Pasadena Fire Investigator Cops Anti-Hater Award

Published : Saturday, March 16, 2019 | 4:33 AM

The Inter-Agency House of Worship Task Force, flanked by prize benefactors Howard and Stephanie Sherwood on the left. On the bottom right, ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind; standing from the right, Fr. Robert J. Gaestel of Church of the Angels in Pasadena and Elaine and Larry Sherwood. Photo courtesy of ADL

The Inter-Agency House of Worship Task Force, flanked by prize benefactors Howard and Stephanie Sherwood on the left. On the bottom right, ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind; standing from the right, Fr. Robert J. Gaestel of Church of the Angels in Pasadena and Elaine and Larry Sherwood. Photo courtesy of ADL

Father Bob Gaestel points to some of the damage inside Pasadena's Church of the Angels after a January 13, 2018 vandalism and arson attack. Image courtesy Church of the Angels via Facebook

For identifying and arresting the arsonist attacking local houses of worship, an inter-agency task force including Pasadena Fire Department investigators was honored March 12 with the Anti-Defamation League’s Helene and Joseph Sherwood Prize for combating hate.

The Inter-Agency House of Worship Task Force was honored for its work in solving the dangerous arson and vandalism crimes committed against four houses of worship in  Pasadena and Los Angeles between Nov. 25, 2016 and Jan. 25, 2018.

The ceremony was held at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

Fire investigators from the Pasadena Fire Department played a vital role in solving the mystery of the torchings which left the community frightened and angry.

The task force also included members of the Los Angeles Fire Department, Los Angeles Police Department, Pasadena Fire Department, Pasadena Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The Los Angeles District Attorney’s office is now prosecuting the case against Christian Michael Garcia, 26, who pleaded not guilty last year to over 20 felony charges related to arson fires and vandalism targeting churches around Los Angeles County, one of which was the Church of the Angels in Pasadena.

Pasadena Fire Chief Bertral Washington credited the work of Pasadena Fire Capt. Trey Sorensen for handling the investigation. Sorensen would not comment for the record.

“Our investigator does an excellent job for the people of Pasadena and his work is only enhanced as he collaborates with other exceptional investigators like those being honored by the ADL,” Washington said. “We greatly appreciate the ADL’s recognition and we are always honored to work with our regional partners in efforts to serve the community.”

The prize was created in 1996 by Joe and Helene Sherwood, founders of family-owned and operated Daniel’s Jewelers.

The Anti-Defamation League awards the prize to law enforcement officers who put their lives on the line to protect Americans from extremism, terrorism and hate, and whose commitment makes a significant difference in the communities and departments alike.

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