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. 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.
Left to right: Officer Wesley Jones, Lieutenant John Banister, Officer Angel Arceo, Officer Jacob Moniz, Officer Adam Garcia, Officer Tyler Carlton, Officer Joseph Urrea, Sergeant Michael Brush II, Officer Steven Lewis, Officer Dane Norem, Officer Michael Burton (not pictured Officer Joseph Heightman)
On August 31, 2013, at approximately 1:30 p.m., California Highway Patrol Officer Angel Arceo responded to a traffic collision on Mariposa Road, in an unincorporated portion of San Joaquin County, California. The traffic collision involved a fuel tanker truck and trailer carrying approximately 8,400 gallons of gasoline. As a result of this traffic collision, the fuel tanker trailer ruptured and the gasoline ignited as it spilled out onto the roadway. The fuel tanker truck and trailer also exploded and a fire quickly spread across the roadway and along the shoulder; igniting grass, structures, and four power poles. The fire to the power poles caused live power lines to fall to the ground, across the driveway and front yard of 22884 Mariposa Road.
Mrs. Shirley Ann Nimocks was in her home, recovering from recent hip surgery, when the traffic collision occurred. When she heard the fiery explosion and realized a fire had spread to her front yard towards her propane tank, she hobbled out onto the driveway in fear for her life. When she reached the end of her driveway, she became trapped by fire. The fire had spread throughout her front yard to both sides of her driveway and she was not able to cross the live power lines that had fallen across the driveway due to physical limitations from her hip surgery. Mrs. Nimocks could barely stand, let alone jump over live power lines which stretched across her driveway approximately two feet off the ground.
When Officer Arceo arrived on scene and observed Mrs. Nimocks standing at the end of her driveway, he quickly ran towards her and she explained to him that she could not jump over the power lines because of her hip surgery. With the fire quickly spreading throughout her yard and towards her propane tank, Officer Arceo feared for her life and jumped over the power lines to rescue her.
Officer Arceo grabbed Mrs. Nimocks and lifted her up and over the power lines. After jumping over the power lines himself, he quickly carried Mrs. Nimocks across Mariposa Road and over a four-foot-tall ranch fence to safety. The fire continued to spread across the front yard of the property, burning the entire front of the property and the east side of her house.
Mrs. Nimocks’ life was ultimately saved due to the heroic actions of Officer Arceo. The State of California takes great pride in presenting Officer Angel Arceo this Gold Medal of Valor for his extraordinary act of heroism extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty.
On September 29, 2011, at approximately 7:39 a.m., California Highway Patrol (CHP) Lieutenant John Banister performed an extraordinary act of heroism by jumping over live arcing power lines and singlehandedly extinguishing a brush fire that threatened an unconscious driver.
Ms. Lydia Arredondo was driving a stolen vehicle and had just led CHP officers in a high speed pursuit when she lost control of her vehicle and struck a power pole. The collision with the power pole caused live power lines to fall down onto the car and onto the ground, which ignited a brush fire.
After the collision, two of the occupants riding in the stolen vehicle immediately exited and were taken into custody. Ms. Arredondo sustained a severe head wound and lay unconscious inside the vehicle. Lieutenant Banister and other CHP officers first attempted to extinguish the rapidly growing brush fire by deploying the fire extinguisher liquid up and over the downed power lines. However, they were unable to adequately reach the flames and their extinguishers had very little effect.
The fire rapidly grew and moved in and around the stolen vehicle and threatened Ms. Arredondo’s life. Lieutenant Banister, without hesitation, jumped over the live arcing power lines and singlehandedly extinguished the fire, just as it began to burn part of the vehicle.
Once crews from Pacific Gas and Electric arrived on scene and deactivated the power lines, Cal Fire personnel extricated Ms. Arredondo, and she was subsequently transported to the hospital and treated for her injuries.
