Former photojournalist, now a police officer, receives Medal of Valor
By Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times
Former Los Angeles Times staff photographer Stephen Osman, 50, received a Medal of Valor for saving a man’s life on the California State University Channel Islands campus in Camarillo this year. Osman, a reserve deputy for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, joined the campus Police Department two years ago.The Peace Officers Assn. of Ventura County honored Sgt. Jeff Cowgill and Officer Stephen Osman with the Medal of Valor in recognition of their extraordinary bravery.
We catch up with Osman for a Q & A.
Q: Tell me a little bit about your history and why we’re here today?
A: I’m Stephen Osman. I am a police officer at Cal State Channel Islands here in Camarillo. Prior to getting this position, I worked for the Los Angeles Times for 24 years. I had a background in law-enforcement and therefore I used that experience to parlay into a full-time position at the university.
Q: Please tell me about the incident in which you save someone’s life?
A: We were at Cal State Channel Islands, working on a campus. There was an explosion. There was a fire and a man down. We saw black smoke billowing out of a small building that was used as an electrical vault. We could see a man’s body lying face down on the concrete floor in the building. He sustained major burns. His clothing was still on fire. We douse the fire and pulled him out of the burning building and immediately started CPR. The ambulance paramedics arrived. They transported this gentleman to Los Robles hospital’s trauma center. From there, he went to the Grossman Burn Center. From what we’ve heard, he ended up walking out of the Grossman center on his own power. To this day he’s continuing to recover. The doctors have told us because of our efforts, this man did not sustain any brain damage. The doctors told the responding firefighters and paramedics that without the actions we took, this man would’ve died.
Q: Please tell me about the honor you received?
A: Sgt. Jeff Cowgill and myself didn’t hesitate to pull his gentlemen out of the building. To Jeff and to myself, it was just something we would do; any time, any day, but the Peace Officers Assn. of Ventura County acknowledges our efforts. They honored us with the Medal of Valor for saving the man’s life in March of this year. I am not used to this kind of notoriety and this kind of recognition, and having my picture taken. So now I proudly wear this little Medal of Valor on my uniform. I believe that other people do things like this all the time, we just happened to get recognized.
Q: How does it feel to have saved someone’s life?
A: I was surprised the gentleman was revived. He was in pretty bad shape. I’m proud that I reacted that way. I’ve seen a lot of tragedies, and a lot of suffering, but when you’re the one responsible to react to that suffering and tragedy it’s really a different story than just recording it. It’s a lot of responsibility.
Q: What skills as a photojournalist translate to your work as an officer?
A: Well, photojournalism and police work are kind of similar in some respects. We run to the scene of a bad situation where everybody else is running away. The experiences are actually very similar. The only difference is that the police are taking action directly with people, where the journalist is recording what is happening. I believe that the experience at the L.A. Times helped me immensely to react and be prepared to go to any situation.
November 12, 2013, 9:58 pm
Good job brother. We’re proud of you.
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