RIVERSIDE COUNTY (CA) SHERIFF’S DEPARTMENT DEPUTIES RECEIVE HAI’S SALUTE TO EXCELLENCE MD HELICOPTERS LAW ENFORCEMENT AWARD
Helicopter Association International (HAI) announced that Riverside County (CA) Sheriff’s Department Deputies Eric Bashta and Jerry Osterloh are the 2018 recipients of the Salute to Excellence MD Helicopters Law Enforcement Award. The officers will receive the award at HAI’s Salute to Excellence Awards Dinner at HAI HELI-EXPO 2018 in Las Vegas.
On the night of Jan. 11, 2017, Osterloh and Bashta responded to a call for assistance by a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer who had stopped a suspected DUI/reckless driver. As the helicopter approached the scene, Tactical Flight Officer Osterloh observed the driver remove a rifle from the cab of his pickup truck and begin firing at the patrol officer and his vehicle.
Osterloh immediately broadcasted a call for assistance on the CHP as the suspect emptied an entire magazine, returned to the truck to reload, and fired additional rounds into the driver’s door. He then returned to the vehicle and fled. The CHP officer radioed that he was uninjured, adding that the driver also had a woman and two children in the truck.
Bashta and Osterloh pursued the truck, keeping the helicopter’s spotlight trained upon it and broadcasting its location, speed, and direction over the radio. Osterloh observed the driver continuing to fire the rifle at pursuing officers, so patrol cars backed away appropriately. But Bashta and Osterloh continued to pursue in their helicopter. The suspect left the freeway and entered a suburban neighborhood, stopping in front of a residence. The driver then exited the vehicle and prepared an ambush for pursuing ground officers, firing at the arriving units. Using the FLIR camera, Osterloh directed SWAT officers toward the suspect’s location.
At that point, the suspect began firing at the helicopter orbiting 600 feet overhead, shooting 60-80 rounds at the deputies. The deputies held position, circling the suspect, and continued to broadcast his actions and location. A second police aviation unit arrived (from the Riverside Police Department), and Bashta coordinated their flight operations as Osterloh kept watch on the suspect.
The suspect entered the home, then came back outside repeatedly, seeking officers to shoot. Osterloh’s updates over the radio allowed officers on the ground to advance safely. After approximately 30 minutes, a SWAT deputy witnessed the suspect exit the building and engaged him, ending the threat.
Law enforcement officers believe the suspect intended this to be a murder/suicide. Due to the efforts of Bashta and Osterloh, no officers or members of the public were injured, and the suspect’s girlfriend and children were also uninjured.
The award will be presented at the annual Salute to Excellence Awards Dinner during HAI HELI-EXPO 2018. HAI HELI-EXPO®, the world’s largest helicopter trade show and exhibition, will be held at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas, Feb. 26 – March 1, with the Exhibit Hall open Feb. 27 – March 1. For more information on HAI HELI-EXPO 2018, visit heliexpo.rotor.org.