• November 17, 2019

Odessans fellowship in National Night Out - Odessa American: Law Enforcement

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Odessans fellowship in National Night Out

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    Joseph Gardenhire, an Engineer for Odessa Fire Rescue shows 7-year-olds Madeline and Caroline Carrillo one of the fire department's Thermal Imaging Cameras. These cameras are carried on every fire truck in the city and help fire fighters see in smoke filled rooms to help locate victims and fire that may be inside walls.

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Posted: Tuesday, October 1, 2019 7:26 pm

Odessa residents gathered for this year’s National Night Out to fellowship with first responders and reconnect with their neighbors.

The kickoff for the community-building event took place Tuesday evening in the south parking lot of Music City Mall before breaking out into about 20 block parties throughout Odessa. Nearly 500 cities across the United States joined Odessa in hosting the annual event on Tuesday.

National Night Out is designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, increase participation in local anticrime partnerships and encourage communities to work together.

The memory of a turbulent mass shooting remained in the minds of many in the Odessa community during the event.

Selena Lara, an Odessa native, said she came to the kickoff with her sister, nieces and 2-year-old son to enjoy a family outing, but also as a means of catharsis for the elementary school-aged children in her family.

“I think it’s important that they know the different agencies we have,” Lara said. “With everything that’s been going on, they hear about the gunshots and they know. It’s scary for them. It’s important for them to know they’re safe by seeing this police presence.”

City of Odessa Director of Public Safety Communications Michele Racca said the afternoon of Aug. 31 turned the community upside down and is a tragedy that will forever be in Odessans’ hearts. A gunman shot and killed seven people and injured 25 others during a wild shooting spree that day that ended with the gunman being shot and killed by law enforcement near Cinergy Theater.

“As a team all of us are working hard to keep this community safe,” she said. “We are a strong community that binds together, and we can make it through the toughest of times. We are here for you. We definitely are West Texas strong; we are Odessa strong and soon in our hearts and minds we can say we are Odessa safe.”

Odessa Fire Rescue Chief John Alvarez said National Night Out gives residents a true sense of what community is all about and an opportunity to interact with agencies in a positive environment.

“In order for us to build a safer and stronger community, we’ve got to know our neighbors and we’ve got to know our surroundings,” Alvarez said.

A young girl from the audience received a special acknowledgment from Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke.

Randi Spenser was called to the stage and awarded with a junior K-9 officer badge for her contributions to OPD’s K-9 unit. She has raised about $25,000 for the unit in the last two years by selling hot chocolate in her neighborhood during the holidays.

Gerke highlighted her generosity as an example of how “we’re all better and stronger when we work together.”

Odessa, TX

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