Pleasanton police Officer Brad Middleton was recently awarded a Bronze Star for Heroism from the department for his actions in the face of gunfire while responding to an armed robbery at a Hacienda bank last winter.
In announcing the honor bestowed by Police Chief David Spiller, department officials last week also confirmed for the first time that arrests had been made in connection with the February takeover-style robbery from which the culprits initially escaped -- though details on those arrests were not revealed, in light of the investigation still being active.
"These suspects were clearly a danger to the community, and Officer Middleton's resilient pursuit forced the suspects to make several mistakes. These mistakes caused the suspects to leave behind valuable evidence, which led to their identification and ultimate arrest," officials wrote on the Pleasanton Police Department's Facebook page on Sept. 19.
Spiller also commended Middleton in comments to the Weekly after awarding the Bronze Star, which recognized the officer for putting his own safety at risk in the protection of residents and fellow officers.
"I'm incredibly proud of Officer Middleton -- equally so, his peers and supervisors are proud of him as well," Spiller said via email. "He demonstrated bravery and fearlessness. His actions in this incident revealed tenacity and fortitude in his disciplined pursuit of these dangerous felons. He is a great cop!!!"
A rarity in suburban Pleasanton, the armed bank robbery with gunfire unfolded in the late morning on a dreary Friday at the Wells Fargo bank branch in Hacienda Business Park, at 4967 Hopyard Road.
The Feb. 8 incident was well-documented at the time, though police added new details when recounting Middleton's response last week.
Four armed robbers in masks burst in to the bank around 10:40 a.m. yelling at customers and employees to "get down!" while threatening the occupants and demanding money from the tellers and the vault, according to police. They were inside the bank for about 2-1/2 minutes.
Several bank employees pressed emergency buttons to alert their alarm company about a potential holdup robbery, and the alarm company in turn contacted Pleasanton PD, according to police.
Among the officers dispatched was Middleton, who was already near the area when the call came in. Upon arrival, he noticed a white SUV backed into a stall toward the front of the bank, and a person wearing all-black clothing moving toward the SUV, according to police.
The department had not yet received confirmation of a legitimate robbery incident, but Middleton followed his instincts with the suspicious SUV and began trailing the vehicle as it left the parking lot, police said.
Middleton was positioned directly behind the SUV with dark-tinted windows at the intersection of Hopyard Road and Inglewood Drive when "suddenly and without provocation the suspects opened fire on Officer Middleton with both handgun and rifle fire," police said.
The officer ducked down behind the engine block to avoid the gunfire coming into the patrol car, and at one point, he felt something strike him in the forehead, initially thinking it was a bullet, according to police. The injury was later deemed to be from splintered windshield glass.
The gunfire stopped as the SUV sped away, and Middleton sat up and pursued the armed robbers on Inglewood Drive, where they again opened fire on the officer, police said. Middle continued to follow behind the SUV until his patrol vehicle stopped working due to a bullet hitting the radiator.
Police officials credited Middleton's extended pursuit with yielding valuable evidence that helped in the identification of those involved in the robbery.
Police reported at the time that the robbers actually crashed their SUV in the neighborhood and then carjacked a Honda CRV. Officers closed off streets in the area as they searched for the robbers, including aerial assistance by helicopter, but the culprits were not caught that day.
Last week, Pleasanton PD confirmed that arrests had been made at some point during the investigation, but representatives declined to reveal any specifics at this time.
"We are not providing any details concerning the arrests as the investigation is still ongoing," Lt. Maria Munayer told the Weekly by email.