Press Release

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


​CHP Office of Media Relations: (916) 843-3310



SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Today, 10 California Highway Patrol (CHP) uniformed employees were presented with the highest honor the state can bestow upon an employee for their role in valiantly attempting to save the life of a member of the public.


For their selfless actions, each of the CHP employees received the Governor’s State Employee Gold Medal of Valor Award, which is bestowed upon those employees who perform an extraordinary act of heroism, above and beyond the normal call of duty and at great risk to their own life in an effort to save a community member.


“CHP officers swear an oath to lay down their life rather than swerve from the path of duty.  Each day, CHP officers know they may be faced with that possibility,’’ said CHP Commissioner Amanda Ray.  “In each of these instances, brave women and men placed their own lives in jeopardy so they could save someone who needed their help.  There is no higher calling, and for that, I am immensely proud of them.”


CHP Officer Verna Mondell (last name Meenan at the time of the incident) was working a commercial vehicle strike detail at the Antelope Platform Scale Facility on Interstate 80 eastbound in Citrus Heights in the evening of March 26, 2020, when she heard a crash.  She soon discovered a pickup truck had crashed into a tractor-trailer combination 500 feet from the facility.  A fire ignited in the pickup truck.  Since the door to the pickup truck could not be opened, Officer Mondell attempted to pull the unconscious driver through the passenger window, but the driver’s legs were trapped.

Without any regard for her own safety, Officer Mondell leaned completely into the burning vehicle, grabbed the passenger’s waistband and right shoulder, pulled him out of the vehicle, and moved him to safety.  


Lieutenant Michael Berry, who was assigned to the Redding Area office at the time of the incident, Sergeant Jeff Edgerton, and Officers Jeff Hatcher, Erik Mallory, Eric Pohrman, Steve Weyand, and Jonathan Wion of the CHP Northern Division Air Operations Unit, were recognized for their actions responding to a private plane crash early in the morning at Benton Airpark in Redding on August 27, 2020.

Sergeant Edgerton saw the plane attempting to take off and alerted the other members of the team that the plane was about to crash.  The team members heard and then witnessed a large explosion when the plane crashed.  Without hesitation, the officers responded to the downed plane, arriving at the burning wreckage down a steep embankment within approximately 30 seconds of the crash.  They worked together as a team to fight the flames with fire extinguishers amid the intense heat and explosion of an onboard oxygen tank.  They were able to move two passengers to safety.  Tragically, two occupants of the plane were trapped in the wreckage and perished.  Despite the tremendous efforts of the CHP personnel, the two victims who were rescued succumbed to their injuries at the hospital several weeks later.


Sergeant Patrick Bourassa, who was an officer at the time of the incident, was in a pursuit of a high-speed driver in the Oceanside area on Interstate 5 on February 20, 2021.  A successful spike strip deployment flattened two of the vehicle’s tires, but the driver failed to slow down and continued to evade officers at speeds of up to 100 mph.  The driver ultimately lost control of the vehicle, drove off the roadway, and overturned multiple times, stopping 150 feet down a steep embankment.


Responding officers climbed down the embankment to find the car on its right side and on fire. The driver was trapped and screaming for help.  After unsuccessfully trying to break the windshield, Sergeant Bourassa climbed onto the left side of the burning vehicle, and with the help of another officer, was able to pull open the driver’s side door and cut away the side air bag.


The officer was able to reach inside the burning vehicle, grab the driver, pull him out of the vehicle, and then provide first aid, saving his life.  


In another act of extraordinary courage, two officers assigned to the CHP’s Monterey Area office pulled three people from a vehicle that burst into flames following a crash.  The crash occurred before dawn on June 26, 2020, after the officers attempted to stop a car traveling more than 100 miles per hour.  A pursuit ensued and the suspect vehicle lost control, crashed into a tree, rolled over, and immediately caught fire. With the occupants yelling for help, Officer Wesley Barnes and Officer John Gallemore broke the driver side window and pulled two teenagers to safety.


After confirming a third passenger was inside the vehicle, the officers re-entered the smoke-       filled vehicle headfirst where they found an   unconscious passenger with their legs pinned.


Although nearly overwhelmed by smoke, the officers were able to extract the passenger from the vehicle before flames consumed the passenger compartment.  All occupants survived as a result of the officers’ quick and heroic actions.


“Each of the officers honored this year displayed incredible courage in the face of personal danger,” said Commissioner Ray. “Their actions exemplify selfless service and a commitment to helping others.” 

A video of the award ceremony with additional details on each act of heroism is available at the following link:


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




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