Three Isla Vista Foot Patrol officers will receive the distinguished H. Thomas Guerry Award this afternoon.
Officer Mark Signa, one of six officers assigned to the Foot Patrol from the University of California Police Dept., secured the award for superior performance. Officer Kevin Coomer, one of two California Highway Patrol officers assigned to the IVFP, and Officer Zak Ayala, another UCPD officer, will both receive awards for valor.
Seven other law enforcement officials in the county will receive the valor award, and four other officials will be honored for superior performance.
The award is named for Santa Barbara City Police Officer H. Thomas Guerry, who was killed in the line of duty on Jan. 3, 1970.
Signa, a 12-year veteran of the UCPD, is currently assigned to the Foot Patrol as a patrol officer and is also a field training officer and defensive tactics and baton instructor. The UCPD nominated him for the award.
“Mark is a role model to other officers and people in the community,” a UCPD news release stated. “Officer Signa was commended for supervisory and inter-agency liaison roles in the nationally publicized [Feb. 23, 2001 collision] as well as for the supervisory role in an Isla Vista shooting incident, in 2001. He displays an ability to diffuse problems while providing positive outlet and direction for personnel … Signa’s desire to constantly improve and provide assistance to peers and supervisors make him appreciated and valued.”
The CHP nominated Coomer, who has worked in I.V. for four years and is known for his efforts to combat and prevent drunk driving in the I.V. and UCSB areas.
“Last spring Coomer displayed exceptional courage and regard for the Isla Vista community when he crawled into a burning structure,” a CHP statement read. “He refused to abandon the scene in fear that there might be trapped occupants. Coomer crawled back out, located a garden hose and proceeded to extinguish the fire, and, with the assistance of another officer, evacuated over 90 residents, preventing further fire damage and possible loss of life. Officer Coomer’s bravery and agile thinking make him a valuable asset to the community.”
Ayala, who was nominated by the UCPD, has worked in I.V. since 1999. He was one of the responding officers to the Nov. 30, 2001 fire on Picasso Road, which killed Arcadio Lopez Castrejon and his 7-year-old son, Fabian Arcadio Lopez. Leonor Lopez, 41, the mother, and Christian Lopez, the couple’s 5-year-old son, were seriously hurt in the blaze.
“Upon arrival, Officer Zak assessed the situation and conveyed the information to dispatch requesting county fire and medical personnel,” a UCPD release stated. “Despite the billowing flames and clouds of dark smoke, he began to evacuate the 18-unit apartment complex of the 60 residents and persisted to check for occupants until the severe heat and smoke were unbearable. … Because of Ayala’s courage and dedication to the safety of others, many lives were able to be spared.”
The award ceremony will begin at 4:30 p.m. in the Santa Barbara Board of Supervisors Hearing Room on the fourth floor of the County Administration Building, located at 105 E. Anapamu St.