The National Sheriffs' Association honored Alameda County Sheriff's Deputy Derek Pope as its deputy of the year at its 2010 conference in Anaheim.
Pope received the Charles "Bud" Meeks award for deputy sheriff of the year at a Monday morning ceremony. The national sheriffs' group also gave its sheriff of the year award to Warren County (Ky.) Sheriff Jerry "Peanuts" Gaines and its President's Award to DeKalb County (Ill.) Sheriff Roger Scott.
Pope said he was reluctant at first to accept the award, but embraced it when he realized it would be shared with the fellow officers involved in the Oakland ambush.
"I'm very proud, honored and humbled," Pope told POLICE on Monday. "It was all of us in the end standing shoulder to shoulder and stopping the threat."
On March 21, 2009, Pope responded to the Oakland PD's "officer down" call for aid after two motor officers were shot by parolee Lovell Mixon. Pope, a former Army Ranger and member of his agency's tactical Special Response Unit (SRU), arrived with his Kevlar vest and AR-15 rifle.
Following the dynamic entry of the two Oakland SWAT officers, Pope heard louder gunfire that he recognized as AK-47/SKS ammunition being fired by Mixon. He saw windows being blown out and realized the officers had walked into an ambush.
Pope initially entered the apartment during a fierce gun battle, and said he could smell the pungent odor of spent ammunition and see the smoke of a deployed flash-bang. White dust from high-velocity rounds penetrating drywall was also in the air of the apartment.
He then joined three Oakland PD SWAT officers in the search for the suspect. Pope and two officers eventually found Mixon hiding in a closet and shot the gunman.
"I've been in this line of work for more than 30 years and I've never heard of such a brave act," Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern told POLICE on Monday. "We were glad he was there to assist."
Pope said because he had trained with the Oakland PD as part of Urban Shield he was familiar with their SWAT team's tactics.
"I realized they needed help," Pope said Monday. "It was really no different than training wit the OPD. I knew their tactics."
Twenty-five Alameda deputies made the trip to Anaheim to support Pope and participate in the award.