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Sheriff’s deputies recognized for heroic acts

POSTED June 27, 2009 3:28 p.m.
Showing a dedication to public safety that went beyond the call of duty, three Stanislaus County Sheriff’s deputies were honored by the American Red Cross for their acts of heroism.
The three deputies were among the 23 award winners lauded at the annual hero’s breakfast sponsored by the Stanislaus County chapter of the American Red Cross.
“These three deputies were put in unique situations where they went outside their normal duties and saved lives,” said Rebecca Ciszek, executive director of the Stanislaus County chapter of the American Red Cross.
Deputies Juan Alanis and Pedro Zamora were presented with the American Red Cross Workplace Hero awards and Deputy Cody Gunsolley was given the Good Samaritan Adult award.
In the early morning hours of Dec. 28, 2008, Gunsolley was headed home with family and friends traveling south on Interstate 5 from Sacramento. As he drove, he noticed a vehicle driving in the wrong direction, coming directly at him. Gunsolley flashed his lights at the wrong way driver and veered out of its path just before it collided with his vehicle. The errant vehicle struck a Toyota Camry that was directly behind Gunsolley and that was occupied by five people, including an infant, Cisnek said.  
Gunsolley ran to the Camry to try and extricate the occupants. Unable to open the driver’s side or passenger doors, he ran back to his vehicle and grabbed a crow bar. He had to break a window to get to an unharmed infant, which he placed with his family. He then went back to get the other passengers. As he began to pull the second passenger from the Camry, flames began to pour from the dash. Gunsolley used fire extinguishers from others who had stopped to keep the flames away from the driver, all the while still helping the others out of the burning vehicle.
“Without regard for his own safety, Gunsolley made the decision to help people hopelessly trapped in the Toyota,” Cisnek said. “His bravery and actions saved four lives on that early, cold December morning.”
Deputies Zamora and Alanis were singled out for the awards for their efforts to rescue people from two separate burning buildings.
Around 6 a.m. Jan. 30, Zamora was driving to work on Coffee Road, just past Floyd, when he noticed an odd haze over the Greenbriar Apartments. Turning his car around he realized that the complex was on fire and radioed for help. He ran to the back of the 16-unit, two-story apartments, which seemed to be where the smoke was the heaviest. By yelling, banging on doors and assisting people move away from the fire, Zamora helped clear the apartment complex of people.  
The three-alarm fire caused about $1.5 million in damages and damaged 16 apartments according to the Modesto Fire Department.
“Deputy Zamora’s alert observations and quick actions resulted in getting over 40 residents, including young families, seniors and disabled individuals to safety,” Cisnek said.
About three months later, Alanis was facing a similar situation. On the morning of April 19, Alanis was  driving down Briggsmore Avenue, when he noticed thick, black smoke. He called for help and then followed the smoke trail to the Campos Verde Apartment complex. Bounding up the stairs he began pounding on doors to wake residents and headed to the apartment that was on fire. A young woman came to the door and he urged her to get out, but she said there were others in the apartment. Alanis was able to rouse both the men and get them out of the burning apartment.
According to the Modesto Fire Department, the fire caused about $10,000 in damages to the one-bedroom apartment.
“Alanis’ keen eyesight and concern resulted in saving this household and others in neighboring units,” Cisnek said.  
“The brave actions of all three deputies truly shows their dedication to public safety,” said Sheriff Adam Christianson. “The men and women of the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department always exceed expectations in and around our community.”
The other award winners were: Nicole Montroy, Animal Hero; Charlotte Mills, Education Hero; Marvin Hood, Good Samaritan Senior; Kara and Fred Claridge, Hector Gomez, Linda Haley, Bert and Carol Van Tassell, Steven Azevedo, Kayla Simon, Sheri Darrough, and posthumously, Mark Darrough and daughter, Jessica Darrough, Good Samaritan Team; Vince Gutierrez, Good Samaritan Youth; David Lewellen and Daniel Phillips, Law Enforcement; Steve Adkins, Medical; Veronica Alfaro, Military; Derek Perry and Joseph Wren, Professional Rescuers.
“Most of these people don’t see themselves as heroes,” Cisnek said. “They just say they did what needed to be done.”
The American Red Cross is currently accepting nominations for the 2009-10 Hero’s Breakfast. To request a form or for more information call the chapter office at 523-6451.
To contact Sabra Stafford. e-mail or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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