Honoring those in the line of duty

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Sheriff Bill Benedict recognized the efforts of several employees on the morning of May 3. He awarded the prestigious Sheriff’s Star to Sgt. Nick Turner for his quick response in apprehending Patrick Drum and another Star to Chris James for her 13 years of service as an executive administrator in the office. Benedict also awarded honors for Volunteer of the Year, Employee of the Year and the Sheriff’s Lifesaving Award.


When Turner first got the call of a murder report near Blue Mountain on June 3, 2012, he already was busy supporting the Olympic Discovery Marathon. When a suspicious person report came in, in the same area, he moved quickly. On Blue Mountain Road, Turner and his fellow deputies found an abandoned rental car with a box of ammunition in it.


“Coincidence is usually connected,” he said. He ordered a checkpoint set up on the road and worked with officers to create an ever-tightening perimeter that eventually forced Drum into the open.


If Turner hadn’t been able to connect the murders of Gary Lee Blanton Jr., 28, and Jerry Ray, 56, and the suspicious person as quickly as he did, said Benedict, it was possible and likely Drum would have escaped and fled the area.


Chris James was recognized for providing 13 years of service with the Sheriff’s Office and operating in a number of different capacities. She’s worked as an administrative assistant to the sheriff, a support services supervisor and an administrative coordinator to command staff.


The Sheriff’s Office described James’ work ethic and fast adaptation to shifting jobs and circumstances as inspirational and called her a credit to the citizens of Clallam County.


Other employees honored at the ceremony were Kaylene Zellar, who received the Employee of the Year Award for her work with multiple crime and administrative departments on the peninsula. Since starting with the Sheriff’s Office in 2006, Zellar has worked as an administrative assistant for Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Enforcement Team. Through her work, the office said, she was a factor in OPNET receiving the WISN Agency of the Year Award in 2009.


The Sheriff’s Office memo says that Zellar continued her strong work ethic after becoming a civil deputy and now manages a number of civil files, including concealed weapons permits, subpoenas and writs and sex offender registration.


As an unpaid employee, Dave Hepner doesn’t get anything out of his volunteer work but satisfaction. Hepner has worked as a volunteer since 2010 and over that time has earned bronze, silver and gold awards for his volunteer hours. In 2012, Hepner volunteered more than 500 hours to the department, which Benedict says equaled a quarter of a full-time employee. For his service, Benedict awarded Hepner the Volunteer of the Year award.


Finally, Deputy Brian Knutson received the Sheriff’s Lifesaving Award for his quick actions that saved a 22-year-old man on Oct. 1, 2012. After hearing that a man had collapsed and fellow officers were attempting to revive him, Knutson traveled to their location and used an AED to stabilize the man. His quick actions allowed medics to transport the patient to Olympic Medical Center, where he eventually recovered.


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