Lieutenant Banister’s swift actions and exceptional courage saved the life of another. The State of California takes great pride in presenting Lieutenant John Banister this Gold Medal of Valor for his extraordinary act of heroism extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty.
On March 19, 2011, at approximately 5:00 p.m., California Highway Patrol Sergeant Michael Brush performed an extraordinary act of heroism by confronting and fatally wounding a man who was attempting to break into his neighbor’s home. The man had recently assaulted Sheriff’s Deputies and just escaped from the Doctors Behavioral Health Center in Modesto, California. He suffered from multiple mental illnesses and had an extensive history of violent behavior.
When Mr. Ricky Miranda attempted to break into a home at 3709 Densmore Lane, the home was occupied by one adult and two children. Sergeant Brush, who lives at 3704 Densmore Lane, was off-duty and inside his home when he heard his neighbor’s audible alarm sounding. When Sergeant Brush was told by his wife that someone was attempting to break into their neighbor’s house, he immediately retrieved his firearm, directed his daughter to call 911 Emergency, and proceeded to investigate. When Sergeant Brush opened his front door, he observed that Mr. Miranda had removed the front window screen, shattered the glass, and was attempting to remove the glass from the window. It appeared to him that Mr. Miranda was preparing to enter the home.
As Sergeant Brush proceeded to cross the street, he yelled out to Mr. Miranda. Mr. Miranda immediately stopped breaking into the home, turned towards Sergeant Brush, and began to approach
him in a threatening manner. Mr. Miranda was holding a large shard of glass in his left hand, pruning shears in his right hand, and was also covered in blood.
Sergeant Brush displayed his departmental identification and badge, withdrew his firearm, and gave Mr. Miranda commands to stop. Mr. Miranda ignored the commands and continued towards him. Sergeant Brush pushed him away and kicked his hand in an attempt to disarm him. However, Mr. Miranda continued to towards him. Fearing for his life, Sergeant Brush raised his firearm at Mr. Miranda and fired two rounds, mortally wounding him.
Sergeant Brush’s swift actions saved the lives of his neighbors. By singularly confronting, without hesitation, a violent, armed, mentally ill man, Sergeant Brush demonstrated exceptional courage in the face of danger. The State of California takes great pride in presenting Sergeant Michael Brush this Silver Medal of Valor for his extraordinary act of heroism extending above and beyond the normal call of duty.
On July 20, 2014, at approximately 9:35 a.m., California Highway Patrol Officer Michael Burton was off duty and traveling with his family when he encountered a traffic collision on 20th Street West, south of Colleen Drive, in the unincorporated City of Rosamond in Kern County,California. The traffic collision involved a Chevrolet S-10 pickup that traveled off the roadway and overturned onto its roof. As a result of the collision, the driver, Mr. Efrain Anaya, was trapped inside the vehicle and the vehicle began to smolder and ignite.
When Officer Burton pulled over to assist, he observed Mr. Anaya trapped inside the cab of the pickup and the engine compartment smoldering and beginning to ignite. Initially, Officer Burton was unable to get to Mr. Anaya because the roof of the pickup was crushed and the doors would not open. Believing the only way to gain access to Mr. Anaya was to relieve pressure from the roof, Officer Burton enlisted the help of Mr. Joseph Gallant and Mr. Damion Bitolas, who had also stopped to assist. Officer Burton, Mr. Gallant, and Mr. Bitolas rolled the truck upright and back onto its wheels. Officer Burton bore the brunt of the physical exertion.
For several minutes, as the fire increased and smoke filled the cab of the pickup, Officer Burton attempted to access Mr. Anaya. The smoke eventually became so thick he could no longer see Mr. Anaya. When Kern County Sheriff’s Deputy J. Barnard arrived on scene to assist; he too used a portable fire extinguisher to try to put out the flames in the engine compartment, but was also unsuccessful.
