Medal of Valor

California Highway Patrol Medal of Valor

2009 Medal of Valor Honorees

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Officer Jackie Rice
Officer William Strom
Officer Joseph Zagorski

Officers Jackie Rice, William Strom & Joseph Zagorski

On March 28, 2009, California Highway Patrol Officers Jackie Rice, William Strom and Joseph Zagorski, saved a man’s life by stopping an in-progress suicide. Officers Strom and Zagorski were the first to arrive on scene at the Cook Street overpass of the westbound lanes of Interstate 10 in Riverside County, California. They found a distraught male who was seated on the rail of the overpass. They began speaking with the man and distracting him. Officer Rice arrived and quietly approached the man from the opposite side of Officers Strom and Zagorski. He waited for the right moment and when the opportunity presented itself, grabbed the man around his upper body. The man violently resisted in an attempt to get away from Officer Rice, nearly causing both of them to fall onto the westbound lanes of I-10. Officers Strom and Zagorski ran to assist Officer Rice with the struggling man. Officer Zagorski quickly assessed that they needed more leverage to pull the man to safety and wrapped his left leg around the right front tire of the man’s vehicle and extended his reach to attempt to pull the two officers and the struggling man towards safety. After a brief struggle, which came precariously close to all parties falling onto the freeway lanes below, all three officers and the suicidal man were pulled and fell backwards onto the safety of the overpass area. The man was taken into custody and turned over to Riverside County Sheriff deputies.

The actions of Officers Rice, Strom and Zagorski prevented major injuries or death to the distraught man.

 

Officer Gregory Houser, Jr.

Officer Gregory Houser Jr. On February 27, 2009, California Highway Patrol Officer Gregory Houser arrived on the scene of a suicide attempt. He found a distraught man clinging to the Martin Luther King Jr. Way overpass above the traffic on State Route-99 in the City of Merced. Without hesitation or fear for his own safety, Officer Houser grabbed the man. Officer Houser maintained his grasp on the man’s arms until Merced County Sheriff Mark Pazin arrived on scene. Sheriff Pazin held on to the subject’s left arm to assist in keeping the distressed man from falling onto the street below. Both Officer Houser and Sheriff Pazin attempted to pull the man back up onto the freeway overpass, but were unsuccessful. After maintaining their grip for some time, Officer Houser and Sheriff Pazin were no longer able to maintain their grip and lost hold of the man. The man fell approximately 10 feet into the bed of a dump truck which had been positioned underneath him in case of a possible fall. Merced Fire Department and ambulance personnel were on-scene and immediately transported the man to Doctors Hospital in Modesto.

The actions of Officer Houser, without regard for his own safety, prevented major injuries or death to the distraught man.

 

Officer Scott Hennessy

Officer Scott Hennessy At approximately 3:00 a.m. on December 11, 2008, California Highway Patrol Officer Scott Hennessy and his partner, Officer Karl Steinkraus, responded to a call of a vehicle collision on southbound I-280 north of Farmhill Road in San Mateo County. Upon arrival, they found a car blocking the number one lane with major collision damage, and an overturned SUV on fire in the number three lane. While Officer Steinkraus proceeded to help the two victims in the car, Officer Hennessy attempted to look into the burning SUV, but was having difficulty seeing in due to the intense flames engulfing the SUV. Officer Hennessy quickly moved to the rear of the SUV where he found a man inside who was yelling and frantically kicking at the windows. The man could not kick out the back windows of the vehicle to escape and the flames were intensifying with each passing moment. Despite the great intensity of the fire and heat, and the fact that the vehicle was nearly engulfed by the flames, Officer Hennessy got close enough to the vehicle, pulled his baton and broke out the rear window of the SUV. He then grabbed the man’s legs and pulled him out of the SUV to safety.

The quick action of Officer Hennessy, without regard for his own safety, prevented the death or serious injury to the man.

 

Officer Roger Smith

Officer Roger Smith On the morning of December 2, 2008, California Highway Patrol Officer Roger Smith was returning to his office when he heard CHP Officer David Madrigal’s attempt to contact dispatch for help. Officer Madrigal had been injured by a gunshot wound to his right leg while assisting Tehama County Sheriff’s Deputies with a domestic disturbance call. The gun shot had partially severed the officer’s femoral artery causing him to bleed profusely and he was becoming faint. Officer Smith realized Officer Madrigal’s calls could not be heard by dispatch and contacted him car-to-car. Officer Smith relayed pertinent information from Officer Madrigal to the Redding Communications Center as he also sped towards the scene to provide assistance. Officer Smith approached the scene knowing Officer Madrigal was still pinned down by live gunfire and seriously wounded. When he arrived, Officer Smith drove to a nearby location and spotted Officer Madrigal sitting on the ground leaning against his patrol vehicle, applying pressure to his leg. Officer Smith realized the urgency of the situation and quickly devised a plan. He moved his patrol car to a position adjacent to Officer Madrigal. He opened both rear doors, and with assistance from a Tehama County Sheriff’s Deputy, Officer Smith pulled Officer Madrigal into the rear seat of the patrol car and drove to a safe area and waiting medical personnel.

