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Tuesday, May 28, 2024 | Back issues
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Group Honors Terror Attack First Responders

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Officers and agencies that responded to the terrorist attack in San Bernardino were honored Tuesday at a ceremony that recognized law enforcement's work to combat hate crimes.

The Anti-Defamation League's Helene and Joseph Sherwood Group Prize for Combating Hate was awarded to multiple agencies and officers for their work during the Dec. 2, 2015 terror attack at the Inland Regional Center.

Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik opened fire at a holiday party for county workers at the social services center, killing 14 people and injuring 22.

San Bernardino Police Lt. Travis Walker accepted the award on behalf of multiple agencies. Walker oversaw several tactical teams, including the SWAT team that eventually engaged Farook and Malik in a gun battle that ended in their deaths.

Walker called the work that responding officers did "truly remarkable" and said they did their work ""without hesitation" and "without reservation."

The officer told the audience that he refuses to use the two shooters' names.

"Unfortunately those are the names that are known out of this incident," Walker said. "There are 14 people who tragically died that day unnecessarily. We can't go on without mentioning the names of the victims."

Walker then recited their names: Robert Adams, Isaac Amanios, Bennetta Betbadal, Harry Bowman, Sierra Clayborn, Juan Espinoza, Aurora Godoy, Shannon Johnson, Larry Daniel Kaufman, Damian Meins, Tin Nguyen, Nicholas Thalasinos, and Yvette Velasco.

"Those are the names that really matter in this because they don't have the opportunity to sit here and enjoy lunch with us. They don't have the opportunity to enjoy their families anymore. All we did was we responded to an incident and did what the public expected us to do," Walker said.

Before the ceremony at the Skirball Cultural Center in the Santa Monica Mountains, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said he was proud of his team and their professionalism.

"There was a regional response to this," Burguan added. "There's been tremendous relationships and I've been incredibly proud of the way we collectively handled this incident."

During the luncheon, Joseph Sherwood's son Larry presented a commemorative coin to the agencies. The law enforcement officers in the audience observed a moment of silence for the victims.

To date, Enrique Marquez Jr. is the only person arrested in connection with the attack. Marquez is charged with providing material support to the couple by helping Farook purchase assault rifles and explosives.

In recent weeks, the attack and investigation have been overshadowed by Apple's court battle with the federal government which secured a court order asking the tech giant to help the FBI unlock Farook's iPhone 5c.

The agencies honored were San Bernardino Police Department; the FBI; San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the California Highway Patrol; Colton Police Department; Fontana Police Department; ICE-Homeland Security Investigations; Redlands Police Department; Rialto Police Department; San Bernardino City Unified School Police; San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office; San Bernardino County Probation Department and U.S. Attorney's Office.

A philanthropist and Anti-Defamation League supporter, Joe Sherwood also applauded the efforts of the first responders and other honorees. Sherwood created the prize in 1996 with his late wife Helene.

"We're all heartbroken that 14 innocent people were killed," Sherwood said. "But the way you handled the situation - it made San Bernardino famous all over the world."

The audience also sang "Happy Birthday to You" to Sherwood, who turned 99 this week. According to its website, the Anti-Defamation League combats "anti-Semitism and bigotry of all kinds" in the greater Los Angeles area.

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