Medal of Valor

California Highway Patrol Medal of Valor

Bravery, courage and gallantry - these qualities enable a person to remain steadfast in the face of danger or adversity. These characteristics typify this year's Highway Patrol recipients of the Governor's Medal of Valor awards. The highest honor bestowed upon a state employee, the Medal of Valor puts these men and women in a class by themselves.

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They have gone above and beyond the normal call of duty with no regard for their own personal safety to perform feats of courage, and that is how heroism is defined. They have put their own lives on the line in order to save, or help save, another life. No one could ask more of them, and no award ceremony, however distinguished, could ever be thanks enough.

 

2010 Medal of Valor Honorees

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Officer Salvador Gutierrez

Officer Salvador Gutierrez

On September 11, 2009, at approximately 3:39 a.m., California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officer Salvador Gutierrez, #13087, performed an act of heroism at risk to his personal safety in an attempt to save the life of another. San Diego County Communications Center broadcast the call of a vehicle overturned southbound on Interstate 5 north of the Santa Margarita River bed. Officer Gutierrez and his partner officer, Officer P. Holt, #11987, responded to the location.

As Officers Gutierrez and Holt arrived at the collision scene, they observed a Lincoln Navigator and Dodge Ram pickup with major collision damage. Officer Gutierrez observed the driver of the Lincoln struggling to exit his vehicle through the driver's side window. Officer Gutierrez immediately ran to assist the driver as Officer Holt went to check the status of the occupants of the Dodge Ram pickup.

As Officer Gutierrez reached the Lincoln, it appeared as if the driver's legs were trapped within the vehicle. Just then, the driver's compartment area of the Lincoln suddenly erupted into flames, engulfing the driver's lower extremities. Without regard for his own personal safety, Officer Gutierrez reached in through the driver side window, grabbed the driver, and began to pull in an attempt to free him from the vehicle and the rapidly expanding flames.

After a short struggle to free the driver, Officer Gutierrez was able to pull him from within the vehicle while his legs were on fire. Officer Gutierrez pulled him to a position of safety away from the now totally engulfed vehicle. Officer Gutierrez then laid the driver on the ground and extinguished the flames from his legs. The driver was transported by Air Ambulance to a nearby medical center and treated for third degree burns to his lower extremities, a broken jaw, and inhalation burns.

The State of California takes great pride in presenting to California Highway Patrol Officer Sal Gutierrez, this Citation and Medal of Valor, for an extraordinary act of heroism extending above and beyond the normal call of duty or service.

 

Officer Rodney Richards
Officer Jason Smith

Officer Rodney Richards & Officer Jason Smith

On September 24, 2009, California Highway Patrol Officers Rodney Richards, I.D. 15588, and Jason Smith, I.D. 16191, performed an extraordinary act of heroism at great risk to their personal safety when they assisted in the extrication of an injured and burning driver of a big rig truck involved in a collision.

Officer Richards arrived at approximately 2:30 p.m. and contacted the driver who told him he was trapped. Officer Richards attempted to pull the cab door open but it would not move. He could see what appeared to be fuel coming from the big rig and flames coming from underneath the tractor. He immediately retrieved a fire extinguisher from his patrol vehicle and attempted to put the flames out. The driver began screaming that his legs were on fire and Officer Richards attempted to put those flames out as well. At approximately 2:32 p.m., Officer Jason Smith arrived and provided a second fire extinguisher to Officer Richards. By keeping the flames back from the leaking fuel and simultaneously spraying the driver's legs, Officer Richards provided the opportunity for Officer Smith, with the assistance of several citizens, to continue their extrication efforts.

With the flames nearly out of control, Officer Smith, with the assistance of a citizen and using their bare hands, tried one last time to open the door. With extraordinary effort, the door came free. Officers Smith and Richards were able to reach the driver, cut the seatbelt that was restraining him, and physically removed him just before the cab was engulfed in flames. Officer Smith then used his bare hands to extinguish the flames from the driver's legs. Both officers were then able to get the driver to a place of safety were emergency medical personnel tended to him.

Shortly after stabilizing the scene, both Officers Richards and Smith began feeling nauseated and short of breath. Both were transported to an area hospital where they were treated for severe smoke inhalation. In addition, Officer Smith was treated for burns to his hands he received while extinguishing the flames from the driver's legs

The State of California takes great pride in presenting to California Highway Patrol Officers Rodney Richards and Jason Smith, this citation and Medal of Valor, for an extraordinary act of heroism extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty or service.

