San Francisco police to honor 2 officers with Gold Medal of Valor

SAN FRANCISCO (KTVU) -- The San Francisco Police Department is set Wednesday night to honor two of its officers with the agency's top award: the Gold Medal of Valor.

The department is expected to recognize the efforts of 11 San Francisco police officers for their work over the past year.  Two officers being lauded -- Arnold Aleman and Jared Harris -- will get the department's top recognition after they arrested two suspects during two different events that could have ended tragically for the sworn law enforcement officers. 

Both men said they were surprised and humbled to receive awards for the actions, adding that they were simply doing what they have been trained to do.

"I feel like there’s a lot of cops that do a lot of great things day to day," Officer Harris said. "I did something a little bit extraordinary, I guess, but it’s not something that other cops wouldn’t have done if they were in my position."

Said Officer Aleman: "I know it sounds cliché, but it’s just my job but it really is. We don’t do this job for any other reason than to help people and that’s what I did."

Officer Aleman to the rescue

It’s been almost a year since San Francisco police officer Arnold Aleman encountered a man accused of trying to kill a fellow law enforcement officer.

It’s a day he has replayed in his mind countless times because it began with a chilling report.

"A call came out across the radio that an officer was down," Aleman said. "Whenever any police officer hears an office down, you get a big gulp in your throat and you want to get there as fast as possible."

Near an on-ramp to the Bay Bridge, California Highway Police officer Andre Sirenko was badly bleeding after being slashed across his neck and arm.

The CHP veteran and his partner had responded to a call of someone on the freeway near 4th and Bryant streets.

They encountered a man who suddenly attacked Officer Sirenko with a knife before running off.

"I started going down towards the incident and I could see all of the police cars going in that direction. That’s when I made the decision to go different route and hopefully see the suspect," Aleman said. "He was standing on the corner and he had this stare that he did not break.

Officer Aleman ran after the suspect, chasing him through a Wells Fargo bank and out the bank door where the two got into a struggle.

"And then I started feeling my gun being tugged on," he said. "At which point I saw he was trying to remove my gun from my holster and I knew that couldn’t happen. I wasn’t going to let that happen."

He said he grabbed the butt of his gun and kept it in the holster.

"We’re still wrestling and I was just trying to prevent him from removing my gun," he said. "One of the sweetest sounds that a police officer hears when they call for backup is the sirens coming and I knew I just needed to hold on until backup arrived."

Officers arrested Noel Corpuz, 45, and found a large knife believed to have been used in the stabbing in the bank parking lot.

Officer Aleman’s struggle with the suspect could have ended in stab wounds, or gunfire, but it didn’t and that’s not lost on the father of three.

"One of the things that I tell my kids is never give up," he said. "So after this, I had a moment to reflect and I thought of them and yeah, I did. I hugged them tighter."

Officer Jared Harris helps capture a suspect

Jared Harris is another San Francisco officer and father of three who jeopardized his safety to catch a suspect.

His story starts in the Marina district where a man stole a police SUV and led officers on a chase throughout the city, banging into cars on his way to the Bay Bridge and eventually Treasure Island.

After slamming into an unmarked police car, the thief tried to escape the island and head back to San Francisco and that’s when Officer Harris confronted him.

"He hopped out his car. I got out of mine," Harris said. "Then I see his face and I know what he’s thinking because he goes to the edge and looks over and thinks ‘Oh, I’m going to do this.’ And I think to myself ‘Don’t do it.’ And he does."

While at the westbound entrance of the bridge, the suspect jumped from the upper deck to the lower deck.

"At that point I thought, this is going to be a fun conversation to have with my co-workers later,” Harris said. "If he can do it, I can do it and we’ve got to get him into custody."

So Officer Harris followed and made the daring jump, a fall of 30-to-40 feet.

When asked about people who say he’s crazy for jumping, Officer Harris says, "Yeah, I’ve been told that."

Randal Maykopet, 26, was arrested, bringing to an end a chaotic chain of events that put lives at risk and backed up traffic on the bridge.

By KTVU anchor Heather Holmes