BOISE, Idaho — Gratitude and recognition were on full display at City Hall West on Wednesday, as more than 100 people, including Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, honored those who protect and serve.
Among those honored was Boise Police Cpl. Brek Orton, who saved 74-year-old Gary Vinsonhaler from what could have been a deadly stabbing in November 2018.
"When Cpl. Orton arrived the suspect was standing over our victim, his head and upper body was completely covered in blood,” Boise Police Chief William Bones said.
Vinsonhaler presented Cpl. Orton with the Silver Star Award.
“I wouldn’t be here today to present this award if it hadn’t been for his action so I thank you very much and I don’t know how you thank somebody for saving your life, but that's what he did for me,” Vinsonhaler said.
“Seeing Mr. Vinsonhaler here was pretty emotional so, that in itself was recognition enough,” Orton said.
Wednesday marked the first time that KTVB heard from the victim himself about the stabbing.
“I was out in the yard raking my leaves and this fellow came down the side walk and he looked like he was lost or something and so I tried to help him,” Vinsonhaler said.
He said he eventually realized that something wasn't quite right about the man who approached him and went to call police.
“While I was in the house I heard a noise, I looked down the hallway and he was in the house,” Vinsonhaler said. “I thought I got to get out of the house somehow and so I just walked past him as quick as I could and at some point he pulled out this big, long knife and started cutting on this side of my face here.”
Vinsonhaler tried to fight back.
“I finally had to grab the blade with my left hand and so it was cut up pretty bad and it doesn't work too good,” Vinsonhaler said.
“When the initial call came out, it was so surreal to where it almost sounded like it was made up,” Orton said. “One of the updates was that he was cutting his throat, the other update was he was trying to saw off his head in the driveway.”
Orton arrived a short time later.
“As I jumped out of my car, I immediately started to give him commands at that point I thought it was going to be a shoot scenario and thankfully I was able to maneuver myself between Mr. Vinsonhauler and him,” Orton said.
He then repeatedly tased the suspect, Ruben Diaz. Orton says, because Diaz was wearing a thick jacket at the time, he would repeatedly get back up. Eventually other officers arrived and were able to subdue the suspect.
That November day is now forever etched in both men's memory.
“It's one of those calls that will always stick with me that's for sure,” Orton said. “I try to portray myself as a big tough guy, but when you actually see the person whose life you impacted, it's pretty tough to hold back the tears.”
Vinsonhaler said he owes Orton his life.
“If he hadn’t arrived when he did, I probably wouldn't be here."
This is Cpl. Orton’s fifth Silver Star Award.