A Hesperia man who pulled a boy from the jaws of his father’s police dog last year is among 24 people who will receive the Carnegie Hero medal, authorities announced Wednesday.
“If it wasn’t for Jeff (Houlemard) and those who were there, this could have turned deadly,” said Chief Randy DeAnda, who was then a captain at the Rialto Police Department.
It was a brisk Sunday, Feb. 4 last year, and Houlemard was sitting in his Nantucket Street home when suddenly his son, Logan, 13, and a friend, 14-year-old Anthony Montalvo, ran into the house yelling to call 911.
The father of four ran outside and could hear a child screaming. He and a neighbor then ran toward the home of Rialto police officer Michael Mastaler.
Houlemard looked over Mastaler’s fence and saw the dog, Jango, shaking the young boy, Hunter, then 4, by the leg. The Navy veteran, in a panic to get to the young boy, bulldozed through the side gate, knocking over the fence.
Houlemard freed the boy’s leg from the dog’s grip and pinned Jango to the ground as Logan and Anthony rushed the boy to safety.
At that point, Mastaler came outside, put the dog away and tended to his son.
An investigation revealed that Mastaler, who has worked on patrol, gangs, narcotics and as a member of the Inland Valley SWAT team, was at home with Hunter while the officer’s wife had taken their infant to do some shopping. Mastaler closed the house, including the sliding-glass and screen doors leading into the backyard before going upstairs to shower and change, leaving Hunter downstairs playing a video game.
According to reports, authorities say Hunter was alone for about two minutes before he went into the backyard and was attacked by the police dog.
Hunter lost part of his leg in the attack and Houlemard required surgery on his shoulder.
The Carnegie Hero Fund was established in 1904 by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie following the Harwick mine disaster near Pittsburgh in January 1904, which claimed 181 lives.
Since its inception, 9,845 medals have been awarded by the fund, which also gives recipients or their surviving family members a financial grant.