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Close Encounters September 2020

September 1, 2020

Rumor has it there may be a break-through in moving the Medal of Valor presentations up to this September.

And why not.

There’s absolutely no reason the candidates recommended for their bravery in the line of duty should have to wait years to be recognized. And the longer the Department delays, the longer the list will grow – for example:

It was in September 2017, just around midnight when the officers assigned to Central Station responded to a report of a domestic violence incident involving a male armed with a weapon who was holding his wife and 2 children against their will. While approaching the residence in question the officers heard a woman’s voice screaming “Please stop . . . Don’t do it!” at which point they attempted to enter the premises, but they found the front door barricaded shut.

They were then confronted by the suspect standing at the top of a long narrow stairway who shouted, “Back up or I’ll start shooting.” The officers then heard a gunshot go off as they took cover.

The officers then requested additional resources declaring this matter a critical incident while securing the perimeter.

Members of the SFPD SWAT team responded along with hostage negotiators Lieutenant Lisa Frazer, Sergeant Josey Russell, Officer Joshua Olson, Sergeant Thomas McWilliams, and Sergeant Tri Hoang who established contact with other family members who related that there was a history of domestic violence involving the suspect and that he did have a firearm.

Nevertheless, negotiators continued to talk with the suspect for over 3 hours. He demanded drugs at one point and then suddenly announced that he had shot one of his hostages and was doing CPR on her.

The hostage negotiators told their command they could no longer hear the voice of the adult female hostage over the phone.

A rescue mission was then launched composed of several officers who entered the building and were immediately confronted with a long, narrow stairway blocked by broken furniture. The officers pushed forward to a point where they could hear the suspect yelling and the children crying coming from a small room nearby.

The officers entered the room at which point the suspect started raising his handgun towards them. The officers discharged their weapons in their defense and for the protection of the remaining hostages thereby ending the threat.

This incident occurred in 2017. A Memorandum requesting consideration of medals of valor for several members who participated the operation was submitted in August of 2019.

And the officers involved, who didn’t hesitate to put their lives on the line, are still waiting for closure.


How many times does someone in San Francisco need to be arrested before they do time . . . ?

Take the case involving Officer Frederick Smally, Officer Jason Barnecut, Officer Stanislav Bratchikov, and Officer Dan Stark when they responded to a theft in-progress on the 2000 block of McAllister in the early evening hours. When they arrived they found 2 men in a struggle. Turned out that one was the apartment building manager and the other was a thief who tried to steal a bike from the building’s garage.

The suspect had cut through barbed wire to gain entry and then used bolt cutters to remove the bike when he was stopped by the building manager.

A criminal history check of the suspect revealed that he was currently on probation for grand theft and had 2 other felony warrants for both grand theft (again) and burglary. And now a brand-new charge.

But apparently people in SF must think that’s ok since no one is doing anything about it.


Officer Sotirios Zografos and Officer Noel Castro were on bikes, working along the shopping corridor on Market Street when they saw a large group of people in a verbal altercation. They stopped to investigate but the group had already started to break up. The officers were approached by a citizen who told them that one of the subjects in the crowd was seen putting a gun in his waistband and gave the officers a detailed description of the subject in question.

The officers began a search for the suspect and soon located him. This individual refused to obey any commands the officers issued and became further combative trying to reach into his waistband several times before he could be controlled. The officers then retrieved a fully-loaded gun hidden exactly where the citizen described.

Turned out the suspect in question was a convicted felon.


We really appreciate receiving copies of commendations on a timely basis – but that’s not under our control. So you’ll occasionally read about an incident in this column that took place sometime prior to publication but where the participants still deserve full recognition for their courage.

That definitely occurred in the case involving Officer Jarrod Yee and Officer Michael Mellone:

It was on August 31, 2018, that Officer Yee and Officer Mellone were on patrol when Dispatch reported an active fire in a multi-unit residential building in the vicinity of 48thAvenue and Cabrillo Street. Flames and smoke were seen coming from the building.

Upon arrival, Officer Yee and Mellone found a fire-engulfed 3-story building.

We’ll let Captain Michelle Jean’s memo requesting consideration for medals of valor referred to the Police Commission take it from here:

“Officer Mellone began clearing the first floor while Officer Yee proceeded to the third floor. After Officer Mellone cleared the first floor, he responded and cleared the second floor. As he was making his way to the third floor the landing between stories became inundated with thick, heavy black smoke making it impossible for him to safely access the third floor where his partner was evacuating residents.

“Officer Yee, not knowing he was trapped, was going door to door knocking and announcing his presence. The smoke suddenly and rapidly traveled up to the third floor and instantly filled the hallway. Officer Yee quickly withdrew his expandable baton and broke out the hallway window to allow the smoke to vent. While doing this he heard a door open and shut loudly. Even with the broken window, the smoke was so thick Officer Yee could barely see and the smoke-filled air he was breathing was causing him to cough uncontrollably. Yet, somehow, he still found the door that slammed shut and kicked it in locating a frightened and trapped man.”

But now the smoke was filling that room but somehow, Officer Yee managed to move to another window that he broke out and then relayed his location to Officer Mellone who immediately contacted fire personnel on the scene and a ladder was raised allowing Officer Yee and the man he saved the ability to escape the fire.

The man who was trapped was treated for smoke inhalation and released while Officer Yee, “covered in soot and coughing violently”, was transported to the hospital where he was treated for several hours for severe smoke inhalation. And yet, he reported for work the very next day.”

Both Officer Yee and Officer Mellone were nominated for recognition of their actions by Captain Michelle Jean back in October 2018.

They’re still waiting . . .

Stay safe but don’t depend on your Commissioners doing what’s expected of them as far as Medals of Honor are concerned any time soon.