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Gutierrez works to get drugs off Petaluma streets

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Petaluma Police Officer Jake Gutierrez had a busy 2017 taking serious narcotics criminals of the city’s streets. It seemed like almost every month he was involved in a major drug bust.

In January, Gutierrez obtained a search warrant for a home that turned out to be the headquarters of a cocaine trafficking ring. The owner pleaded guilty to maintaining a drug house and the operation was shut down.

In February, Gutierrez used his sources to identify a suspected heroin dealer in Petaluma.

In March, he contacted the suspect and found he was in possession of heroin. He interviewed the suspect, who confessed to selling narcotics, which led to a conviction.

That was just the beginning of a packed year for Gutierrez, who was honored with the 2017 Petaluma Police Officer of the Year award.

“It feels great,” said Gutierrez, 30, who has been with the department for nearly four years. “It’s nice that the hard work you put in pays off.”

Born and raised in Healdsburg, Gutierrez began his career in agriculture before getting involved in law enforcement, a field in which many of his family members work. In Petaluma, he said he likes the excitement of the narcotics beat.

“It’s one of those things that grew on me,” he said. “I found my niche with it. I like the thrill of the chase, the thrill of looking for the big fish.”

In August, Gutierrez busted up a Xanax ring at Petaluma High School and also helped take down one of those “big fish” — a suspect who was dealing methamphetamine out of a Petaluma hotel. In that case, Gutierrez coordinated with Drug Enforcement Agency agents, leading to three arrests, including a “mid to high-level” meth dealer.

Gutierrez said that his work keeping drug dealers off the streets has impacted many lives. He said he has seen kids as young as 12 years old caught up in the drug trade.

“A lot of violent crime is tied to narcotics,” he said.

Gutierrez lives with his fiancée, 7-month-old daughter and 6-year-old step son. He enjoys spending time outdoors, including hiking, hunting and fishing on the Russian River.

In announcing the award, Police Chief Ken Savano said that Gutierrez also had a CPR save to his credit last year.

“Jake received two nominations primarily for his excellent work leading to arrests, especially in the areas of narcotics investigations and criminal activity in the downtown district,” Savano wrote. “Also of special mention is a case where he was able to assist in saving an infant’s life by providing CPR as a first officer on scene.”

In October, Gutierrez participated in his most complex case of the year. After arresting a suspected prostitute for a parole warrant at a Petaluma hotel, he learned that an armed and dangerous suspect was staying with her. Gutierrez coordinated with the U.S. Marshals Service, which led to an arrest and the identification of another suspect who was harboring the fugitive in Petaluma. That person turned out to be a suspected multi-state drug trafficker and money launderer. With the help of the DEA, the suspect was arrested with 45 pounds of illegal marijuana.

Gutierrez, who recent joined the department’s gang unit, said he hopes for even bigger results this year.

“The chase continues,” he said. “We keep trying to find that bigger fish.”

(Contact Matt Brown at matt.brown@arguscourier.com.)