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April 29, 2005

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24Seven Cop2Cop: News By, For & About Law Enforcement In the West
with 24Seven

ChiPs meets ChiPs

California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Schwingel had a special visitor at his 37th birthday party on December 19th -none other than actor Erik Estrada.

Erik starred in the television show CHIPS, as Officer “Ponch” Poncherello from 1977-83. Steve’s supervisor Lt. Ernie Sanchez had a contact for Erik Estrada and sent out the request. Erik didn’t hesitate to come when he heard the details.

Steve’s wife Karen and Officer Ron Seldon organized the surprise party at Loma Linda University Medical Center where Steve is recovering from injuries suffered in an off-duty motorcycle accident on October 06th while riding home from work on his BMW after a shift in San Bernardino. His neck was broken in three places but he is improving slowly

Erik stayed at the party for two hours; he likes cops and likes hanging around with cops. He wanted to be a police officer in high school in New York. However, his girlfriend persuaded him to take drama classes and he went on to become an actor instead. Captain Jim Szabo presented Erik with a CHPs motorcycle helmet with his name on the back, which he quickly tried on and joked around with Steve about his days on TV. After ChiPS Erik went on to become a successful actor on a Spanish television series station and is now a real estate developer.

A funny thing happened as Erik was leaving the hospital, a fan recognized him as a celebrity but thought he was Tony Orlando; Erik laughed.

Lt. Ernie Sanchez organized Estrada's visit in hopes of making Steve’s birthday special and it was. He said the injured officer is an inspiration. As a fundraiser Ernie is selling silver wristbands for $10, inscribed with Steve Schwingel's name and the words "Motivation will get you started. Courage will keep you going."

Steve hopes that courage will enable him to make it home for his daughter's ninth birthday in March. Estrada told Schwingel he wants to be invited to that party "I want to come back to see you at least two more times.” said Erik as he left. Since then Erik phones Ernie weekly to get updates.

A trust fund has been set up and contributions can be made to the Steven Schwingel Trust Fund at the CAHP Credit Union, 402 W. Arrow Highway, San Dimas, Calif. 31773.

To purchase a Steve Schwingel wristband for $10, contact Lt. Ernie Sanchez at 909-383-4247 or by e-mail at ERSanchez@chp.ca.gov

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