Press Release

​Jaime Coffee, Director of Communications
Office of Media Relations
601 North 7th Street, Sacramento, CA 95811


CHP Media Relations: (916) 843-3310



SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Six California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers were presented with a prestigious Gold Medal of Valor during a ceremony today at the CHP Academy in West Sacramento. The Special Act Award, given on behalf of Governor Gavin Newsom, is the highest honor the state can bestow upon its employees who have risked their lives to save others or protect state property.


WHAT CHP COMMISSIONER SEAN DURYEE SAID: “I am incredibly proud of these courageous officers who, even in the face of great danger, honored their sworn oath by putting their own lives at risk to protect others. Their unwavering commitment and courageous actions exemplify the true spirit of law enforcement.”


For their noble actions, each of the following CHP officers received a Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor Award:


  • On May 2, 2023, Officer Jose Benitez rescued an unconscious, pregnant woman from her submerged vehicle in a canal outside of Corcoran (Kings County). Recognizing the life-threatening situation, Officer Benitez used a crowbar to smash a window, entered the water, and pulled the woman to safety despite the imminent danger of the vehicle sinking further.


  • On Nov. 30, 2022, Officer Christian Lara rescued a driver trapped in a burning vehicle that had crashed on Interstate 8 in San Diego County. With the vehicle partially hanging over an overpass and engulfed in flames, Officer Lara broke a window and pulled the injured driver to safety, risking his own life in the process.


  • On Aug. 27, 2020, Officers Chad Smith and Jonathan Wion responded to a private airplane crash near Benton Airpark in Redding. They navigated a steep, brush-filled ravine to reach the burning wreckage, rescuing two victims from the flames. Despite a secondary explosion, they managed to move the victims to safety and provided crucial first aid until medical teams arrived.


  • On June 6, 2020, Officers Michael Estey and Luis Rodriguez responded to an ambush in Santa Cruz County where deputies were under fire from a domestic terrorist. Despite their patrol vehicle being hit by gunfire, they engaged the shooter, wounding him and preventing further casualties. Their quick actions and bravery saved lives that day.


The State of California takes great pride in presenting the Gold Medal of Valor to these brave CHP officers for their extraordinary acts of heroism, which extend far above and beyond the normal call of duty.


The mission of the CHP is to provide the highest level of Safety, Service, and Security.




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