Suddenly, Mr. Anaya reached through the shattered rear window and shouted for help. Officer Burton climbed into the bed of the pickup and grabbed Mr. Anaya’s arm. He began pulling on his arm, while the flames continued to grow, eventually freeing Mr. Anaya’s other arm, head, and shoulders. He was then able to pull the rest of his body through the window and into the bed of the pickup. With the assistance of Deputy Barnard, Officer Burton carried Mr. Anaya from the bed of the pickup and to safety, just seconds before the pickup became fully engulfed in flames.
The heat and smoke from the flames were intense as the fire continued to consume the pickup truck while Mr. Anaya was trapped inside. Mr. Anaya’s life was ultimately saved due to the heroic actions of Officer Burton. The State of California takes great pride in presenting Officer Michael Burton this Silver Medal of Valor for his extraordinary act of heroism extending above and beyond the normal call of duty.
On September 4, 2012, at approximately 8:20 a.m., California Highway Patrol Officer Tyler Carlton performed an extraordinary act of heroism by approaching and fatally wounding the driver of a Jeep Wrangler who had just shot Officer Carlton’s partner. Officer Carlton then rushed to his partner’s side and courageously attempted to save his life.
Officer Carlton was traveling on Interstate 680, south of Rudgear Road, in heavy traffic. He was traveling behind a Jeep Wrangler and was about to initiate an enforcement stop for an observed infraction of the California Vehicle Code. Officer Kenyon Youngstrom was standing along the right shoulder just ahead of Officer Carlton and was clearing a traffic hazard from the lanes. Officer Carlton radioed Officer Youngstrom that he was approaching and intended to make an enforcement stop.
When Officer Youngstrom observed the Jeep, he directed the driver to pull over to the right shoulder, and the driver complied. As Officer Youngstrom approached the driver’s window to make contact, Officer Carlton pulled in behind and exited his patrol vehicle. After a short conversation with Officer Youngstrom, the driver reached behind the right front seat, pulled out a handgun, and fired one shot at Officer Youngstrom. Officer Youngstrom immediately fell to the ground into the traffic lane.
Officer Carlton observed this attack on his partner and fired several rounds at the driver, while he tactically moved toward his partner.
As traffic came to a grinding halt, he vigorously performed CPR and rescue breathing in an attempt to save his partner’s life. Officer Carlton continuously offered words of encouragement to help his partner in his fight to live. Officer Youngstrom was eventually transported to John Muir Medical Center and placed on life support.
On September 5, 2012, Officer Youngstrom succumbed to his injuries. However, due to Officer Carlton’s heroic lifesaving efforts, Officer Youngstrom remained alive long enough for his family to gather at his side and say good-bye. His life-saving efforts also allowed Officer Youngstrom’s ultimate wishes of becoming an organ donor to be met. Officer Youngstrom’s tissue and organs were donated to over 100 desperately in need recipients.
The State of California takes great pride in presenting Officer Tyler Carlton this Silver Medal of Valor for his extraordinary act of heroism extending above and beyond the normal call of duty.
On January 27, 2013, at approximately 8:27 p.m., California Highway Patrol Officer Adam Garcia responded to a call of an overturned Chevrolet 4X4 pickup on northbound State Route 29, north of Hofacker Lane, in an unincorporated portion of Lake County, California.
Mr. Dow Edwin Walton was driving his pickup and was attempting to pass another vehicle by using the southbound lane when he lost control. The pickup slid sideways off the road, overturned end over end, and landed in a creek bed. The pickup came to rest with the front wedged against an embankment. The creek bed was filled with icy cold, ankle deep water. The pickup was also occupied by Mrs. Regina Lee Walton and Mr. Andy Hopper.
Upon Officer Garcia’s arrival, the passenger side engine compartment had just started to ignite. Mr. Hopper had climbed out the rear window and was standing next to the pickup but Mr. and Mrs. Walton were still trapped inside. Without hesitation, Officer Garcia climbed down a steep rocky embankment to reach the pickup. However, as Officer Garcia reached the pickup, the right front engine compartment became fully engulfed in flames.
