Deputy Jerry Osterloh and Deputy Eric Bashta. Photo courtesy of Helicopter Association International
When a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer called for assistance, Riverside County, California, Sheriff’s Department Deputies Eric Bashta and Jerry Osterloh arrived as the danger level increased. The two officers have received Helicopter Association International’s (HAI) Salute to Excellence MD Helicopters Law Enforcement Award for ensuring safety of the general public after what could have been a murder/suicide.
The CHP officer had stopped a vehicle on the night of Jan. 11 for suspected DUI/reckless driving. Osterloh and Bashta responded to the call for assistance, and observed the driver remove a rifle from the cab of his pickup truck and begin firing at the patrol officer and his vehicle as their helicopter approached, according to HAI. Osterloh broadcasted a call for assistance as the suspect emptied an entire magazine, returned to the truck to reload and fired additional rounds into the driver’s door before returning to his vehicle and fleeing the scene. The CHP officer was not injured, and alerted that the driver had a woman and two children in the truck.
Osterloh and Bashta were then in pursuit of the truck, broadcasting location, speed and direction while keeping the spotlight on the suspect. The suspect continued to fire the weapon, so patrol cars backed away as the helicopter kept in pursuit. HAI said that the suspect then entered a neighborhood and stopped in front of a residence, exited the vehicle and began firing at ground forces. Osterloh was able to direct SWAT officers using the FLIR camera.
The helicopter became the suspect’s next target, but it held position. When the Riverside Plice Department’s aviation unit arrived, Bashta coordinated their flight operations as Osterloh kept watch on the suspect, HAI said. The air and ground forces worked together for some 30 more minutes, until a SWAT deputy engaged the suspect. According to HAI, law enforcement officers believe the suspect intended this to be a murder/suicide.
HAI said that no officers or members of the public were injured, nor were the woman and children in the suspect’s vehicle.
The award will be formally presented during Heli-Expo 2018 in Las Vegas.