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Carpet cleaner aids officer in physical fight
John Ortiz is being commended by Ceres police officials for getting involved to help an officer who was in danger of being injured or killed by a suspect on Dec. 18.

Police Chief Art deWerk has sent a letter commending Ortiz and has arranged for special recognition at the Jan. 11 Ceres City Council meeting.

"In today's times," wrote deWerk in a letter to Ortiz, "many people would have avoided any involvement let alone take physical action, such that placed you in harm's way."

Ortiz, 36, a carpet cleaner employed by Coit, was driving a company van through the area of Whitmore Avenue and Boothe Road at 3:40 p.m. when he spotted Officer Brinton Moore talking to a suspect on the side of the road. Moore stopped Rodolfo Gaona, 38, of Ceres, after someone called 911 from the 2400 block of Wise Oak reporting a man acting deranged and talking to himself. As Ortiz drew closer he could see things were getting ugly with Gaona, who was mentally imbalanced and in possession of a stolen credit card. Ortiz saw Gaona - who also had a warrant for a prior prowling charge - break away from Moore but was apprehended within a few steps. Gaona began punching Moore in the face. At one point Gaona knocked the radio out of Moore's hand as he was calling for backup.

"It happened so quick," said Ortiz who lives in Modesto but grew up in Ceres. "I look back and now they're on the ground going at it. My first thought was should I stop and help him? It was just one of those thoughts that goes in your head in the blink of an eye. Before I knew it I was running around the front of my van helping him out."

A citizen rider in Moore's patrol car got on the police radio and summoned help. By then Ortiz decided to stop and jump out of his van to assisted Moore by wrestling the suspect.

"It was one of those blink of an eye thoughts that anything could have happened," said Ortiz. "I don't know what I would have thought of myself if I would have read the next day something went wrong with that."

Ortiz jumped on Gaona's back and wrapped his arms around the suspect's torso to give Moore an upper hand.

The good samaritan remembered being fearful that arriving officers would mistake him as "one of the bad guys."

Ironically just the night before Ortiz was reading a section of the book, National Sunday Law, that talks about a woman who was stabbed to death while 38 people stood and watched without getting involved.

"As I'm reading this I'm thinking, 'what's our nation coming to that people would stand around and do nothing?' It's just coincidence that I was reading that part of the book the night before and then this happens.

"The biggest influence in my life and the primary reason I do the things that I do, is because of God. Several times the Bible speaks of being strong and courageous and that all we do should be for God's glory."

Moore later called Ortiz to thank him for getting involved.

"He gave me some of his background and what he's been involved in and I'm pretty positive he would have been able to take care of himself."

Moore has a military police background before becoming a sworn officer four years ago. He told Ortiz in most cases suspects want to run away but that Gaona wanted to fight.

Gaona was charged with battery on a peace officer, resisting arrest, possession of stolen property and the warrant.