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New captain, officers sworn in today

Post Date:12/19/2019


Merced Police Chief Chris Goodwin swore in a captain and five new officers during ceremonies Thursday.

Lt. Jay Struble was sworn in as captain. He replaces Capt. Bimley West who retired from the Department Dec. 13.

Sworn in as officers were Sarah Abanathie, Steven Floratos, Brian Laguna, Juan Navas and John Sauceda.

Struble, 49, joined the Merced force in February 1994 and worked his way up the ranks from officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served on the SWAT Team from 1998 and currently serves as the Tactical Commander. He has been assigned to patrol, the gang violence suppression unit, investigations, traffic, administration and the mounted patrol unit.

Struble has a bachelor’s degree from Union University. He is certified in arson/explosive investigation, homicide investigation, and testified in court as a gang and narcotics expert.

Struble was raised in the Sacramento area. He and his wife Stephanie have three children.

Police work seems to come naturally for Abanathie. The 33-year-old’s father, Bruce, is a retired police officer.

Originally from Turlock, she holds an associates degree and worked at Mercy Hospital in Merced as a respiratory therapist. She also was a Level 2 CrossFit Trainer in Merced and taught basic life support/CPR.

In her free time, Abanathie enjoys CrossFit, and spending time with her three dogs, two cats and fiancé, Aaron Rosenberg.

Floratos, 27, is from Fresno.  He attended college before spending five years in the Army. He and his wife, Sandra, have a daughter, Reagan.

In his spare, time he enjoys softball and spending time with his family.

Laguna, 26, is from Merced. He served in the Air Force for five years, earning the Air Force Achievement Medal and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal. He attended Merced College and Fresno Community College and earned his EMT certification. He worked for Riggs Ambulance before attending the police academy.

He enjoys swimming, working out, traveling, fishing, camping and watching sports, especially the Cowboys. He has one son, Wesson.

Navas, 24, is from Turlock, and served as a military policeman in the Army Reserves. He worked in the family taxidermy business before working in loss prevention for Kohls.

In his spare, time he enjoys fishing, shooting, paintballing, watching movies and vacationing with his family.

Sauceda, 38, is from Tulare. He attended College of the Sequoias and Western Governors College where he majored in social sciences. He worked in customer service, sales and education before entering the police academy. He coached high school baseball in Tulare.

His outside activities include coaching girls softball, running and muay thai. He and his wife, Paula, have two daughters.

The Department has now filled 93 of the 98 positions in its budget for police officers.


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