Thompson Announces Contra Costa County Public Safety Heroes of the Year

Feb 18, 2020
Press Release

Washington – Today Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) announced the recipients of the Fifth Congressional District’s Public Safety Hero of the Year Award. Each year, Thompson honors law enforcement officers and first responders in our community who have gone above and beyond the call of duty. For Contra Costa County, Crockett-Carquinez Fire Chief Dean Colombo, Pinole Police Officer Jennifer Witschi and her K9 partner, Milo, and Pinole Police Chief Neil Gang have been selected.

“Our local public safety officers are some of our most vital community members, putting their lives on the line to keep us safe and often working overtime during emergencies, such as our recent fires,” said Thompson. “I am humbled to once again present my Annual Public Safety Hero Award to the local law enforcement officers and first responders who demonstrate exceptional courage and dedication day in and day out. It is an incredible honor to represent so many dedicated and heroic public servants.”

Each year, Thompson honors at least one local law enforcement officer and one local first responder from each county with the Public Safety Hero award.

Chief Dean Columbo is being recognized for his dedicated service throughout the years and quick thinking on his feet during the Sky Fire and NuStar Energy Explosion. As the incident commander for both events, he acted with calm professionalism and strong leadership, ensuring the safety of people across our community.

Officer Witschi and Milo are being recognized for their service and community outreach efforts to ensure officer wellness in the department. Jennifer and Milo offer critical support, giving members of the department important peer support and calm during difficult times.

Pinole Police Chief Neil Gang is being recognized for his lifetime of public service and in particular, for his hard work to implement the Asher Model and strategies for his department that support the mental as well as physical health of his officers.

“It is my honor to recognize Chief Colombo, Officer Witschi, and Chief Gang as our Public Safety Heroes for Contra Costa County,” said Thompson. “They have dedicated their lives to keeping our community safe and have gone above and beyond in their public service throughout their careers. We are proud to have such heroes in our community and thank them for their service.”

In additions to the 11 honorees from each of the counties Thompson represents, Thompson also honored celebrity chefs Jose Andres and Tyler Florence with a special Public Safety Hero Award in honor of their work to provide meals and support during the recent fires.

The full list of the Public Safety Heroes of the Year for the Fifth Congressional District is below:

  • Chief Dean Colombo, Crockett-Carquinez Fire Department
  • Officer Jennifer Witschi and her K9 partner, Milo, Pinole Police Department
  • Chief Neil Gang, Pinole Police Department
  • Deputy Marc De La Torre, Lake County Sheriff’s Office
  • Chief Willie Sapeta, Lake County Fire Protection District
  • Detective Garrett Smith, Napa Police Department
  • Scott Rose, Napa Emergency Services
  • Officer John Ehman, Vallejo Police Department
  • Captain Patrick Wong, Vallejo Fire Department
  • Lieutenant Shawn Murphy, Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office
  • Chief Mark Heine, Sonoma County Fire District
  • Jose Andres, Celebrity Chef and local second responder
  • Tyler Florence, Celebrity Chef and local second responder


Congressman Mike Thompson is proud to represent California’s 5th Congressional District, which includes all or part of Contra Costa, Lake, Napa, Solano and Sonoma Counties. He is a senior member of the House Committee on Ways and Means where he chairs the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures. Rep. Thompson is Chairman of the House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. He is also Co-Chair of the bipartisan, bicameral Congressional Wine Caucus and a member of the fiscally-conservative Blue Dog Coalition.