Law enforcement officers can enter the unknown on every call. From routine traffic stops and traffic collisions to moments when lives are on the line—including their own—each day can bring something different.
On September 19, 2018, University Police Department Officer Alex Scott responded to a call that he and business administration major Leo Pimentel will never forget.
A 15-year veteran of UPD’s police force, Scott responded to Whitney Hall, the University’s largest residence hall, late at night to check on a student who was found unconscious in a restroom. Upon entering, Scott found Pimentel slumped over, extremely pale, and lips blue.
“The minute I got there, I could just tell it was a medical,” Scott said, noting that he feared the worst.
He instinctively instructed the other students to leave the area, then dropped to the floor to search for signs of life in Pimentel. After looking for a pulse, administering a sternal rub, and checking the young man’s pupils, Scott struggled to find signs of life. He ordered his partner to retrieve a respirator while he began doing compressions.
Chico Fire Department quickly arrived with a respirator, and paramedics rotated in shortly after with a defibrillator. Scott left the restroom and began taking his report, interviewing the visibly shaken students and the floor’s resident advisor.
“We were treating this as a death,” Scott said, recalling the sadness he felt. “You know, that sticks with you.”
Meanwhile, paramedics transported Pimentel to Enloe Medical Center, where he soon registered a faint heartbeat but fell into a coma. Over the ensuing days, Scott’s thoughts of Pimental weighed heavily on his mind and he called the hospital regularly to check on him, hoping his condition would turn around. Finally, he emerged from his coma and began breathing on his own, eventually making a full recovery.
The cause of his cardiac arrest was ultimately determined to be an underlying and previously undiagnosed heart condition. Enloe staff reported that the chest compressions Scott performed were instrumental in saving Pimentel’s life.
This week, the California State University honored Scott by commending him with a Life Saving Medal—one of the highest honors awarded by the 23-campus CSU system. The Board of Trustees created the award in 2018 to honor university police officers who “go above and beyond the course of normal duties and result in honor being brought to themselves, their campus, and the CSU.”
UPD Chief John Reid said Scott’s actions that day were heroic and commendable—reflecting the spirit, willingness, and ability that reside within all of his employees.
“Each police officer, dispatcher, and community service specialist is committed to the safety and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff, and they stand constantly ready to respond and assist, just as Officer Scott did superbly that day,” Reid said.
Hesitant to accept any praise, Scott explains his role a bit more humbly.
“I just did my job,” he said. “I just did what I’ve been taught to do over the years.”
Growing up in nearby Oroville as one of five children, Scott said becoming a police officer was not on his radar. While he was employed by a building materials company after high school, he went on a ridealong with a friend’s older brother, a California Highway Patrol officer, but the idea of a career in law enforcement did not initially resonate with him.
“I thought, ‘Do I really want to do this? Do I really want to do law enforcement for 30 years?’” he said. “I went on a few more ridealongs, and the more I talked to him, I thought, ‘This is actually pretty cool.’”
Scott applied for and was accepted to the Butte College Law Enforcement Academy—where he admits he was a little starstruck.
“Looking at all those guys, the uniforms, hanging out with them, that felt good,” Scott said. “But I was just kind of intimidated.”
Married and with a small child at home, his 26 weeks in the academy were challenging. But through the strength, support, and encouragement of his wife, he buckled down, and at the age of 26, Scott began his law enforcement career with the Butte County Sheriff’s Office, where he found his true calling.
As he closed in on 10 years with BCSO, he began considering a move to Chico State’s UPD, where a former BCSO colleague, then-UPD Chief Eric Reichel, was actively recruiting him to the University because he thought the college law enforcement environment would be a smart move and good fit for Scott. So, in 2005, he made the move to Chico State, where he’s been ever since.
For Scott, receiving the CSU Life Saving Medal is merely proof that he’s doing his job well.
“This is what I was called to do,” Scott said.
Since his cardiac arrest, Pimentel has continued taking classes at Chico State—although he cut way back the semester of his incident. Today, the sophomore said one of the few lingering effects from that night is his memory—which is a bit slower and fuzzy—but he’s determined to earn his degree.
“It’s nothing I can’t deal with for the rest of my life,” he said. “It’s better than being dead.”
Last September, Scott had the opportunity to meet Pimentel and his mother—an emotional meeting that was incredibly meaningful for everyone.
“I knew what he did for me, so it was a pretty emotional moment,” Pimentel said. “If Officer Scott and his partner hadn’t gotten there in those first five minutes, I was gone. There’s no way I would’ve survived. It means the world to me.”
Meanwhile, Scott remains grounded in the knowledge that he is serving his purpose and helping the Wildcat community as a law enforcement officer.
“I was just a small part of helping Leo,” Scott said. “This is just part of my job.”