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Awards given for professionalism, heroism, courage

By Adam Foxman
Ventura County Star

OXNARD, Calif. - For brothers, they don't look much alike, but Officers Rick and Rocky Marquez have a lot in common, including decorations for bravery.
Both are members of the Oxnard Police Department's SWAT team, and this year, both earned the department's Medal of Merit for their actions in gunbattles with suspects.
The medal, one of the department's highest honors, recognizes officers who display outstanding professionalism, heroism, gallantry or courage above the call of duty.
The honors make the Marquez brothers the first siblings to earn the prestigious award since the department started giving it about five years ago, Oxnard Police Chief John Crombach said. At least five sets of siblings currently serve in the department.
Rocky Marquez earned the Medal of Merit, his second, this summer for his actions in a shootout with a man suspected of robbing and killing a businessman outside a local bank, Crombach said.
The shooting occurred when Rocky and his partner, Senior Officer Bob Shank, were trying to arrest Jeffrey Aguilar on Aug. 23.
The officers were watching Aguilar's vehicle, waiting for backup officers, when Aguilar showed up sooner than expected, Oxnard Cmdr. Scott Hebert said. Instead of waiting for the other officers, they tried to arrest Aguilar on their own because they decided it would be too dangerous to allow him to escape, Hebert said.
They followed Aguilar when he got into his car and, moments later, he stopped, jumped out and started shooting, police said. Rocky returned fire from the back seat of his unmarked vehicle.
No one was struck by the gunfire. Aguilar escaped, only to be arrested two days later in Carpinteria.
Both Rocky and Shank received Medals of Merit for their conduct in the incident, which Crombach called "exemplary." Both were also nominated for Medals of Merit from the Police Officers Association of Ventura County.
Rick Marquez and his partner, Officer Eric Alinaya, received Medals of Merit this year for their actions during an April 15 shooting.
He and Alinaya were investigating a tip that an armed gang member was selling drugs from a residence. During the investigation, they chased a suspect into a garage. While they were forcing their way in, a second suspect shot at them, and Rick returned fire, police said.
No one was hit, and the officers quickly cleared the building and took both suspects into custody. Both officers are scheduled to receive honors from the Police Officers Association for the incident, Hebert said.
While it is relatively uncommon for officers to face gunfire, Crombach said, he thinks that it's more than a coincidence that both Marquez brothers were honored with Medals of Merit this year. It speaks to their courage, he said.
"They were not going to back away from a fight," the chief said.
"Knowing these officers the way I do, I believe it's in the genes."
A former Marine and welterweight boxer, Rick has a slim build and at 31 is three years older than Rocky, who is a former middleweight boxer and outweighs his brother by about 30 pounds.
Their bond is revealed when they talk, occasionally finishing each other's sentences.
"He's kind of like an extension of me," Rocky said.
"We're an extension of each other," Rick corrected him.
The bond led them to join the Oxnard Police Department together in 2001, they said. Rick and Rocky enjoyed patrolling La Colonia together as partners for a year near the beginning of their careers, but when both secured sought-after SWAT positions in 2006, they were assigned to different squads.
The department several years ago began separating relatives. The point is to avoid potential conflicts of interest or distractions during a crisis, Hebert said.
SWAT team members are sent into the most volatile situations, and they help with gang patrols when their special weapons and tactics skills aren't needed.
The Marquez brothers love the work. Rocky enjoys the intense training, the adrenaline and the feeling of being a go-to guy in tough situations, he said.
Rick likes the camaraderie, challenges and responsibilities.
"SWAT's a mental game, a tactical game, a real-life chess game," he said.

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