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Originally published January 31, 2014 at 8:38 AM | Page modified January 31, 2014 at 8:41 AM

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Vancouver swears in James McElvain as new police chief

Crowded ceremony includes awarding new badges, Medals of Valor and police dog graduation.

The Columbian

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Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain was introduced to a crowded room of cops and community members Thursday afternoon, just weeks after assuming his duties last month.

He shook a lot of hands, greeted new faces and lauded the good work he’s seen from Vancouver police so far. McElvain, a former captain with the Riverside (Calif.) County Sheriff’s Department, also publicly recited his oath to the city of Vancouver at the Water Resource Education Center. He swore to abide by city and state laws, and to follow the agency’s ethics.

Aside from McElvain’s public swearing in, three new officers received their badges, five veteran Vancouver Police Department officers were awarded medals, and six police dog graduates were recognized during Thursday’s event.

“Ceremonies like this are important to the public,” McElvain said. They let people know that officers are working hard to protect them, he said.

Family members pinned badges on three new Vancouver police officers. Robin Griffith, who hails from Puyallup, recently became an entry-level officer. Officer Gregory Catton came to Vancouver after eight years with the Fresno Police Department. On his last day of work in San Jose, Calif., he got a life-saving award for aiding a cardiac arrest patient. Officer Lee Gelsinger is a military veteran who spent two years with the Newport News Police Department in York Town, Va., before coming to Vancouver.

Officer Brian Ruder received a medal for applying a tourniquet to a near-fatal stab wound on a suspect’s leg, saving his life.

On the evening of Oct. 16 a woman called 911 to report that she stabbed a man who attacked her. Ruder was the first to get to the residence in the 2100 block of Firestone Lane in Vancouver’s Fruit Valley neighborhood. He went inside the house to find the alleged attacker surrounded by his own blood. After securing the weapon and instructing the woman to leave the residence, Ruder fashioned a tourniquet to the man’s leg. He kept pressure on the wound until medics arrived.

The man was minutes from death and would have died without Ruder’s quick actions, according to the Vancouver Fire Department.

Medal of Valor

Four Vancouver officers were recognized Thursday for their involvement in a complicated operation to capture a teenager wanted in connection with three armed robberies and a home invasion and shooting. They learned the teen had spoken about getting into a shootout with police. Sgt. Kevin Hatley determined the suspect’s identity -- 16-year-old Douglas E. Combs. Hatley learned that on the evening of Friday, Jan. 25, 2013, the teen would be at local soda shop and music venue in Uptown Village, Pop Culture, which has since closed.

That night Sgt. Jeff Kipp controlled police officers inside the perimeter they had set up around Pop Culture. Acting Cmdr. Doug Luse oversaw the entire operation, which agency spokeswoman Kim Kapp said was well thought out. All three were award the Meritorious Service Medal for outstanding performance in a stressful situation.

Combs, armed with two handguns, left the store around 11:30 p.m. and ran from police, according to a report issued later. Cpl. Marshal Henderson was one of the officers who chased after him, yelling “Stop! Show us your hands!”

Combs was pumping his arms as his ran, but then he reached his left hand into his waistband, came up with what appeared to be a gun -- and made no effort to throw the gun down, according to the report. Instead, it said, Combs began to move the gun, a semi-automatic pistol, across his body toward Henderson.

To prevent being shot, Henderson fired first from about 10 to 15 feet away, according to the report.

Combs was shot multiple times in the upper torso and died from his wounds.

For putting his own life at risk, Henderson was award the Medal of Valor, an honor distinguished by its sky blue ribbon. Henderson declined to talk about receiving the award.

Six K-9 police dogs and their trainers also were recognized Thursday for completing their training in patrol work and narcotics: Vancouver police Officer Ryan Starbuck and K-9 Ivar; sheriff’s Deputy Rick Osbourne and K-9 Scout; sheriff’s Deputy Sean Boyle and K-9 Jango; sheriff’s Deputy Seth Brannan and K-9 Ringo; Battle Ground police Officer Chris Crouch and K-9 Luca; and Washougal police Officer Kyle Day and K-9 Ranger.

The police dogs were trained after voters legalized recreational marijuana in Washington state and were not taught to detect marijuana.

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