Riverside Police Honored at 2023 Riverside County Law Enforcement Appreciation Awards (LEAC)
Last week, the annual Riverside County Law Enforcement Appreciation Awards (LEAC) were held and members of the Riverside Police Department were honored in several categories for their bravery, heroics, tenacity, and collaboration for incidents that occurred in 2022.
- Sergeant Brett Stennett was recognized for his work in the Robbery-Homicide Unit for solving the murder of an 18-year-old woman who was killed by her ex-boyfriend.
- Officers Benjamin Rodriguez and Jorge Estrada were recognized for Exceptional Lifesaving for reviving a 2-year-old toddler who drowned in a pool.
- Retired Lieutenant Christian Dinco was honored for his lifetime achievement and service of 30 years in law enforcement
- The Riverside Police Department and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office were awarded the Collaborative Investigative Recognition for their joint efforts in the triple homicide arson and kidnapping investigation that occurred on Price Court.
- Riverside Police Explorer Daniela De la Cruz was awarded a $1,000 scholarship
Please join us in congratulating all our personnel who were honored at the annual LEAC Awards and Dinner.
INVESTIGATIVE EXCELLENCE – DETECTIVE BRETT STENNETT
Category Criteria: Recognize an officer for exceptional execution of responsibilities by successfully concluding a major investigation or by demonstrating outstanding investigative or interrogative techniques in the course of an investigation.
On March 16, 2022, Officers responded to the unattended death of an 18-year-old female found in her home with minor visible injuries. A subsequent autopsy revealed the cause of death was asphyxia due to strangulation. The autopsy also showed signs of blunt force trauma and sexual assault.
Detective Brett Stennett was assigned the investigation a day later with few leads. He immediately returned to the victim's residence with a search warrant but found the room cleaned and items thrown away. He located surveillance video from the victim's apartment complex and the surrounding area. He interviewed family and friends and found out on the morning of her death, the victim was asleep when an ex-boyfriend showed up at her apartment to return property. The victim's brother took the property and the ex-boyfriend left. The brother left for school, leaving the victim home alone. A few hours later the family found her deceased in her bedroom.
Detective Stennett served a search warrant at the ex-boyfriend's residence, interviewed him, and collected his cell phone. The ex-boyfriend said he had not seen the victim in over a month. However, statements he gave were inconsistent with cellphone data and surveillance video. He was released at that time pending further investigation.
During the investigation, Detective Stennett conducted an in-depth examination of the ex-boyfriend's cell phone which showed he took video of himself assaulting the victim on the social networking site Snapchat. The videos occurred after he returned the victim's property and after her brother left the apartment. The ex- boyfriend attempted to delete the evidence Of his Snapchat account, but the determination of Detective Stennett and computer forensic technicians led them to the discovery of the hidden videos. The techs at Snapchat were even baffled how they were able to recover the deleted videos. The evidence ultimately revealed he was present at the time of the
The suspect was arrested and a search warrant of his parent’s residence revealed evidence related to the crime. A jailhouse operation was conducted, and the suspect admitted to committing the crime. He is awaiting trial.
The young victim of murder and sexual assault would be without justice if it weren’t for the hard work and tenacity of Detective Brett Stennett. The Law Enforcement Appreciation Committee is honored to recognize Detective Brett Stennett with the Investigative Excellence Award.
EXCEPTIONAL LIFESAVING – OFFICER BENJAMIN RODRIGUEZ & OFFICER JORGE ESTRADA
Category Criteria: This recognition involves one or more agency personnel distinguishing themselves by personally performing an exceptional act or acts that saved one or more human lives (not necessarily under conditions requiring bravery, or exposure to great personal risk), where the victim(s) survived the incident.
In October 2022, Riverside Police Department received a 911 call from a frantic juvenile stating his two-year-old brother had drowned in the pool and was unconscious, un-responsive, and not breathing. His parents were attempting to perform CPR, but neither knew the correct technique. The 911 call-taker kept
the parents calm and gave instructions on how to properly perform CPR while officers and medical aid were being dispatched.
School Resource Officer Benjamin Rodriguez heard the call dispatched and diverted from the incident he was involved in to rush to the residence. Officer Rodriguez arrived on scene, ran to the backyard, where he found the family surrounding the unconscious child and begging him for help. Officer Rodriguez found that the child had no pulse and was not breathing. He immediately began CPR. Officer Rodriguez performed CPR unassisted while surrounded by yelling and crying family members.
Officer Jorge Estrada also hurried to the incident, ran through the house, and into the backyard. As Officer Estrada entered the backyard, he immediately saw several people yelling and crying. Officer Estrada went straight to the child and took over chest compressions while Officer Rodriguez continued rescue breathing. Both officers continued CPR until the child began breathing on his own. As the child began breathing, the Riverside Fire Department arrived and assumed medical care for the child. The child was transported to the hospital, where he made a full recovery.
Thanks to the lifesaving actions of these dedicated officers, a young life was saved, and a family was spared the pain of losing a child. For their valiant actions on that day, the Law Enforcement Appreciation Committee is proud to bestow Officer Benjamin Rodriguez and Officer Jorge Estrada with the Exceptional Lifesaving Award.
LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT – RETIRED LIEUTENANT CHRISTIAN DINCO
Category Criteria: Officer has completed a minimum sworn law enforcement ser. vice of 25 years, Officer has continuously displayed the highest level of professionalism, has continuously exceeded expectations, has had a sustained positive impact on his/her service community and has consistently performed his/her duties in a manner in harmony with the department's goals, mission, objectives and values, Officer has served as a peace officer in Riverside County for at least the last five years (e.g., a CHP officer completing his/her career in Riverside County).
