Santa Rosa cop honored for defusing potential suicide

A woman who thought she had nothing to live for is alive today because of the actions of a Santa Rosa police officer.

That officer, Charles La Sala, was honored Tuesday by the Santa Rosa City Council as the department's 2010 officer of the year.

"From my perspective, in the end you saved somebody's life and for that I am grateful for your efforts," Mayor Ernesto Olivares said.

La Sala was on patrol in the city's northeast side in August when he was dispatched to a home where a distraught woman had a loaded gun and was threatening to harm herself, Capt. Hank Schreeder told the council.

Her husband was in the driveway talking with her on his cell phone, and La Sala got on the line with the woman. She was reluctant to talk at first but he persisted, trying to build a rapport with her, Schreeder said.

"He talked to her about her family, her friends, her children .<th>.<th>. to get her distracted from what she wanted to do .<th>.<th>. and hopefully realize that her life meant something to somebody else," Schreeder said.

La Sala did everything right, remaining calm, calling for backup, he said. The woman eventually came out of the home safely, Schreeder said. Officers found a loaded .357 magnum in her bedroom with a wedding ring on top of it.

"It was his quick thinking, training and interpersonal skills that brought this incident under extreme circumstances to a successful end," he said.

La Sala, 27, has been with the department three years. A native of Santa Clara County, he attended Sonoma State University where he studied criminal justice.

He deflected the praise and noted the help he received from his fellow officers.

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