SANTA ANA ( — Tackling a one-handed shooting drill for Santa Ana police trainee Zach Esquerra is no problem. But speaking without stuttering is another matter.

The former minor league baseball player spent his life avoiding speaking before large crowds and thought stuttering would crush his dream of becoming a police officer, until recently.

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“I knew that an officer is what I wanted to be. I began to put myself out there and try to attack and more engage in those situations rather than running from it,” Esquerra said.

When Esquerra joined the police academy earlier this year, he met Orange County Sheriff’s Sgt. Charlie Walters, who is a stutterer too.

Walters taught Esquerra to overcome his fears.

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“Stuttering isn’t against the law. It’s who you are. Nobody can say you can’t do a job. No body can say just because of that, you can’t perform at the academy, let alone a career in law enforcement,” Walters said.

From the start, Santa Ana police liked what they saw in the 25-year-old recruit. But they needed to be sure that when put under stress, Esquerra could perform to protect not only the public, but to protect himself.

In 13 days, the cadet will hit the streets and start his patrol training with the support of the entire Santa Ana Police Department and Walters, who is now his role model.


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