ACTOR ERIK ESTRADA, LOCAL HEROES AMONG HONORED GUESTS AT CHP COMMAND CENTER OPEN HOUSE

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Spring Valley resident Cassie Wells hailed for saving motorist’s life

By Rebecca Jefferis Williamson

Jan. 14, 2020 (San Diego) Actor and real-life cop, Henry Enrique “Erik” Estrada, who played the California Highway Patrol officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello in the 1977-1983 tv show CHiPS, made an appearance at the CHP’s open house of their command center facility in Kearny Mesa on Jan. 10. 

(Pictured: CHP Chief Omar Watson with Erik Estrada - photos by Rebecca Jefferis Williamson)

 “I can get you out of a ticket,” quipped Estrada during his appearance. His humor matched with the celebratory spirit of the day and debut of the facility to the public.

The facility, according to public information officer Jake Sanchez, opened last fall but this was their first open house for the public. 

But the event was not just about a photo opportunity with “Ponch.” 

The event also highlighted the good deeds of five individuals during the ceremony.  One, Spring Valley resident Cassie Wells, a hospital corpsman second class with the Navy, helped to save Dennis McNear from a vehicle crash when he had a medical emergency.

Wells, was four-months pregnant when she acted, in conjunction with  other good Samaritans, as a lifesaver. 

“I was behind him (Dennis McNea) when I saw him hit the center divider (on the 94-E). I called 911,” she said. She and the others helped to guide him safely to a stop and address his medical needs until the paramedics showed up. The incident happened in Nov. 2019.  

(Photo (r): Cassie Wells)

McNea voiced great appreciation in interviews to his heroes. 

The open house is a milestone for the region.

“This is a momentous day for the CHP and San Diegans alike,” said CHP Chief Omar Watson of the command center.  The former location was on Pacific Highway and opened in 1973. 

“We moved here from the Pacific Highway office,” stated Sanchez. “The old building had 6,000 sq. ft. This has 47,00 sq. ft.” 

Sanchez relayed some of the facts about their current workforce and equipment.

“We have 110 uniformed officers and 60-80 non-uniformed staff out of this office plus 40-50 volunteers,” he said. 

What motorcycles do the CHP use? 

“We’re transitioning from Harleys to BMWs,” noted Sanchez.

The open house offered tours of the public parts of the building and of their mobile command center trailer, opportunities for selfies in the CHP helicopter, and a lunch. 

“We have in excess of 300 attendees,” said Sanchez.

Some of those attendees were from Mexico.

“This speaks well of our relationship between Mexico with the CHP Patrol” said Mexican police officer Ivan Castillo on his and two other officers’ attendance at the open house. “This shows that if you are doing anything criminal in the US or Mexico---we are going to collaborate.”

The festivities included demonstrations of CHP officers’ motorcycle skills in maneuvering test drives. 

The command center has items that showcase parts of their history via pictures from days gone by and equipment. The CHP was created via legislation on August 14, 1929. 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