Camas police honored at inaugural awards ceremony

Awards detail actions taken to save lives, confront armed suspects and solve complex crimes

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category icon Camas, Latest News, News, Public Safety
Camas Police Chief Tina Jones (right) presents an award to Camas police officer Casey Handley, the police department's 2023 Sworn Staff Member of the Year, during the inaugural Camas Police Department Awards Ceremony, held at the Grace Foursquare Church in Camas, Thursday, May 23, 2024. (Kelly Moyer/Post-Record)

The stories shared during the Camas Police Department’s inaugural awards ceremony on Thursday, May 25, showed a wide range of brave and heroic acts — running toward a burning vehicle to help save its occupants; rushing alone into a middle school to confront an armed student trying to access a locked classroom; talking suicidal people off roofs and bridges; performing life-saving cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); chasing down sexual assault suspects; and cracking open a decade-long elder-abuse case.

Camas Police Chief Tina Jones thanked her staff for their dedication to public safety and said Camas police regularly work to save lives and help community members stay safe.

“We wanted to celebrate that,” Jones said.

The first-ever awards ceremony, held inside the Grace Foursquare Church in Camas, was Jones’ idea, but she credits the volunteer awards committee with doing the lions share of the work to help the awards ceremony come together.

“When I started, I saw some gaps — things that, from my experience, seemed to be missing,” Jones, who started her role as Camas’ police chief in the summer of 2023, said. “I asked some questions and felt out the temperature to see how open the team would be to some initiatives.”

Not long after she came onboard, the police chief created four committees: a wellness committee; two committees to work on issues impacting sworm and professional police staff; and an awards committee to help acknowledge life-saving and heroic actions within the local police force each year.

“Our awards committee researched what other agencies do and figured out which awards they wanted for our department,” Jones said. “They designed the awards and created the criteria and had a nomination process.”

The committee put in a lot of volunteer hours, Jones said, and decided that — since this was the first awards ceremony — they also would include actions taken by officers and sergeants that pre-dated 2023.

“There was no timeframe (for this year’s awards event). If someone saved a life two years ago, it was still relevant,” Jones said. “It’s so important to me that we’re recognizing our staff, including our sworn and professional staff. And I’m very impressed with the caliber of work and commitment our team has.”

The honors presented May 23 included one lifesaving medal, five lifesaving awards, a civilian service award, four distinguished service awards, and seven medals of merit. Jones also named the department’s 2023 Sworn Staff Member of the Year, Professional Staff of the Year and recipient of the Chief Leadership Award during the May 23 event.

Following are this year’s Camas Police Department Award Ceremony honorees:

Officer Wade Ramsey (Lifesaving Medal) and Walter Collins (Civilian Service Award)

These awards stemmed from an incident on Nov. 9, 2023, near the Oak Park Bridge in Camas. Officer Ramsey responded to reports of a suicidal woman with a rope around her neck, who was threatening to jump from the bridge. When Ramsey approached the woman and began speaking to her, she “suddenly attempted to lunge off the bridge,” according to the police department’s award ceremony program. Ramsey grabbed the woman to prevent her from falling. Collins, who received the Civilian Service Award, was passing by the bridge and witnessed the officer approaching the woman, so he stopped to see if he could help and assisted Ramsey in calming the woman until an ambulance arrived. “After a struggle on the bridge, the woman was safely restrained and turned over to medical personnel for treatment,” according to the police.

Sgt. David Garcia (Lifesaving Award)

Garcia earned the lifesaving award for his role in saving the life of a man who overdosed at Goot Park in Camas in August 2022. According to the Camas Police Department, Garcia “was the first on scene and performed CPR until medics were able to administer Narcan” and the man, who ultimately survived the overdose, was able to be transported to a nearby hospital.

Officer Kevin Hermann (Lifesaving Award)

Hermann responded to a call for a man having a heart attack on Sept. 29, 2022. According to the police department: “Officer Hermann performed five rounds of CPR before medics arrived and the civilian was transported to the hospital and survived, thanks to Officer Hermann’s quick response.”

Officer Casey Handley (Lifesaving Award)

Handley responded on March 15, 2023, to a call for a 1-year-old infant with a dislodged tracheal tube. “Officer Handley performed CPR for seven minutes while the tube was replaced,” the police department reported. “The infants’ pulse and color returned. The quick response saved the infant’s life and brain functions.”

Officer Tim Fellows (Lifesaving Award)

Fellows’ award is related to an incident that occurred Aug. 1, 2023, when police responded to an alleged assault on Southeast Sixth Avenue in Camas.

“The female assailant was located near the Oak Park Bridge and was acting very distraught,” Camas police reported. “When officers approached her, she stepped out onto the ledge of the bridge and threatened to jump.”

Fellows, who knew the woman, began talking to the woman in what others at the scene later described as “showing empathy and talking to the woman in a soothing and very calm demeanor.” Eventually, Fellows was able to talk the woman off the ledge and police took her into custody.

Officer Henry Scott (Lifesaving Award)

Scott responded to a report of a suicidal man threatening to jump from the roof of a residence on Dec. 12, 2023. Scott climbed onto the roof and engaged the man in a conversation. “After 30 minutes of negotiating, Officer Scott was able to talk the man safely down from the roof and transfer (him) to medical personnel,” according to the Camas Police Department.

Sgts. David Chaney and Brian Salwasser (Distinguished Service)

Chaney and Salwasser each earned Distinguished Service awards for their roles in a decade-long elder abuse case that eventually led to the prosecution of two suspects.

According to the Camas Police Department, the case began in 2019, when Chaney found an unhoused person sleeping inside a tent in a wooded area of Camas.

“After talking to the man, Sgt. Chaney began investigating the circumstances that led to (the man’s) homelessness,” according to the police department. “The investigation revealed that he was a victim of financial exploitation spanning from 2014 to the present.”

