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Quick-thinking cops help family escape gang violence

Updated March 28, 2024 - 7:06 pm

A Las Vegas teenager was about to graduate a weekslong mentorship program when Las Vegas police learned that he faced imminent danger from a gang that was trying to recruit him, potentially leading him and his teenage brother into a life of trouble.

The Spring Valley family faced a predicament: stay in their neighborhood to let that happen, or move.

In came in Metropolitan Police Department officers Oscar Murguia and Humberto Zarate, who were honored Wednesday with the “Good Ticket” award at Resorts World.

“We knew that we had a very finite time to get this family relocated to prevent future violence to the family and to these two young men,” Lt. Jesse Roybal said. “I’d like to say that we had all the answers, but truthfully, these officers say that there was a need and they came to us with a solution.”

The officers took the lead, collaborating with community partners to help the family break a lease, help them find a new home in the valley and settle in within 48 hours.

On Wednesday, they were honored by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Foundation, the department’s nonprofit fundraising arm. In a ceremony attended by their families and substation colleagues, they received a two-night stay at the resort, show tickets and food and drink vouchers.

They smiled when they were handed bouquets of flowers.

The foundation honors officers at Resorts World on a monthly basis. In late January, for example, officers Jacob Noriega and Ty Vesperas were recognized for rushing a UNLV shooting victim to safety and applying a tourniquet on his wounded limb.

The officers honored Wednesday said that fellow officer Juan Ostorga told them about the boys.

“That got to our hearts,” Murguia said about first meeting the family in need. “We knew we had to do something.”

He added: “We started thinking: ‘How can we get this family out of danger?’”

Murguia, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, said he had always dreamed of becoming a cop. Joining the department’s “Explorer Program” for teenagers interested in law enforcement solidified his career choice.

The 29-year-old has been with the department for six years.

“Every day I’m living my dream,” he said. “I wake up, have a good partner who I love to come work with, and it’s a really, really fun experience,” he said about Zarate, whom he has worked alongside for six months.

Asked about their friendship, Zarate described it as a brotherhood.

Zarate’s path with Metro is similar to his partner’s.

The 30-year-old also was an “explorer” before joining the department eight years ago.

His interest for law enforcement was born when he was a kid. His parents tell him about his excitement when he would see the black and white police cruisers, and how he would remind them to put on their seat belts.

The officers said their Spanish-speaking skills and Latino backgrounds helped them better connect with the family they helped. They regularly check in with them to make sure they’re still OK, they said.

The specific scenario isn’t taught in the academy, and Roybal credited his officers’ humanity and problem-solving skills.

“All they did was tell us, ‘This is what we’re going to do,’” Roybal said. “And the captain and I looked at each other and go, ‘Sounds good, let’s see it happen.’”

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com.

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