Born: June 15, 1966 Died: May 24, 2016
Occupation: Watsonville police officer since 1996. Retired in 2014 with five exceptional duty medals, including the Combat Cross.
Watsonville lost one of the Police Department’s most highly decorated officers Tuesday when veteran officer Skip Prigge died after being taken off life support in a Fremont hospital. He suffered from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
During his 18 years with the department, Prigge, 49, earned five exceptional duty medals for his efforts in suppressing graffiti, narcotics and gangs. He was considered an expert by the court in those areas, as well as in arson and firearms.
Prigge opted for early retirement from the Watsonville Police Department in 2014. He was officially diagnosed with ALS in November 2013, though he was sick and showing symptoms more than a year before that.
By Prigge’s own account, he served approximately 300 search warrants over the course of his career, mostly for narcotics.
In 2002, he was awarded a Combat Cross medal for helping to stop an armed suspect who had been on a two-day, two-county crime spree involving multiple kidnappings, home invasion robberies, carjackings and shootings. He also earned a life-saving medal during the incident after performing first aid on the suspect, who had been injured in an exchange of gunfire with police.
“Without hesitation, Skip returned fire, bringing the shooting to an end, but then switched modes and immediately rendered first aid to the suspect, likely saving his life,” said former Watsonville Police Chief Manny Solano. “That’s just the kind of guy Skip was.”
His dedication to police work was legendary, according to colleagues such as officer Radovan “Mish” Radich.
In 2008, for example, Prigge was assigned to investigate a surge in graffiti, according to Radich. Working mainly alone and using social media, Prigge identified nearly three dozen suspects and obtained warrants to search their homes. The result was 35 arrests.
Prigge also worked patrol with K-9 partner Sara during his tenure, and undercover with the Santa Cruz County Narcotics Enforcement Team.
A native of Modesto, Prigge enlisted in the Marine Corps after graduating from Riverbank High School in 1
“I always admired Skip for his positive attitude and acceptance of others,” Solano 983, serving as a military police officer for five years. He most recently lived in Lodi and was an avid surfer and fisherman, especially with his brother Stefan.
said. “It didn’t matter if you were a career criminal, a drug user or a citizen in need of help, Skip treated everyone fairly.”
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that attacks nerve cells and pathways to the brain and spinal cord. As many as 30,000 Americans suffer from the disease, which claims the lives of 80 percent of its victims within five years. There is no cure.
Prigge’s father died from ALS in May 2009 at age 71, his brother Stefan Worth of Nipomo said.
Skip is survived by his daughter, Kiara, mother, Phyllis Rabusin, brothers, Stefan Worth and Seth Severson, sister, Kim Lenore Prigge and dear friend Dustti Zuniga, as well as his extended family of loving aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Memorial services will be held at 10:30am, Thursday, June 9, 2016 at First Baptist Church Chapel, 267 N. Mills Ave in Lodi.