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Chamber of Commerce honors police

March 24, 2006|By Lauren Vane

A team of Newport Beach Police Department detectives who investigated the high-profile case of a missing Newport Beach couple were among those honored at a police appreciation breakfast held Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach and hosted by the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Two sergeants, five detectives, one officer and a crime scene investigator received the department's award of merit, for their "professionalism" in investigating the disappearance of Tom and Jackie Hawks in a way that was "sensitive and compassionate" to the Hawkses' family, said Chief Bob McDonell.

The team included Det. Sgt. David Byington, Det. Sgt. Evan Sailor, Det. Keith Krallman, Det. Jay Short, Det. Don Prouty, Det. David White, Det. Joe Wingert, Officer Mario Montero, and crime scene investigator Don Gage.

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The Hawks investigation, which started as a missing persons case and resulted in five people charged with murder, also led to information that possibly connected some of the defendants to a third, separate homicide.

"These homicides were very unique," McDonell said.

The award of merit was also given to Det. Sgt. David Byington, Det. Sgt. John Freeman, Det. David Moon, Det. Jay Short, Det. David White and Det. Kirk Jacobi for their investigation leading to the arrest of the "Big Nose Bandit" suspect, who police say robbed more than 20 banks in Southern California in 2005.

"This guy was kind of running amok, and he needed to be stopped and we just knuckled down and did it," said Moon, a 25-year veteran on the force.

Two Newport police officers were presented with the lifesaving award for trying to save a woman inside a burning house before firefighters could get there.

In September 2005, officers Scott Grecco and Michael O'Beirne arrived at a house fire to find a woman screaming that someone was still inside the fiery building. The officers tried to enter the house but were forced to turn back because there was too much smoke.

When firefighters arrived, the officers directed them to the room where the woman was believed to be inside. Although the woman later died of her injuries, firefighters rescued her alive.

The recipient of the officer of the year award was Jerry Lowe, a 17-year veteran and polygraph operator with the department.

"His level of service has been above and beyond what is expected of the position," McDonell said.

Sgt. Jeff Lu, supervisor of the traffic division and lead hostage communicator, was named supervisor of the year.

Reserve officer of the year award went to Troy Long. Tom Encheff was awarded civilian of the year and Richard Simon was named police volunteer of the year.

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