The windshield was broken out, so flames quickly began to enter the right front passenger compartment where Mrs. Walton was seated. Both the driver and passenger doors were jammed shut. The heat was intense and the flames began to burn Mrs. Walton. Officer Garcia first attempted to pull Mr. Walton out through the driver’s window but could not because Mr. Walton’s right leg was in a cast and was pinned under the dashboard. Officer Garcia grabbed onto Mrs. Walton’s left arm, pulled her over the top of Mr. Walton, out through the driver’s side window, and dragged her to a safe location. Officer Garcia then returned for Mr. Walton and with persistent pulling, was able to free his leg from underneath the dashboard. He then pulled Mr. Walton out through the driver’s window and dragged him to a safe location.Mr. and Mrs. Walton’s lives were ultimately saved due to the heroic actions of Officer Garcia. The State of California takes great pride in presenting Officer Adam Garcia this Gold Medal of Valor for his extraordinary act of heroism extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty.
On October 30, 2011, California Highway Patrol Officer Joseph Heightman performed an extraordinary act of heroism at great risk to his personal safety when he removed an unconscious driver from a burning vehicle.
At approximately 10:46 a.m., Officer Heightman was exiting northbound Interstate 15 at Del Lago Blvd. when he was flagged down by an individual who informed him of a traffic collision in the City of Escondido. Officer Heightman located the vehicle moments later and observed an unconscious male in the driver’s seat. The driver appeared to be suffering from a seizure and was having difficulty breathing. Clearing away downed tree branches, Officer Heightman gained access into the vehicle’s backseat area and immediately immobilized the driver’s head and neck to protect his cervical spine and maintain his airway. After approximately four minutes, flames began to enter the passenger compartment through the center console. Officer Heightman began to remove the driver by reaching down to unlatch the seatbelt, but the seatbelt mechanism was not functioning. He used his pocket knife to cut the seatbelt, but soon realized that the driver’s legs were trapped underneath the steering column. Although he could not see through the smoke, Officer Heightman reached in and found the steering wheel adjustment handle.
This allowed him to move the steering wheel to free the driver’s legs and remove him from the driver’s seat. Utilizing the fireman’s drag to support the driver’s head and neck, Officer Heightman was then able to move him a safe distance away from the burning vehicle, just as it became totally engulfed in flames.
Due to the smoke inhalation he experienced during the rescue, Officer Heightman began suffering from difficulty in breathing, nausea, and vomiting. He was treated with oxygen at the scene by paramedics until his symptoms subsided.Officer Heightman’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 Joseph Heightman this Silver Medal of Valor for his extraordinary act of heroism extending above and beyond the normal call of duty or service.
On April 28, 2013, at approximately 2:15 p.m., California Highway Patrol Officer Wesley Jones responded to a traffic collision on State Route 118, west of Rocky Peak Road, in an unincorporated portion of Ventura County, California. The traffic collision involved Ms. Kathryn Colich, who intentionally drove her vehicle off the freeway in an attempt to end her life. As a result, her vehicle rolled down a steep embankment and she was ejected. Her vehicle caught fire and ignited the surrounding dense brush.
Several people witnessed the traffic collision and immediately pulled over to render aid. Mr. Ryan Burgess was one of the witnesses who pulled over and climbed down the embankment towards Ms. Colich. Once down the embankment, Mr. Burgess could hear her calling out, but could not initially locate her amongst the dense brush. Once he finally located her, he grabbed onto her and began pulling her away from the flames.When Officer Jones arrived on scene, he could hear Mr. Burgess calling out and immediately climbed down the embankment. As he traversed through the brush and around the flames, he eventually located Mr. Burgess and Ms. Colich. However, the brushfire had surrounded them and some of the flames were now over 100 feet high. In addition, Mr. Burgess had become extremely exhausted and was unsure of how he was going to be able to complete the rescue.