In August 1995, Christian Dinco was hired by the Riverside Police Department, after transferring from the Orange County Sheriff's Department where he worked as a deputy for three years. Since joining the Riverside Police Department, Christian has worked in patrol, served as a Field Training Officer, a School Resource Officer, and on the full-time METRO Team.
In March 2004, Christian was promoted to Police Detective where he worked in narcotics, auto theft, and property crimes. In June 2006, he was promoted to sergeant, working as a supervisor in patrol and investigations. When promoted to lieutenant, he commanded the Special Operations Division overseeing SWAT, Air Support, PACT, and the Emergency Negotiations Team. He served as an Area Commander in the West Neighborhood Policing Center, Watch Commander, and oversaw the Community Services Bureau where he was a Public Information Officer.
Christian has a bachelor's degree from California Baptist University in Leadership and Public Administration. During the last year of his service, Christian was elected as a council member for the City of Eastvale, now representing the community where he lives, while still serving the community where he worked.
The Law Enforcement Appreciation Committee is proud to present the lifetime Achievement Award to retired Lieutenant Christian Dinco.
COLLABORATIVE INVESTIGATIVE RECOGNITION – RIVERSIDE POLICE DEPARTMENT & SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY SHERIFF’S OFFICE
Category Criteria: Events recognized in this category must have occurred within the jurisdictions of agencies eligible to submit nominations to LEAC. They should be truly extraordinary and uncommon in nature requiring the collaborative efforts of two or more agencies using a significant amount of on-duty resources. This recognition should be for a significant investigation requiring unique collaboration of agencies.
On November 25, 2022, Riverside Police Officers conducted a welfare check at a residence where neighbors reported a female teenager in emotional distress leaving with a male in a red Kia. A few moments later, an additional call came in of a fire at the same residence. The Riverside Fire Department extinguished the fire and discovered three victims of an apparent homicide.
It was determined that the Kia had out-of-state license plates and that the vehicle owner was an off-duty law enforcement officer from Virginia. Riverside detectives contacted the suspect's agency, confirmed his identity, and obtained his cell phone number. Detectives then used electronic surveillance to locate the suspect and his vehicle, and determined he was travelling east through San Bernardino County. Information was relayed to allied law enforcement agencies regarding the triple homicide, the kidnapping, and the suspect's vehicle.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office (SBSO) attempted to stop the suspect with the assistance of its Aviation Unit and Specialized Enforcement Team. The suspect fired numerous rounds at the pursuing SBSO deputies, striking a patrol vehicle. The deputies used great restraint knowing a victim was in the suspect's vehicle. The vehicle eventually became disabled, and the victim escaped. The suspect continued to engage the SBSO deputies and helicopter in a gun battle. Deputies successfully rescued the victim, and the suspect was pronounced deceased at the scene.
The investigation revealed the suspect met the victim online. He developed an online relationship with her and obtained personal information, including her home address. He ultimately traveled from Virginia to Riverside where he killed the victim's grandfather, grandmother, and mother, hoping to take the 15-year-old back to Virginia for a relationship.
A search of social media, cell phone communications, and the suspect's computers resulted in over a million pages of data that is still being analyzed.
This investigation resulted in the collaboration of numerous federal, state, and out-of-state law enforcement agencies. However, the initial investigative collaboration between the Riverside Police Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office brought the quick and successful recovery of the victim, and ended the crime spree of a violent criminal and sexual predator. Personnel from both agencies worked expeditiously and diligently in overcoming communication issues and differing county and jurisdictional challenges to resolve the situation before the victim was harmed or killed.
For their collective efforts in exemplifying how agencies from differing counties can successfully work together in dynamic situations and investigations, the Law Enforcement Appreciation Committee is honored to recognize the Riverside Police Department and the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Office, and is pleased to present them with the Collaborative Investigative Recognition award.
$1,000 EXPLORER SCHOLARSHIP – RIVERSIDE POLICE EXPLORER DANIELA DE LA CRUZ
Scholarship Critera: Applications were evaluated on future law enforcement-related goals, Explorer activities and contributions, academic and scholastic achievement, dedication to public service, and long-term goals. Each Explorer submitted an essay describing their personal commitment to supporting law enforcement and the community.
Last year for the first time, the Law Enforcement Appreciation Committee established a college scholarship program to benefit police and sheriff Explorers in Western Riverside County LEAC agencies and stations. This program was created to encourage and assist future law enforcement professionals in their educational goals. The Scholarship Fund is administered by an appointed sub-committee comprised of LEAC members. This year for the first time, opportunities were created for sponsors to contribute directly into the fund and support the selected Explorers. This allowed us to double the number of recipients from four to eight Explorers.
Applicants were required to be a participant in an Explorer program and either a high school senior planning to attend college next year or currently attending an accredited college on a full-time basis. Each applicant was submitted on the recommendation of their LEA Explorer agency. Scholarship funds are intended to support educational costs for full time college attendance. LEAC is very proud to announce RPD Explorer De La Cruz as one of these eight well-deserving scholarship recipients.
Explorer De La Cruz is currently attending University of California, Riverside with law enforcement goals to finish degree with a degree in Sociology and become a Juvenile Probation Officer with the Riverside County Probation Department.