BELEN — Belen Police Chief Victor Rodriguez and Fire Chief Bret Ruff took time during Monday’s city council meeting to recognize and commend three officers for recent live-saving efforts.
Rodriguez said officers responded to a shots-fired call on Feb. 28. While enroute to the call, officer Daniel Kloeppel observed a vehicle that matched a description of information from the call.
“In that particular situation, officer Kloeppel made contact with the vehicle and was able to determine the male passenger had a sustained life-threatening gunshot wound. Officer Kloeppel’s immediate and quick-thinking first aid applying to that individual resulted in the man surviving.”
The second incident happened on April 11 when Kloeppel, Sgt. Jose Natividad and officer Mario Vallejos responded to a tragic accident at the BNSF railyard and helped to save the life of railroad switchman Carlos Barela.
“These officers are equipped with trauma kits that have tourniquets, and in the process, those tourniquets were used to save another individual’s life,” the police chief said.
“That is why we are here, to recognize these three officers for their heroic acts beyond the call of duty. Often in law enforcement, we seem to respond to the law enforcement portion of it, but when we get there, we often have to deal with a situation and render first aid until medical personnel arrive.”
Barela’s mother, Suzanne, wrote a letter his aunt read to the council, saying he has undergone numerous surgeries, including one on Monday night.
“ … we would like to thank and recognize the officers from the Belen Police Department,” she said. “On the night of the accident, a childhood friend who also works with him began saving his life.
“Our son took off his belt and told (another person) to tourniquet his worst leg,” she said. “BPD showed up and officer Mario Vallejos and officer Kloeppel applied a second tourniquet to his leg. (Mario) also drove the ambulance to the (old) Furr’s parking lot for life flight to pick him up.”
She wasn’t sure when Natividad showed up at the scene, but he went with Barela in the ambulance, holding his hand and giving support.
“We thank each and every one who had a part in saving our son’s life,” she said. “We wish we could attend tonight’s ceremony to thank you all in person; however, Carlos is still in the hospital and we have not left his bedside.”
Belen Fire Chief Bret Ruff also commended the three officers for helping these two men.
“Without their help, we would have lost two people,” Ruff said. “They actually did drive the ambulance while the medics could work on (Barela). We sometimes have to bend the rules, but to save a life, that’s what we do.”
Ruff said Kloeppel’s actions of placing compact dressing did save the life of the gunshot wound victim.
Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.