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Manteca Rotarians honor law enforcement
Honored as officers of the year were, from left, Probation Officer III Herbert Yin, CHP officer Chris Reeves, Manteca Police booking officer Mike Kelly, San Joaquin Sheriffs Deputy Eduardo Villagomez, and DA Investigator John Reyes. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Eduardo Villagomez is proud to have been able to put away plenty of bad guys during his career with the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department.

But it you ask him the cases he has closed that he took exceptional pride in it would be the ones where someone who was wrongfully accused was freed.

“People think our job is about putting people in jail,” Villagomez said Thursday. “It is about doing the right thing.”

Villagomez who retired recently from the sheriff’s department and Lathrop Police Services was one of five honorees receiving Don I. Asher Officer of the Year Awards during Manteca Rotary’s annual Law Day conducted at the Manteca Transit Center.

Sheriff Steve Moore noted Villagomez’ perseverance led to successful prosecutions and arrests in a number of difficult cases.

Included was:

• A Florida physician who plotted to kill a former girlfriend who lived in Lathrop.

• A 16-year-old from Canada that made a 9-1-1 swatting call to Lathrop Police contending he was holed up in a Mingo Way home with three Navy explosive devices and was going to blow up his home and near by residences. It triggered a costly law enforcement response that ended when they determined it was a prank call. Villagomez was also able to tie the teen in with swatting calls in Southern California and elsewhere.

• The arrest of a Lathrop woman for making a false report when she contended she was being stalked and had been attacked by a man who also burglarized her home. Villagomez was able to determine it was the man that was the victim, got him  released from jail, and arrested the woman.

• A case where a woman reported a burglary of her car at a Lathrop health club and then kept amending police theft reports to claim she had $50,000 worth of items stolen. She is now facing insurance fraud charges.

Booking officer Mike Kelly was selected as the Manteca Police Officer of the Year.

Captain John Orcutt noted that Kelly’s exceptional skills as a negotiator has successfully defused numerous satiations including one recently where a man vowed to kill himself after he knifed his spouse and barricaded himself in his south Manteca home.

Kelly has been working with the Manteca Police Department for 28 years and oversees the Manteca Police Explorers program as well as the Central Valley Explorer Competition that involves 30 teams from as far away as Los Angeles and the United States Border Patrol.

Kelly works with his narcotics dog “”Rusty” that is able to sniff out meth, marijuana, cocaine and heroin. The latest successful drug case involved getting two pounds of meth off the street.

In addition, Kelly and his wife took in several children that were living in squalor and were malnourished temporarily as foster children and made sure they got adequate medical attention until such time they could be placed with a family.

Herbert Yin was honored as the San Joaquin Probation Department’s Probation Officer of the Year.

Working with the Metro Drug Task Force he wrote and executed warrants in the past year that led to the seizure of nearly 4,000 marijuana plants along with processed pot and meth that had a street value in excess of $4 million.

San Joaquin County District Attorney Investigator John  Reyes was selected as that agency’s Officer of the Year. His law enforcement career spans 34 years. He got his start as a Stockton Police officer in 1981, moved into narcotics and eventually was promoted to a homicide-robbery detective prior to starting his second career with the DA’s office.

Named as the CHP Officer of the Year out of the Stockton office was Chris Reeves.

He was lauded for his work ethic and upbeat attitude for the past 12 years he has served as a CHP officer. Last year he made 95 arrests and issued over 1,000 citations.