BELEN — Two Belen police officers were recognized and presented with awards for their recent actions assisting citizens while on duty.

Clara Garcia | News-Bulletin photo
Belen Police Chief James Harris presented two officers, Sgt. Daniel Kloeppel and Andrew Fillmore, with Meritorious Service Award medals for their performance while on duty. Pictured, from left, in front, are Deputy Chief Jose Natividad, Sgt. Kloeppel, Chief Harris and officer Fillmore; in back, from left, Councilors Yvette Padilla and Danny Bernal, Mayor Robert Noblin, and Councilors Frank Ortega and Steve Holdman.

Before presenting the awards at the Belen City Council meeting on Monday, Sept. 19, Belen Police Chief James Harris said in his time as chief for nearly three years, he has been honored to lead this particular group of officers.

“Your professionalism and you constantly go out into our community and put your safety and lives on the line,” Harris said. “… You have proven your worth time and again, and I’m proud to state, without reservation, that I would put you against any department — small or large.”

The first officer the chief presented with the Meritorious Service Award was BPD officer Andrew Fillmore for acts above and beyond the standard call of duty.

“The Meritorious Service Award is one of the highest commendations awarded in the field of law enforcement,” Harris said. “This award is issued by the chief of police to individuals or groups of officers who have performed an act or sequence of acts that go well above and beyond the scope of their regular duties …”

Belen Police Chief James Harris, left, pins a Meritorious Service Award medal on BPD officer Andrew Fillmore, right, for his actions helping a family and Marine veteran.

Harris said on June 11, he received a letter of commendation for Fillmore by Sgt. Jason Skopek. In the letter, the sergeant described an incident in which Fillmore and other officers responded to a Valencia County Sheriff’s Office mutual aid call regarding shots fired.

The chief said when Fillmore arrived at the house, he spoke with the subject, who he discovered was a U.S. Marine Corps veteran in serious emotional distress.

“Due to the fact that officer Fillmore is also a Marine Corps veteran, he was able to gain a rapport with this man,” Harris said. “Officer Fillmore offered the gentleman guidance, and sincere and heartfelt support.”

Harris said Fillmore provided his own personnel insights and experiences, showing that he has had his own difficulties as a veteran. The officer also gave the man his contact information and offered to pick him up from the hospital and bring him home.

“He also offered the gentleman an opportunity to reach out to him whenever needed,” Harris said. “Officer Fillmore’s actions, showed great compassion for his fellow man and the veterans of this great nation and community. Officer Fillmore’s compassionate actions during this incident brings honor upon himself, the Belen Police Department and the law enforcement profession.”

On June 21, he received an email from Lt. Kevin Turner of the Belen Fire Department, who wrote that Kloeppel had responded with fire personnel to the far west mesa where that had been a flash flood where residents were stranded in a washout.

Belen Sgt. Daniel Kloeppel, left, was honored with a Meritorious Service Award medal by Belen Police Chief James Harris for rescuing an injured woman from a washed-out road, and for apprehending an escapee.

“It was discovered that there was a woman who had been in a vehicle that had been caught in the flood, and the vehicle had rolled several times as a result of rushing water,” the police chief said. “This woman was in need of medical attention. The emergency medical unit was unable to proceed into the flood area due to the condition of the terrain.”

Disregarding his own safety, Kloeppel worked his way to the stranded woman and was able to transport her in his patrol unit to the waiting medical unit where she received medical treatment.

During another incident in August, Sgt. Kloeppel was called to assist in locating an escapee, who had fled from the New Mexico State Police and was somewhere in the area of Los Chavez.

“… Sgt. Kloeppel located the suspect and took him into custody just before the suspect made it into an apartment,” Harris said. “Sgt. Kloeppel’s quick and observant actions prevented the escape of a dangerous individual and prevented a barricade subject situation from occurring, which could have placed officers and civilian life in jeopardy.”

What’s your Reaction?

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.