The actions of Officer Smith prevented further injuries or possible death to Officer Madrigal.

 

Officer Michael W. Stoney

Officer Michael W. Stoney On October 27, 2008, California Highway Patrol Officer Michael W. Stoney arrived on scene and observed two Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies, talking with a woman who was on the outside of the perimeter fence of the Via California Street freeway overpass above Interstate-5 in the City of Dana Point. A citizen was also on the outside of the fence holding on to the woman to prevent her from jumping. The suicidal woman repeatedly tried to break free from the Good Samaritan’s grasp by pushing backwards so she would fall onto the freeway below. Officer Stoney noticed the man’s expressed exhaustion, and fearing the distraught woman could possibly cause him to fall with her, Officer Stoney reacted by climbing out onto the one-foot wide ledge above the freeway traffic. Officer Stoney traversed the ledge to their location in an attempt to rescue them both. Officer Stoney was able to relieve the man by using his body to pin the woman against the fence. He also handcuffed the woman to the fence to further restrain her. A little while later Orange County Sheriff’s deputies used a pair of bolt cutters to cut a hole in the fence, and pull all three people to safety. The suicidal woman was taken into custody by the Orange County Sheriff’s deputies.

The actions of Officer Stoney, without regard for his own safety, prevented major injuries or death to the distraught woman and the Good Samaritan.

 

Sergeant John Lago
Officer Allyn Ball

Sergeant John Lago & Officer Allyn Ball

On September 12, 2008, California Highway Patrol Sergeant John Lago and Officer Allyn Ball arrived on the scene of a head-on collision involving a Metrolink Commuter Train and a Union Pacific freight train in the City of Chatsworth. The collision occurred during the height of rush hour, resulting in injuries and death to many people. In addition to the widespread wreckage from the collision, it had also caused a large fire that quickly began to engulf the freight train and Metrolink locomotives. When Officer Allyn Ball arrived, he ran toward the burning Union Pacific train and crawled under the unstable freight cars in order to access the scene and look for victims. Officer Ball located and provided first aid to a disorientated, injured victim walking near the wreckage. He and Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Alfred Guerrero then entered one of the passenger cars where they encountered thick smoke and heat from the adjacent fire. They located more injured victims, provided emergency first aid, and assisted them in evacuating the car. Officer Ball was then relieved from the freight car by firefighters. Meanwhile, Sergeant John Lago arrived on scene and ran toward a still burning Union Pacific Train. He climbed into the freight locomotive in an attempt to locate the engineer and searched through the smoky car until he was advised by a fire captain the freight car was about to explode. Once the scene was stabilized, Sergeant Lago re-entered the train with other emergency personnel. Together they formed a human chain to remove the deceased occupants located in the wreckage. At one point a young woman on a stretcher, who was alive but suffering from severe injuries, was handed to Officer Ball. With the assistance of Sergeant Lago and five other CHP officers, Officer Ball and Sergeant Lago carried the young woman on a stretcher through the wreckage to medical personnel.

The actions of Sergeant Lago and Officer Ball, without regard for their own safety, prevented further injuries or death to victims involved in this train collision and were crucial in removing the serious and fatally wounded passengers.

 

Officer Joseph Tronti

Officer Joseph Tronti On August 20, 2008, California Highway Patrol (CHP) Officer Joseph Tronti, performed an act of heroism at great risk to his personal safety when he encountered a male suspect who was discharging a firearm at a group of pedestrians.

Officer Tronti and his partner, Officer Jason Flores, conducted an enforcement stop on a light colored compact sedan which came to a stop in the parking lot of a Denny's restaurant located at 1245 University Avenue in Riverside, California. While contacting the occupants of the vehicle, the officers heard the sound of gunfire emanating near the entrance to the Denny's restaurant. They saw a male suspect discharging a handgun toward a group of pedestrians. Officer Tronti immediately charged the suspect with his pistol drawn, yelling “Stop, Police!” The suspect began to briskly walk away but as Officer Tronti began to get closer to him, he turned and pointed his pistol toward Officer Tronti. Fearing for his life, Officer Tronti began to discharge his duty weapon at the suspect. The suspect was struck by a round from Officer Tronti’s duty weapon and was taken into custody after a short foot pursuit.

The actions of Officer Tronti, without regard for his own safety, prevented possible injuries or possible death to the pedestrians on scene.