Salwasser, according to the Camas Police Department, “conducted a complete and time-consuming investigation, which led to the prosecution of two suspects.”

The department added that “the combined work of (Chaney and Salwasser) over the past five years resulted in the two suspects being sentenced to double the high end of their ranges.”

Chief Jones said this case was a perfect example of the lengths her staff will go to to help people. “This was a huge fraud investigation, over $1 million, and these elderly individuals were unhoused due to the fraud. What I have noticed with my team is that they dig into things,” Jones said. “They’re looking at this from a broad perspective. They’re not just saying, ‘Oh, you’re homeless, we don’t want to see you here. They try to get a sense of these (people’s) stories. And if there is an underlying crime, we dig into it. We have this success story because of solid police work, and it took months and months of investigation because it was such a complex financial case.”

Officer Ryan Devaney (Distinguished Service)

Devaney’s award stems from a call of a suspicious male sitting in a vehicle that was parked on a dead-end street the evening of Dec. 18, 2023.

When Devaney approached the vehicle, police say the man inside exited “with a bottle of alcohol and began walking away into a wooded area.”

When Devaney ordered the suspect to stop, the man turned and shined a flashlight in the officer’s eyes and, according to the police department, “acting in a threatening manner.” Eventually, the officer and subject struggled and Davaney was able to, according to the police department, wrestle the subject to the ground and restrain him until backup officers arrived. Police later discovered that the man had stolen the vehicle from Vancouver and had “a history of significant mental health issues.”

Sgt. Chuck Nadgwick (Distinguished Service)

Nadgwick was another recipient of the Distinguished Service award, which the Camas Police Department describes as an award that is “meant to recognize outstanding work done by employees during or outside the scope of the usual job duties such as solving a complex crime, performing at an exemplary level for extended periods of time, and act of outstanding community service, and more.”

Nadgwick’s award stemmed from an incident that occurred June 2, 2023.

“After receiving a call for a welfare check on a naked woman who had reported (she had been sexually assaulted) and held against her will, Sgt. Nadgwick engaged with the fleeing suspect vehicle before it crashed into a parked car,” according to the Camas Police Department. “A foot pursuit ensued and despite badly injuring his knee in the progress, (Nadgwick) deployed his taser and the suspect was taken into custody without further incident.”

Officer Steven Jeffries (Medal of Merit)

Officer Jeffries earned the medal of merit for helping disrupt an assault inside a Camas residence on Nov. 20, 2023. According to the Camas Police Department, “As he approached the house, (Jeffries) could see the suspect through the window and saw him attacking one of the victims. Officer Jeffries immediately acted by entering residence and engaging the suspect.”

Though he was alone and struggling with the suspect, the department said Jeffries was able to restrain the suspect until backup officers arrived on the scene and helped take the suspect into custody.

Officer Henry Scott (Medal of Merit)

Scott earned his medal of merit for his bravery in facing a possible school shooter on Dec. 5, 2023.

According to the Camas Police Department, “Officer Scott was monitoring the radio and heard a call for Vancouver police that Shahala Middle School was going into lockdown because there was a student on campus with a gun and a knife trying to get into a classroom.”

The middle school was close to the Camas-Vancouver border and Scott was nearby, so he responded to assist Vancouver police. As it turned out, Scott would be the first officer to arrive at the school.

“He immediately ran to the area of the disturbance,” the police department stated in the award ceremony literature. “He located and confronted the student who was armed with a knife and attempting to gain access into a locked classroom.”

The student dropped the knife after being confronted by Scott, according to the Camas Police Department, and the officer was able to handcuff the student and restrain him until Vancouver police arrived to take the student into custody.

Officer Ward Kruse and Washougal Police Sgt. Thad Eakins (Medals of Merit)

Kruse and Eakins earned their medals of merit after responding to a vehicle crash in Camas on Feb. 22, 2020.

According to the Camas Police Department, the crash damaged a utility pole and caused live wires to fall, catching the vehicle on fire.

“Witness did not see the occupant exit the vehicle, so Officer Kruse and Sgt. Eakins ran toward the vehicle,” according to the Camas Police Department. “Exposing themselves to great harm, they attempted to extinguish the fire and pry the doors open to confirm if there were any occupants.”

The police department said the vehicle’s occupant had “fallen into the embankment and was later charged with (driving under the influence) and reckless driving,” but added that the actions taken by Kruse and Eakins “showed bravery and selflessness in the line of duty.”

Officers Steven Forgette, Elliott Sundby and Taylor Thune (Medals of Merit)

The medals of merit awarded to Forgette, Sundby and Thune stemmed from a disturbance call on March 12, 2020, when the officers encountered an armed subject who had, according to the Camas Police Department, “just broken in and assaulted his girlfriend.”

“Without hesitation, these officers contained the subject who still had the firearm in his hand and was in crisis,” according to the Camas Police Department. “The subject was confrontational and uncooperative but officers made numerous attempts to deescalate the situation.”

Eventually, according to the Camas Police Department, the subject “retreated into a densely populated neighborhood causing the officers to be concerned about the community’s safety.”

Though this incident ultimately resulted in the officer-involved shooting death of the suspect, the Camas Police Department said Forgette, Sundby and Thune “exhibited bravery in the face of extreme danger and put the safety of the community above their own.”

Camas Mayor Steve Hogan also spoke at the May 23 awards ceremony and thanked the award recipients for their police work.

“We wanted to honor the hard work you do that is not necessarily seen by the public,” Hogan told the police assembled inside the Grace Foursquare Church. “You show courage on tough calls every day.”

Hogan said the awards showed how often Camas police show “bravery and courage in tense situations.”

“We appreciate the fact that you … make us safer,” Hogan said.