forget anyone on her Christmas list.

“Who’s this for?” Pham asked Valeria, as she put a Squishies toy in the Walmart shopping cart.

“My best friend,” she answered.

Westminster PD Officer Nick Jezulin gets the bicycle 6-year-old Kayla Guzman of Webber Elementary wants during the annual Shop with a Cop event at Walmart.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Valeria was one of 20 kids selected by the local Boys & Girls Club to participate in the annual Westminster PD Shop with a Cop event at the Westminster Walmart on the morning of Dec. 10. Each of the 20 kids received a $100 Walmart gift card to use to shop throughout the store with the help of a WPD officer.

“They’re super excited,” Boys & Girls Club of Westminster Program Director Jeovan Davila said, adding that the children are selected based on need. “They get up bright and early on a Sunday to be here and see Santa and shop with a cop.”

Westminster PD Officer Andy Travis helps Valerie Lucas of Willmore Elementary pick out clothes during the Shop with a Cop event at Walmart.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

In addition to the Walmart gift card, the Westminster Police Officers’ Association (WPOA), which organized the event in conjunction with Walmart and the Boys & Girls Club, donated a $100 Stater Bros. gift card to each family for holiday grocery shopping.

“A lot of these kids, they pick stuff for their brother, mom, and dad,” WPOA President Mike Ogawa said. “It really warms your heart. … These kids are very unselfish.”

Samantha Herrera of Fryberger Elementary, 10, and Westminster PD Officer Paul Walker have a little fun as they ride through Walmart for the annual Shop with a Cop event.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

He said there were many new officers at the event this year.

“It’s good to see them out here kind of carrying the torch,” Ogawa said. He added that the event is a great way for the local youth to get to know officers one-on-one.

“They see the human side of us,” he said.

Kayla Guzman, 6, front, Felicia Esquivel, 11, and Madison Guzman, 11, of Webber Elementary School look for stuffed animals during the Shop with a Cop event with Westminster PD officers Michael Wheeler and Nick Jezulin.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The kids and their parents arrived at about 7 a.m. ready to shop. They were greeted by Santa, who arrived in a SWAT truck led by motor officers with sirens blaring. The families also got to see a Fountain Valley Police Department K9 greeting people at the front of the store wearing reindeer ears and Christmas lights on his vest. The Fountain Valley PD held its Shop with a Cop event in conjunction with the WPD.

Each child got to take a picture with Santa before heading out to shop with an officer. The toy section was a hot spot in the store. Kids looked for just the right purchase as the officers helped give them options.

Westminster PD Explorers line up at a Walmart to get ready to team up with kids for the Shop with a Cop event.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

WPD Chief Ralph Ornelas walked throughout the store, chatting with the kids as they made their selections. The officers seemed to be having as much fun as the kids.

“You see anybody whose cart you wanna ram, let me know,” Det. Paul Walker said jokingly to his shopping partner, Samantha Herrera, who talked comfortably with the detective as if they were old friends.

Santa arrives in a BearCat SWAT vehicle under police escort for the Shop with a Cop Christmas event at Walmart.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Parents waited for their children at the front of the store. Valeria’s mom and dad, Erika and Cecilio Vertiz, were among them. Erika said they’d participated in the program last year with another of their children – Valeria has one sister and three brothers.

“It’s very good … they get very excited to be able to buy their brothers and sisters presents,” Erika said. “It’s pretty cool.”

Santa arrives in a West County BearCat SWAT vehicle for the Shop with a Cop Christmas event at Walmart.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

She said she had to remind her daughter to get a present for herself because she kept talking about getting things for her siblings.

WPD Det. Norma Vasquez, who coordinated Shop with a Cop, said the kids and families seem very appreciative of the event.

“We’ve done it for so many years … they look forward to it every year,” she said.

Santa steps out of a BearCat SWAT vehicle as kids line up to greet him in front of Walmart for the Shop with a Cop event with Westminster and Fountain Valley PD personnel.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Santa greets kids lined up in front of Walmart for a Shop with a Cop event with Westminster and Fountain Valley police.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Santa greets 6-year-old Kayla Guzman with her friends Felicia Esquivel, 11, and Madison Guzman, 11, all from Webber Elementary School, as kids line up in front of Walmart for a Shop with a Cop event with the Westminster PD. With them are Westminster PD officers Michael Wheeler, Nick Jezulin and Chris Doan, right.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Chris Le of Fryberger Elementary gets a moment with Santa before Westminster PD Officer Ronald Perez takes him Christmas shopping during the Shop with a Cop event at Walmart.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Isaac Mayorga of Meairs Elementary is taken for a ride by Westminster PD Officer Sam Gradilla as they start their Christmas shopping at the Shop with a Cop event at Walmart.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Valerie Lucas of Willmore Elementary smiles as she sits with Santa before Westminster PD Officer Andy Travis takes her Christmas shopping.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Kayla Guzman, 6, Madison Guzman, 11, and Felicia Esquivel, 11, all from Webber Elementary School, walk through the school supplies section of Walmart during the Shop with a Cop event.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Westminster Police Services Officer Cyn’d Moranville helps Beyonce Lopez, 11, of Warner Middle School, pick out arts and craft supplies during the annual Shop with a Cop event at Walmart.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Westminster PD Explorer Alison Guevara and Officer Frani Echavarria help Karina Lupercio, 12, of Warner Middle School and her 9-year-old sister, Vanessa, look through the school supplies section during the annual Shop with a Cop event at Walmart.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Kayla Guzman, 6, left, Madison Guzman, 11, and Felicia Esquivel, 11, all from Webber Elementary School, pick out arts and craft supplies with Westminster PD officers Michael Wheeler, left, Nick Jezulin and Chris Doan.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Vanessa Lupercio, 9, left, and her sister Karina, 12, walk through the toy section with Westminster PD Explorer Alison Guevara and Officer Frani Echavarria.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC