By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Public safety standouts honored by chief
• Departing Chief Smith holds final ceremony
Officer of year Souza.jpg
Eric Souza was named the “Officer of the Year” within the Ceres Police Department on Thursday evening. - photo by Don Cool

Ceres Police Chief Brent Smith honored Ceres Police Department standouts and recently hired employees at a Thursday event at the Ceres Community Center.  Trenton Johnson was named “Sergeant of the Year,” Eric Souza as the “Officer of the Year,” Jason Moua as “Volunteer of the Year,” and Oyre Echols as “Professional Staff of the Year.” 

Smith also introduced and swore in a number of new hires, including police officers Jonathan Blount, Nathan McGough, Kyle Morris, Matthew Myers, Kao Saechao and Nicolas Welsh; 911 Dispatcher Alejandra Pineda; Code Enforcement/Fire Secretary Teresa Aguilar; Reserve 911 Dispatcher Amber Evans; and reserve police officers Tony Scopesi and John Lee.

Chief Smith also presented 2018 Life Saving Awards to Officer Eric Souza, Sgt. Travis Hudson and Officer Kevin Sakasegawa.

Annual awards

Jason Moua was named “Volunteer of the Year” for his willingness to volunteer in Investigations and take on duties with no hesitation. He has helped the city by registering sex, arson and drug violators in Ceres, maintaining registration records of violators and has been helping to develop a paperless registration system to expedite the in-house registration process. Moua has assisted local merchants in modernizing surveillance video recording systems.

“Volunteer of the Year” Jason Moua (left) is honored by Ceres Police Chief Brent Smith, who retires this Friday. - photo by Don Cool

He started with the Ceres Police Department as an intern through the Criminal Justice Program at CSU Stanislaus where he graduated with a BA in Criminal Justice in December 2017. When his three-month internship was completed, he decided to become a Ceres PD volunteer first helping in the Records Division.

For a second consecutive year, Oyre Echols, a dispatcher for Ceres Police, was honored as “Professional Staff of the Year.” She was cited for a pleasant attitude, caring for officer safety. Chief Smith said she is “always going above and beyond” and completing tasks before officers even ask for them, many times to keep them safe.

Echols joined Ceres Police Department as a Reserve Dispatcher in March, 2015 and became full-time that June.

Also for a second year in a row, Sgt. Trenton Johnson was named “Sergeant of the Year.” He was selected because he is well respected by his troops and is always lending a helping hand. Chief Smith said Johnson “always looks out for his team” and is an “amazing leader” who leads by example and consistently goes out of his way to instill knowledge and experience.

“His team members are better officers for having the opportunity of working side-by-side with him,” said Chief Smith of Sgt. Johnson.

Johnson became a reserve officer for Ceres Police Department in January 1998 and was hired full-time that August. He was promoted to sergeant in June 2008.  

Ceres Police Sgt. Trenton Johnson was named “Sergeant of the Year” on Thursday evening. - photo by Don Cool

During his 20 years with the department he has been assigned to Detectives and the Street Crimes Unit.

In the short time Eric Souza has been a sworn officer with Ceres Police, he has made himself invaluable for medical knowledge and ability to remain calm in stressful and tense situations. For that reason and others Eric Souza was selected as “Officer of the Year.”

Hired in June 23, 2017 Eric was named “Officer of the Year” for his proactive style of policing and exceptional record of recovering stolen vehicles, helping fellow officers with medical questions and patrolling his beat and others. It’s said he never complains and is a great team player.

Souza started his law enforcement experience with Tracy Police Department, first as an explorer scout and later as a dispatcher.

New hires honored

Oaths of office administered to newly hired officers Jonathan Blount, Nathan McGough, Kyle Morris, Matthew Myers, Kao Saechao and Nicolas Welsh; and reserve officers Tony Scopesi and John Lee.

Police Officer Jonathan Blount started work Thursday, coming to Ceres Police after serving as a reserve officer with Escalon Police and a Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy.  

Born and raised in Riverbank, Blount served as a tactical medic for the Ceres SWAT Team from 2010 to 2017.

Pinning on his badge was daughter Kaili.

When he’s not working, he likes to travel and camp.

On the job since Feb. 5, Officer Nathan McGough, nicknamed “McGoff,” was Modesto born and raised. He spent six years in the Army Infantry and Military Police. Nathan was honorably discharged in January 2017 and graduated from the San Joaquin Delta Police Academy in July, 2018. 

In his spare time McGough enjoys hiking, camping, working out in the gym and riding his motorcycle.

Girlfriend Stephanie pinned on his police badge.

On the job since September, Stockton born Matthew Myers is a product of Ceres High School where he was part of the Ceres Police Explorer program from 2008-2011.  After graduating from CHS, he spent six years in the Air Force as a Security Forces member and was twice deployed to Afghanistan. He graduated from the POST Academy in Napa on Sept. 15 and started with the Ceres PD nine days later.

Myers likes to spend time outdoors, working on cars, going places and visiting with family. His badge was pinned on ceremoniously by his mother, April.

Kyle Morris was hired as a Ceres Police officer on Sept. 24. Born in Livermore and graduated from Sierra High School in Manteca, Morris graduated from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Academy in February 2018. Kyle spent eight years in the Air Force as an Electrical Power Production Craftsman and had been deployed to Iraq and Germany. Law enforcement runs in his family as his father, Dave Morris, has been an officer with the Livermore Police Department for more than 24 years. The father pinned on his son’s badge.

Some of his favorite pastimes are hiking, kayaking, backpacking, camping, painting and drawing.

New Officer Kao Saechao (pronounced “Cow Say-Chow”) also had law enforcement modeled in his family. A native of Thailand, Kao came to the United States at the age of one and was adopted at age eight by Sgt. Danny Vierra and his wife Cindy Vierra. He was raised in Atwater and graduated from Atwater High School. In August, 2018 Kao was selected to be sponsored by the Ceres Police Department as an Academy Cadet in the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Academy where he graduated on Feb. 9. He became a Ceres PD officer on Feb. 13.

Kao’s brothers are CPD Detective Mike Vierra and Atwater Police Officer Matthew Vierra. During his off-duty hours Kao enjoys snowboarding, softball and watching football.

Another product of Ceres High School, Nicolas Welsh was ceremoniously welcomed as a new police officer even though he started on Sept. 24.

Born in Modesto, Nicolas graduated from Ceres High School and spent for years in the Army as an Infantryman with the 101st Airborne and the 4th Infantry Divisions. After a year with Modesto Police, Nicolas joined the Ceres PD.

Pinning on his badge was his dad, Mike Welsh who is a Ceres businessman and member of the Ceres Unified School District board. Also present were his mother, Maureen Welsh of Ceres, wife Marissa and their children, Michael, 4, and Charlotte, 1; and grandmother Bettye Welsh of Ceres.

Welsh’s favorite pastimes include being outdoors, playing sports and raising his kids.

Two new reserve officers also took the oath.

Reserve Police Officer Tony Scopesi was hired on Jan. 23 after retiring from the Modesto Police where he served for 19 years as a fulltime officer and more recently as a reserve. He is married to Marla and they have three adult children:  Gina, Dominic and Natalie.  

Scopesi enjoys camping, hunting, fishing, sports and motorcycle riding.

Reserve Police Officer John Lee also began on Jan. 23. Like Tony, he retired from the Modesto PD after 23 ½ years with that agency.  

Before becoming an officer, John spent two years in the Army serving as a military police officer.

John and wife Debbie have children and five grandchildren. Pinning on his badge was granddaughter Mallory, with the help of daughter Alison.

Also introduced at Thursday’s event were Ceres Police dispatcher Alejandra Pineda, who has been on the job since May 21, 2018. She worked five years as a dispatcher – four years with the University of the Pacific and one year with Stockton Police.  

She earned a bachelor’s degree from UOP in Spanish Pedagogy and Sociology.

Her favorite pastimes are fishing, going to the lake and spending time with friends and family.

Teresa Aguilar – Code Enforcement/Fire Secretary

Teresa started in August, 2018 as a temporary employee when Patty Maloy retired from being the Code Enforcement & Fire Secretary. She became a permanent employee on Nov. 13.

She previously worked in the background division of Rank Investigations.

Married to retired Manteca Police Sgt. Joe Aguilar (who is now a CPD background investigator), the couple enjoy traveling and spending time with family.

Reserve 911 Dispatcher Amber Evans was hired on Feb. 13. Amber, who comes from a long line of law enforcement family members, had six years of dispatching experience with Oakdale and Turlock police departments.  Having earned a degree in music from Fresno State, Evans is an accomplished singer and member of Modesto Opera. This May she will perform in the production of “Carmen” at the Gallo Center. 

Officer line up.jpg
Officers (above) taking the oath of office in a group swearing-in were (left to right), Nathan McGough, Matthew Myers, Kyle Morris, reserve officers Tony Scopesi and John Lee, Jonathan Blount, Kao Saechao and Nicolas Welsh. - photo by Don Cool

2018 Life Saving Awards

Chief Smith presented awards to three employees for saving lives.

Officer Eric Souza was honored for helping to save the life of a man shot in the upper right leg on Jan. 23, 2018 on Lexar Drive. Souza saw that the man was quickly losing a large amount of blood and immediately applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. Once stabilized, the victim was transported to the hospital for treatment of this life-threatening injury.

“Officer Souza’s quick action saved the life of this man,” said Chief Smith.

Also given honors for saving a life were Sgt. Travis Hudson and Officer Kevin Sakasegawa who jointly responded to a July 5 stabbing of a 26-year-old man at the Horse Shoe Apartments. The knife entered the right bicep and a cut to the brachial artery caused profuse bleeding. Sgt. Hudson quickly applied a tourniquet while Officer Sakasegawa held the arm in the air. Their efforts slowed the bleeding until paramedics and fire personnel arrived.

“Without their intervention, this young man most likely would have died at the scene,” said the chief.

Smith, who is retiring on Friday, honored members of his Advisory Committee: Lynette Grandison, Del Ambris, Mike Welsh, Lonny Davis and Harpreet Singh.

Sakasegawa & hudson.jpg
Officer Kevin Sakasegawa (left) and Ceres Police Sgt. Travis Hudson receive awards for saving lives from Chief Brent Smith. - photo by Don Cool