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Wichita couple honored for reporting and confronting local thieves

Maria Garcia-Hernandez received the outstanding citizens award from Wichita police for her help in apprehending a burglary suspect in June.
Maria Garcia-Hernandez received the outstanding citizens award from Wichita police for her help in apprehending a burglary suspect in June. The Wichita Eagle

A Wichita couple was honored by the police department on Friday for their heroic effort to report and confront burglars.

On June 18, through her back window, Maria Garcia-Hernandez saw two suspects enter her neighbor’s yard and go into the house, according to Wichita police Officer Hector Gonzalez.

Her husband, Melquiades Onofre-Guzman, located one of the suspects in the alley, who was running out with a TV. The suspect fled when Onofre-Guzman spoke to him.

When police officers arrived near the intersection of Ida and Mount Vernon, they were able to apprehend one of the two suspects based on the descriptions given over the phone by Garcia-Hernandez.

Garcia-Hernandez said she wasn’t afraid to call the police, even though her native language isn’t English.

“If we have any issues, I know (the police) are there to help us,” Garcia-Hernandez said.

Dispatchers will transfer calls to translators if the person reporting doesn’t speak English, according to Officer Paul Cruz.

“I was scared at one point because I didn’t know if the burglars were armed or were on drugs,” Onofre-Guzman said in Spanish. He felt it was his duty to call the police because, he said, it could have been his house that was being robbed.

“We can’t put an officer on every corner,” said Deputy Police Chief Jose Salcido, who presented the couple with the outstanding citizens awards. “We rely on citizens being courageous enough to see something, say something.

“Without that partnership we would not get that job done.”

For people who are afraid, police will take reports for most crimes short of homicide without requiring further contact, Salcido said.

Wichita police recently received a grant to hire seven community police officers to work with local residents on Broadway to help build relationships that can help lead to arrests, as in this case.

Oliver Morrison: 316-268-6499, @ORMorrison

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