Beyond the call

Victoria police award ceremony honours those that stand up to crime or risk themselves for others

Dale Starr’s cuts and bruises have long since healed, but the memory of a startled intruder’s bite to his arm remain.

“Even though there was a Gortex jacket, a sweater and a shirt on, you could actually see the teeth marks,” said Starr, after receiving an award from the Victoria Police Department.  “It was scary” added his wife, Dawn Conrad.

“The courage and quick actions of both Mr. Starr and Ms. Conrad enabled police to apprehend the suspect,” said Victoria police Sgt. Grant Hamilton in front of a room of award recipients – both citizens and officers.

On Jan. 26, 2010, Conrad and Starr came home from grocery shopping. They saw the broken glass and assumed they’d been robbed, but didn’t realize the intruder was still inside.

“He came racing across the dining room, and I thought it was Dale,” Conrad recalled. Then she saw her husband come out of the bedroom, and the coin dropped.

The intruder tried to escape but couldn’t find his way out. Trapped, he charged at Starr.

“Things happened very quickly,” said Starr.

The fight spilled down the hallway and onto the porch, and eventually Starr pinned him. Meanwhile, Conrad called 911.

“I was yelling at him not to hurt Dale,” Conrad said.

A neighbour head the noise and came to help, and then the police arrived.

“Do you want to hear the happy ending?” Conrad asked.

“Dale had asked me to marry him a couple of times before then, and I had always said ‘no,’” she explained. “(After the incident) I decided that he was really there to protect me and take care of me and we got married in our yard.”

With a laugh, Starr interjected: “I thought you were going to say the happy ending was he got charged.”

At the ceremony, five officers also received awards for acts of dedication and bravery.

Last October, Sean Cowperthwaite was driving with his wife to Lake Cowichan when the yellow stripe of a Mountie’s pants caught his eye. He was lying on the ground, on the shoulder of the southbound highway lane.

“I think he needs help,’” he told his wife at the time, before pulling a U-turn at the first opportunity. Pulling up behind the RCMP vehicle, he witnessed a struggle between the officer and another man, on the ground. He jumped in the ditch to help, but getting the man under control was still a struggle.

“I believe the guy was using drugs, so they’re very strong when they’ve been using cocaine, or crack cocaine,” Cowperthwaite said. He resisted knee strikes and knocked the pepper spray out of the Mountie’s hand.

“Then I grabbed the pepper spray and I sprayed him,” Cowperthwaite recalled. “My wife said it was like watching an episode of Cops.”

WIth the man under control, and backup on scene, the two continued on to Cowichan Lake. It’s the only place he can feel completely off-duty, he said.

“You pledge an oath to uphold the law,” he said. “I think every police officer that I know would stop (to help).”

Chief Constable Jamie Graham commended all the award recipients.

“The stories read like television dramas, but lets not forget these are real people facing real risks,” he said.

“These people stood against adversity, against crime, against odds that were stacked against them and they delivered.”


Award recipients:

• Citizens receiving commendations were Gary Campbell, Salvatore Orbita, Rick Sutherland, Brad Flamand, Ray Grandage, Jason Collier, Andrew Rafuse, Michel Schinborn and William Strickland.

• Officers to receive commendations were Glenn Vermette and Debbie Anderson. Andy Dunstand received a commendation of meritorious service for his role in bringing a hit-and-run suspect to justice. Sandi Begg received a commendation for valour after rescuing her sister from drowning in rushing water.