CDCR Sgt. Gilbert Cortez, K-9 Mattie remembered with Interstate 15 sign
By Dana Simas, CDCR Public Information Officer II
Friends, family, and dozens of California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) staff gathered at the Nellie Weaver Hall in Norco recently to dedicate a highway memorial sign honoring CDCR Correctional Sgt. Gilbert Cortez and his K-9 search dog, Mattie. The pair were killed in an on-duty car accident in March 2013.
State Senator Richard Roth authored the Senate Concurrent Resolution designating the portion of Interstate 15 from Second Street in Norco to Limonite Avenue in Eastvale as the “Sergeant Gilbert Cortez and K-9 Mattie Memorial Highway.”
The California Department of Transportation, District 8, will install two signs this week, one northbound near the 91 interchange, and the other near Limonite Avenue. The dedication ceremony was held Jan. 9.
At the time of his death, Gilbert Cortez was serving as a Correctional Officer after a voluntary demotion from Sergeant to complete the transfer process to California Rehabilitation Center (CRC) in Norco to be near his family.
Officer Cortez’s wife, Nehemah, addressed the gathering and expressed her gratitude for all of the support she and their two children have received. The three have been able to attend meetings and retreats with other law enforcement families who have lost a loved one in the line of duty.
“By attending these meetings and retreats it has helped the healing process. We were able to meet people who have walked in our shoes and developed lifelong friendships,” she said.
Amy Miller, CDCR Associate Director for Reception Centers in the Division of Adult Institutions, also spoke at the ceremony, recognizing the elite work CDCR K-9 teams do—not just for CDCR, but for law enforcement agencies statewide.
“(Cortez) and his K-9 partner Mattie made a formidable team. They were dedicated and loyal to the department they served,” Miller said.
Officer Miguel Vega, a coworker and close friend of Cortez, brought up the CRC Investigative Services Unit (ISU) team where Cortez and Mattie worked. He spoke about the void left on the team by the pair’s death.
On March 25, 2013, Officer Cortez was the lead car in a CDCR convoy traveling to La Cima Conservation Camp in Julian to conduct contraband searches. While on State Route 79 near Warner Springs, Officer Cortez lost control of his vehicle and veered off the side of the road. Mattie was pronounced dead at the scene while Officer Cortez later succumbed to his injuries.
Officer Cortez was a 23-year veteran of CDCR, joining the ranks on Sept. 17, 1990. Cortez was first assigned to the California Institution for Men in Chino and then transferred to Calipatria State Prison on October 29, 1992, where he joined the ISU and was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.
Cortez returned to his hometown of Norco by transferring to CRC on Oct. 29, 2001, and once again joined the ISU.
In 2011, Cortez joined the Southern Regional K-9 Unit with his beloved partner, K-9 Mattie, and served as an elite and respected team supporting many law enforcement operations throughout the state.
Read the original story about the crash at http://www.insidecdcr.ca.gov/2013/03/cdcr-officer-and-k-9-killed-in-car-crash/