PASADENA ( — When dinnertime rolled around on a recent Sunday, Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies Arnulfo Aguirre and his partner Vladimir Vasquez decided to go to Stonefire Grill in Pasadena. But it wasn’t the BBQ that soon got them on their feet.

“I heard somebody gasping, making a noise as if they were in distress,” Aguirre recalled.

Not far from where they sat, Jonathan Staffeldt was having dinner with his family when a bite of his chicken and cauliflower got lodged in his throat.

“I’m thinking this could be it for me,” Staffeldt remembered. “I realized I couldn’t breathe at all. So, I started doing one of these (gasping for air sound). Couldn’t breathe at all, no air.”

“He had his hands up, his face was almost turning pale. Before I knew it, I was right behind him,” Aguirre said he immediately started the Heimlich Maneuver. “I ended up putting my hands together and pushing in towards the esophagus as hard as I was able to,” he added.

After about 10 strong thrusts, Pasadena police officer John Calderon, who happened to be eating at another table, took over. With a few more pumps, whatever was stuck went down Jonathan’s throat.

“They came in and stepped in and helped out. So, that was a great team effort,” Vasquez said.

“Right after they saved my life, I gave them both a big hug,” Staffeldt said. “There’s no other way to describe it. They’re heroes.”

But the deputies do not see themselves as heroes and said acts like this is why they wear the uniform.

“This is what I signed up for, making a difference in people’s lives,” Aguirre said.

“It’s a great day when you’ve got a police officer within shouting distance to help you out. You can’t really express enough gratitude,” Staffeldt added.


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