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'He's a Good Cop'

GUN BATTLE IN ORANGE / THE AFTERMATH

Wounded Officer John Warde Called Dedicated to Work

December 20, 1997|SCOTT MARTELLE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ORANGE — On a dry day, Officer John Warde would have been on his bicycle patrolling neighborhoods as part of the city's Neighborhood Enhancement Team. But it rained Thursday, so Warde, 33, was assigned to a patrol car instead.

That change in routine left him wounded and bleeding on North Batavia Street, one of only two people to survive being shot by Arturo Reyes Torres.

Warde, who police said has two children from a previous marriage and is currently engaged, underwent 2 1/2 hours of surgery Thursday after being shot in the abdomen as he and other Orange police officers moved in on Torres during a gun battle at West Taft Avenue and North Batavia Street.

He was wearing a bulletproof vest at the time, police officials said, but the slug from the high-powered assault weapon penetrated the vest and tore through his intestines.

He was reported in stable condition in the intensive care unit at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange on Friday and was expected to survive, hospital officials said. He will likely remain hospitalized up to three weeks. Police said they were asking the public for blood donations.

Warde's family and his fiancee declined comment.

Warde, a nine-year veteran, was assigned to the bicycle patrol under the department's Community Oriented Policing program, said Orange police spokesman Lt. Art Romo. Part of their assignment is to work with code-enforcement officers to improve the quality of life in higher-crime neighborhoods.

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"It's been very successful for us, taking care of a lot of problems and reducing calls for service," Romo said.

Warde's role in the program involves bicycle patrols of different areas facing problems, he said.

"He's a good cop," Romo said.

Friends and colleagues described Warde as a friendly, outgoing man whose involvement in sports took up almost as much time as his work as a police officer. Softball one evening a week. Ice hockey one morning a week. Pickup basketball games. Running.

"He's into all kinds of sports," said Kenneth Eckman, a code-enforcement officer who works with Warde on the Neighborhood Enhancement Team and also is manager of the Tustin T Bags softball team. "He just excels at everything he does."

Eckman said the T Bags won a trophy for finishing first in their division this fall, and he presented it to Warde three weeks ago as the team's most valuable player. Warde, who batted about .800 as the team's leadoff hitter this season, also plays on an Orange Police Department team that enters an annual tournament in Las Vegas.

"He's always participating in interdepartmental football games, running events, those kinds of things," said a friend, Capt. Timm Browne, a former member of the Orange Police Department until he left about two years ago for a job with the Rialto Police Department. "He's just kind of an all-around athlete."

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He's also a cop.

"He's a tenacious, hard-working guy who is committed to the department," said Browne, who sent flowers to Warde's hospital room after hearing about the shooting. "He's very dedicated to his work."

Orange Mayor Joanne Coontz said she was talking with Warde's children and his fiancee when Warde's father arrived from out of town.

Coontz declined to identify the family members. But court records state that Warde has an 11-year-old daughter, Tannyka, and a 9-year-old, Bryson, whose primary custody was awarded to their mother, Yolanda, when the divorce became final two years ago this month.

In an unsuccessful attempt to win custody of his children last year, Warde advised the court that he was in a serious relationship with another woman and lived with her and her two children in a spacious home.

"He's a fine police officer," Coontz said. "We're just extremely happy that he's coming out of this. The whole city is so supportive. We're really very grateful. And we have a lot of compassion for the families of those who died."

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