 

Officer Sean Haller
Officer Rafael Rivera

Officer Sean Haller & Officer Rafael Rivera

On February 25, 2010, California Highway Patrol Officers Sean Haller, I.D. 17239, and Rafael Rivera, I.D. 17475, performed an extraordinary act of heroism at great risk to their personal safety when they extricated a fallen officer from the line of fire. At approximately 9:45 a.m., the Fresno County Sheriff's office attempted to serve a search warrant in the town if Minkler. As the deputies attempted to breach the door of the residence, they came under intense gunfire from within the residence, fatally wounding one of the deputies. They immediately broadcast "shots fired" over the radio.

As Officer Haller was arriving on-scene, he could hear the sounds of gunfire. He located the officers who were engaged with the subject and stopped his patrol vehicle. He exited and immediately engaged the suspect. Officer Rivera arrived and took up a position of cover next to Officer Haller. Both engaged the suspect in gunfire for an unknown amount of time when someone gave a "cease-fire" command. This was followed by approximately 30 minutes of no shooting.

Without notice, the suspect again began firing from an unseen location within the residence. Fearing for their safety and the safety of the officers on-scene, both officers returned fire towards the mobile home. During this exchange, Officer Rivera heard someone yell "officer down." Without regard for his safety, he broke cover and exposed himself to great bodily injury, and immediately moved towards the downed officer. Officer Rivera recognized the officer as Reedley Police Officer Javier Bejar and began to remove him from harm's way. Officer Haller observed the suspect fire directly towards Officer Rivera. He broke cover and engaged the suspect in gunfire in an attempt to provide covering fire for the extrication effort. In doing so, Officer Haller exposed himself to great bodily harm. Although Officer Bejar did not survive, Officers Haller and Rivera exhibited great personal courage while putting themselves in great danger to help save the life of another.

The State of California takes great pride in presenting California Highway Patrol Officers Sean Haller and Rafael Rivera, this citation and Medal of Valor, for an extraordinary act of heroism extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty or service.

 

Officer Shawn Burkhead

Officer Shawn Burkhead

On May 6, 2010, at approximately 1:59 p.m., California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officer Shawn Burkhead, #14675, performed an act of heroism at risk to his personal safety in an attempt to save the life of another. He monitored a radio broadcast of a vehicle on fire traveling eastbound on State Route 118 near Rocky Peak Road. CHP Officer Burkhead eventually observed this same vehicle stopped on the right shoulder with flames and smoke billowing from under the engine compartment. Officer Burkhead stopped his patrol vehicle at a safe distance and approached the burning vehicle on foot. He was surprised to find the driver still seated in the driver's seat as the flames around him intensified.

Without regard for his own safety and despite the flames surrounding the vehicle, Officer Burkhead approached closer to the burning vehicle. He made contact with the driver and directed him to exit the vehicle. After several attempts to verbally get him out of the vehicle, Officer Burkhead made the decision to physically remove him. As Officer Burkhead opened the driver's door, the right front tire exploded and flames began shooting out from the dashboard vents. The driver was conscious but unresponsive to Officer Burkhead's commands. Officer Burkhead suspected the driver's level of consciousness was severely diminished due to intoxication. He then physically extricated the six-foot, four-inch tall, 235 pound, resistive driver from his burning vehicle as the flames entered the vehicle interior and grew out of control. The driver resisted removal in an attempt to retrieve his wallet.

During the rescue, Officer Burkhead sustained minor injuries as the flames singed the hair on his left arm. Officer Burkhead also suffered from smoke inhalation and extreme heat exposure. The driver was unharmed and was subsequently arrested and booked at the Ventura County main jail for suspicion of driving under the influence. This vehicle fire also started a small brush fire to the adjacent hillside which was quickly contained by Los Angeles County and Ventura County Fire Department personnel. Officer Burkhead's actions during this rescue were responsible for saving the life of another.

The State of California takes great pride in presenting to California Highway Patrol Officer Shawn T. Burkhead, this Citation and Medal of Valor, for an extraordinary act of heroism extending above and beyond the normal call of duty or service.

 

 

2009 Medal of Valor Honorees...