Officer Jones observed a small path clear of flames and ran through the opening towards Mr. Burgess and Ms. Colich. Suddenly, Ms. Colich’s vehicle exploded and Ms. Colich. Suddenly, Ms. Colich’s vehicle exploded and ignited even more of the brush. Officer Jones directed Mr. Burgess to move towards safety and grabbed onto Ms. Colich’s arm. He then forcefully pulled her along, rushing back through the small opening in the brushfire.
Officer Jones then carried Ms. Colich out of the brush and to the bottom of the embankment where fire department personnel eventually carried her up the steep embankment to safety. However, Mr. Burgess had become extremely fatigued and disorientated from his strenuous rescue efforts. He could no longer continue on his own to a safe location, so Officer Jones immediately grabbed onto him and led him along until he could physically climb up the embankment to safety.
Ms. Colich’s and Mr. Burgess’ lives were ultimately saved due to the heroic actions of Officer Jones. The State of California takes great pride in presenting Officer Wesley Jones this Gold Medal of Valor for his extraordinary act of heroism extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty.
On May 14, 2013, at approximately 3:33 p.m., California Highway Patrol Officer Steven Lewis responded to a traffic collision on State Route 140, west of Old Highway North, in an unincorporated portion of Mariposa County, California. The traffic collision involved a vehicle that traveled off the roadway, down a steep embankment; where it overturned and caught fire. As a result of the collision, the driver, Mr. Gregory Allen Porter, was ejected and the fire quickly ignited the surrounding brush.
Officer Lewis arrived on scene shortly after Officer Brian Casey and when he looked down the embankment towards the vehicle, he suddenly observed Mr. Porter lying face down in the grass. Mr. Porter’s hair and clothing were on fire, as well as the vehicle’s engine compartment, and surrounding brush. Officer Lewis immediately ran back to his patrol vehicle, grabbed the fire extinguisher from his trunk, and began to look for a safe path down the embankment.
Once Officer Lewis found a safe path down the embankment, he worked his way to Mr. Porter, jumping over flames and running through charred grass and rock. When he reached Mr. Porter, he immediately extinguished the flames on his body, and noticed he was still alive, moaning with labored breathing. He then emptied the rest of his fire extinguisher on the flames in the vehicle’s engine compartment to no avail.
Officer Lewis looked around and noticed the brushfire had rapidly gown in size and a portable gasoline container lay nearby. He grabbed a hold of Mr. Porter’s ankles and began pulling him away from the vehicle and container. As Officer Casey slid down the embankment to assist, a loud explosion rang out and the surrounding trees become engulfed in flames. Thick smoke filled the air which made it difficult to see or breathe.Along with the assistance of Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office Sergeant Kim Miller and Deputy Justin Sturm, Officers Lewis and Casey carried Mr. Porter towards the base of the embankment; where he was eventually secured to a backboard, carried up the embankment, and transported to the hospital. Despite the brave and heroic actions of Officer Lewis, Mr. Porter later succumbed to his injuries. The state of California takes great pride in presenting Officer Steven Lewis this Silver Medal of Valor for his extraordinary act of heroism extending above and beyond the normal call of duty.
On April 7, 2011, California Highway Patrol Officer Jacob Moniz performed an extraordinary act of heroism at great risk to his personal safety when he prevented a suicidal subject from running into a traffic lane, directly into the path of a passing big rig.
At approximately 5:35 p.m., Officer Moniz encountered a male subject walking on the right shoulder of eastbound Interstate 10, west of Holt Avenue. Using the patrol vehicle’s public address system, Officer Moniz instructed the subject to stop. The subject initially stopped and then walked into the far right lane (the number six lane of traffic) as Officer Moniz walked to the right shoulder. Officer Moniz gave the subject several clear instructions to come to the right shoulder. The subject seemed to comply by taking a couple of steps towards the right shoulder. Suddenly, the subject turned and began to run into the number five lane of traffic. Without hesitation, Officer Moniz ran after the subject, grabbed the back of his clothing, and prevented him from running into the path of a passing big rig. Upon being detained, the subject indicated he was intentionally trying to run into the path of the big rig to commit suicide.