 

Officer Robert S. Rand

Officer Robert S. Rand On August 10, 2008, California Highway Patrol Officer Robert S. Rand arrived on scene of a suicide attempt in-progress in the City of Laguna Hills. He found CHP Officer Daniel LaRosa and Orange County Sheriff’s deputies holding onto the fingers of a woman who was attempting to jump off the Alicia Parkway overpass above southbound Interstate-5. Officer Rand immediately climbed over the safety fence and negotiated the three-to-four-inch wide ledge 50 – 60 feet above the traffic on I-5 to reach the woman. Orange County Sherriff’s Deputy M. Wehrli followed behind Officer Rand to provide assistance with rescue efforts. Officer Rand grabbed the woman’s right arm just as she broke free from the other officers’ grasp. The woman was now dangling above the freeway and began to flail in an attempt to break free from Officer Rand but Officer Rand held onto the woman with one hand as Deputy Wehrli held on to Officer Rand. Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy B. Gunsolley, climbed over the fence and positioned himself on the opposite side of the woman for additional support. Several minutes passed before the Orange County Fire Department arrived with a ladder truck, which successfully removed the woman and officers from the overpass ledge. The woman was then taken into custody by Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies.

The actions of Officer Rand, without regard for his own safety, prevented major injuries or death to the distraught woman.

 

Officer Matthew Casey

Officer Matthew Casey On May 13, 2008, California Highway Patrol Officer Matthew Casey, arrived at the scene of a solo vehicle-versus-tree accident involving a wrong way driver in an unincorporated area of Mendocino County. Off-duty CalFire Battalion Chief, Corey Call, was on scene and attempting to aid the victim. The female driver was still seated behind the wheel, and was alive, but unresponsive. The car began to catch fire and smoke was rapidly filling the passenger compartment. Officer Casey tried to put out the fire with his fire extinguisher but was unsuccessful. Unable to open the doors, Officer Casey used his baton to break the passenger side window, allowing him to reach inside and open the passenger door. As Officer Casey entered the car's passenger compartment, he was met with a wall of heat and smoke. As he drew his first breath inside the car, heat and smoke entered his lungs causing his trachea to automatically close making it impossible for him to breathe. Officer Casey had to consciously force himself to relax and avoid the urge to panic until his trachea reopened. Because he stayed calm and concentrated, he was able to overcome the effects of the smoke and continued his efforts to remove the driver. Despite great danger to themselves, Officer Casey and Chief Call struggled for nearly five minutes to save the woman, but the intense flames and smoke eventually forced Officer Casey and Chief Call to abandon their efforts.

In spite of Officer Casey’s heroic efforts, the woman could not be saved, but his actions clearly exemplify his courage and resourcefulness under extremely dangerous conditions.

 

Officer Joshua Hatfield

Officer Joshua Hatfield On January 9, 2008, California Highway Patrol Officer Joshua Hatfield arrived at the scene of a head-on collision involving two vehicles. He immediately assessed the situation and rushed to the aid of an unconscious pregnant woman. She was located in the right front seat of a burning pick-up truck. Officer Hatfield checked the woman’s vital signs and discovered she was alive. He attempted to open the passenger’s door, but the truck was crushed as a result of the collision and the door was bound shut. Officer Hatfield reached into the truck through the shattered passenger window and attempted to remove the woman by grasping her clothing. The woman’s clothing was burnt, causing it to tear free from his grasp. At this point, the fire was raging and the flames were dangerously close to the truck’s gas tank. Without hesitation and despite inhaling toxic fumes and exposing himself to excruciating heat, Officer Hatfield reached inside the cab of the burning truck, hooked his left arm under the woman’s arm and physically yanked her from the burning truck. Officer Hatfield carried her away from the vehicle and proceeded to extinguish the flames from her body with his own body and hands.

Unfortunately, even with the valiant efforts of Officer Hatfield, the woman and her unborn child did not survive. Officer Hatfield was transported to the Central Valley Medical Center and was treated for smoke inhalation and first degree burns to his face, hands, and arms.

 

Officer Scott W. Woodring
Officer Adam C. Yates

Officer Scott W. Woodring & Officer Adam C. Yates

On July 1, 2007, California Highway Patrol Officer Scott W. Woodring and Officer Adam C. Yates arrived at the scene of a major injury collision involving a car that ran off US-101, struck a tree, and became entangled in the freeway perimeter fencing. The car was on fire, and rapidly approaching the passenger compartment. The driver was critically injured and pinned in the wreckage. Officer Yates began using his fire extinguisher on the intensifying fire as it entered the passenger compartment, while Officer Woodring quickly began cutting the driver's seat belt straps. Officer Yates then handed the fire extinguisher to Officer Woodring to continue spraying the fire while he attempted to pull the driver from the vehicle. When Officer Yates realized the driver's legs were entangled in the dash assembly of the vehicle, he enlisted the assistance of a witness to the accident. Working together, the three men were able to pull the trapped man from the wreckage in the nick of time just as the passenger compartment became fully engulfed in flames. As a result of their heroic rescue efforts both Officer Woodring and Officer Yates received injuries from the fire and smoke.

The actions of Officers Woodring and Yates, without regard for their own safety, prevented further injuries or death to the trapped driver.

 

2010 Medal of Valor Honorees

2008 & Past Medal of Valor Honorees...