Inyo County residents were afforded a rare glimpse this week of the internal honor code and hierarchy of the cadre of men and women sworn to protect them.
Virtually every available sheriff’s deputy was on hand Thursday for a formal promotion and inspection ceremony that was equal parts pomp and circumstance, and rigid discipline.
In addition to conducting a formal personnel inspection, Sheriff Bill Lutze and other administrative officials promoted two deputies for their outstanding service and welcomed two new recruits into their ranks.
The day’s ceremony kicked off with an all-deputy inspection by Sheriff Lutze, who scrutinized each deputy’s uniform and general appearance.
From there, four deputies were called to the podium to receive various accolades.
Deputy Chris Connolly was promoted to the rank of sergeant and, Deputy Shane Scott was promoted to investigator, in addition to receiving awards for bravery and valor.
Also, deputies Matt Graef and Bryce Milokavich were sworn in and received their sheriff’s badges at Thursday’s ceremony.
Once the presentations were made, Lutze dismissed three deputies, leaving only recently promoted Investigator Scott.
Scott was presented with the extremely rare, prestigious Sheriff’s Medal of Valor and the Sheriff’s Life Saving Award for his actions the night of Aug. 9, 2010. That was the evening Scott risked his life to save the life of Drew Dellis, who had been trapped in a burning vehicle after a head-on collision.
Scott has also received recognition from the Inyo County Board of Supervisors, state legislators and the California Peace Officer’s Association.
Scott said that the accolades he has received have been humbling.
“I don’t look at myself as a hero,” he said. “I’d like to think that anyone in my place would have done the same thing. The recognition is spectacular. It just blows my mind away.”
According to the preliminary accident report released by the California Highway Patrol, at approximately 8:30 p.m. a Ford Expedition SUV was headed southbound, when for an unknown reason, the SUV lost control, veered through the asphalt median, exploded into flames and ran head-on into oncoming northbound traffic.
The accident left four dead and 15 injured.
Sheriff Lutze read a letter he received from the Dellis family that commended Scott for his actions that night and credited him with saving Drew’s life.
“I was meant to be there,” Scott said, adding that he was actually running late for a shift in Southern Inyo because he had made a traffic stop on the way down to his post. Had he not made that stop, he would not have witnessed the tragic accident and ensuing explosion, and would not have been the first person at the scene.
Scott said that he did not experience any hesitation when he reached the scene and saw the devastation.
“I could hear screaming from the vehicles, and all I could think was ‘I gotta get them out of there,’” he said. “Initially, I didn’t know who I was pulling out of the vehicles, I just knew I had to get them out.”
It was 10 minutes from the time Scott arrived at the scene to the time help arrived, but he said it “felt like forever” as he directed a small group of passersby on how they could help with the rescue effort.
Since the time of the accident, Scott has been in contact with some of the victims and their families.
He said he is happy to say that Dellis is recovering, has finished college and, with the aid of a prosthetic leg, has returned to his favorite sport, surfing.
Scott and his family are planning a vacation to visit family in Southern California, and hopes to meet with the Dellis family.
“His mother wanted me to know that he’s going to do good things with his life, and he is. He’s already finished school and is planning on going to law school,” Scott said.