The State of California takes great pride in presenting to California Highway Patrol Officer Jacob Moniz this Gold Medal of Valor, for an extraordinary act of heroism extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty or service.
On October 25, 2012, at approximately 9:51 p.m., Officer Dane Norem responded to a call of a pedestrian crying, possibly suicidal, and climbing the overpass fence of La Sierra Avenue directly over State Route (SR) 91. Unknown to Officer Norem, the pedestrian, later identified as Javier Hernandez Rios, was under the influence of drugs and had been experiencing paranoid thoughts. Mr. Rios also had in his possession a utility knife.When Officer Norem exited from SR 91, he noticed Mr. Rios sitting on the sidewalk against the overpass bridge railing. When Mr. Rios observed Officer Norem approaching, he began to scale the fence in an attempt to jump from the overpass. Without any hesitation, Officer Norem exited his patrol vehicle and ran towards Mr. Rios, who was now near the top of the overpass fence.
Officer Norem believed if Mr. Rios fell onto SR 91, the fall would cause severe to fatal injuries and a probable collision with passing vehicles. Officer Norem was able to grab Mr. Rios’ right leg as he straddled the top of the fence. In an attempt to free himself, Mr. Rios pulled a utility knife from his jacket and stabbed Officer Norem multiple times in the face, arm, and upper shoulder.
As Mr. Rios began stabbing Officer Norem, two off duty law enforcement officers stopped to assist. The officers ordered Mr. Rios to drop his knife, but he did not and waved his knife toward
the officers. The off duty officers attempted to stop Mr. Rios by using less-than-lethal force, but the physical struggle continued. Officer Norem was determined to save Mr. Rios’ life and prevent harm to passing motorists on SR 91. He held onto Mr. Rios’ right leg for over two minutes even though he was stabbed multiple times, which included a severe puncture wound to his right eye. When a second California Highway Patrol officer arrived on-scene to assist, the officer used a Less-Lethal Shotgun and Mr. Rios fell off the top of the fence and back onto the overpass where he was immediately taken into custody.Officer Norem unselfishly risked his own life to save others. Had it not been for his strong determination to prevent Mr. Rios from jumping, he surely would have jumped to his death and quite possibly killed motorists traveling below on SR 91. The State of California takes great pride in presenting Officer Dane Norem this Gold Medal of Valor for his extraordinary act of heroism extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty.
On December 14, 2009, California Highway Patrol Officer Joseph Urrea performed an act of bravery and heroism at risk to his personal safety while rescuing a victim from a burning vehicle.
At approximately 11:45 a.m., Officer Urrea heard radio traffic concerning a traffic collision on westbound Interstate 40, approximately 20 miles west of Needles, California. Officer Urrea responded to the scene and arrived within six minutes. Observing a burning vehicle with the driver trapped inside and three individuals attempting a rescue, Officer Urrea quickly joined the rescue effort. The driver’s door was jammed, so Officer Urrea moved to the passenger side of the vehicle and attempted to pull the victim out of the burning vehicle through the front passenger door. The engine compartment of the vehicle was now fully engulfed and the flames were moving into the passenger compartment.
Officer Urrea was unable to pull the trapped, semiconscious party out of the front passenger side because the victim could not unbuckle his seat belt. At great risk to his own personal safety, Officer Urrea climbed into the vehicle through the front passenger door and unbuckled the victim’s seatbelt. With assistance from the other individuals, Officer Urrea pulled the victim through the driver’s door window and to safety. The heat and flames were so intense, the victim’s socks were smoldering when he was pulled from the vehicle. The victim was later transported by air ambulance and survived his injuries. Without the heroic actions of Officer Urrea, the victim’s survival would have been highly unlikely.
The State of California takes great pride in presenting Officer Joseph Urrea this Gold Medal of Valor for his extraordinary act of heroism extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty.