Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. was joined by Attorney General Kamala D. Harris to present the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor to 14 law enforcement officials who went above and beyond the call of duty.
This year’s recipients of California’s highest public safety award included eleven individuals from the Modesto Police Department, one from the San Diego Sheriff’s Department and San Diego Police Department and one from the California Highway Patrol.
“Character, leadership and being able to act in difficult and uncertain circumstances – that’s what we honor today,” said Governor Brown. “These are the kind of values that we absolutely need to have a society that holds together.”
The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act of 2003 gives the Governor the authority to award a Medal of Valor to public safety officers who are cited by the Attorney General for extraordinary valor above and beyond the call of duty. The Attorney General’s Office receives nominations from public safety agencies. These nominations are reviewed by the Medal of Valor Review Board, which makes a recommendation to the Attorney General.
“The law enforcement officers we honor today are true heroes,” said Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. “Their actions and courage exemplify the highest level of public service. California is truly a safer place because of them.”
The following individuals were awarded the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor today:
Modesto Police Department: Sergeant Rick Applegate; Sergeant Patrick Kimes; Sergeant Scott Myers; Sergeant Ivan Valencia; Detective Eric Beffa; Officer Joseph Bottoms; Officer Jonathan Griffith; Officer Gary Guffey; Officer Frank Inacio; Officer Robert Reyna and Officer Richard Rodarte
On April 12, 2012, Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Deputy Robert Paris along with a citizen locksmith, Glendon Engert, were attempting to evict a tenant from an apartment. As Deputy Paris stood at the door, the tenant opened fire from inside the apartment with a high powered assault rifle. Deputy Paris and Mr. Engert were mortally wounded.
Eleven Modesto officers arrived on scene and observed Deputy Paris and Mr. Engert lying unconscious outside the suspect’s front door. Knowing that an armed suspect with a high powered assault weapon was barricaded, officers quickly developed a rescue plan.
A make shift mobile cover was created by placing a ballistic shield across the front passenger window of a marked Modesto police patrol car. The car was driven slowly on to the lawn of the apartment complex. The officers took cover on the driver’s side of the patrol car and moved as one unit with the patrol car, as it slowly moved towards the two victims.
A flash bang diversionary device was deployed at the side of the suspect’s apartment, while the officers rescued Mr. Engert. Once Mr. Engert was safely behind the patrol car, the officers slowly reversed movement to cover the officers who carried Mr. Engert to awaiting medical personnel. The officers duplicated the rescue plan to extradite Deputy Paris and brought him to medical personnel.
San Diego Sheriff’s Department: Deputy Michael Spears
On September 25, 2012, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department was dispatched to a child sexual abuse call. Detective Ali Perez responded to the investigation. Sergeant Craig Johnson offered the assistance of the Santee Station Community Oriented Policing and Problem Solving Unit which included Deputy Michael Spears.
When the arrest team arrived, Detective Perez, Sergeant Johnson and Deputy Spears went to the second floor apartment door. Several deputies were positioned on the stairwell and others watched the rear window of the apartment. Detective Perez knocked and announced their presence, but there was no response. There were cries from a child in the area of the apartment. Sergeant Johnson and Detective Perez forced entry by kicking the door open and entered the apartment. Detective Perez was immediately shot by the suspect.
Sergeant Johnson also sustained a gunshot wound, returned fire and called for assistance. Deputy Spears shielded Sergeant Johnson with his body and then kicked open the door of a neighboring apartment so they could take cover inside.
A short time later the suspect crawled out of his apartment and was held at gunpoint by Deputy Spears and Deputy Steven Clarke. The arrest team took the suspect into custody. Detective Perez and Sergeant Johnson were both rushed into emergency surgery and are recovering from their injuries.
San Diego Police Department: Officer Michael DeWitt
On September 25, 2012, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department was investigating a child sexual abuse matter in Lakeside with probable cause to arrest a suspect.
A team of deputies approached the suspect’s apartment complex located one block from a high school, which was in session. While attempting to make contact with the suspect, the suspect began shooting at the deputies. Detective Perez and Sergeant Johnson were struck by gunfire and seriously injured. Several deputies returned fire, striking the suspect as they moved to cover. Although wounded, the suspect continued to fire at the deputies.
Officer Michael DeWitt, San Diego Police Gang Suppression Team/S.W.A.T., was driving to work and observed the incident. Officer DeWitt heard gunshots and immediately donned his S.W.A.T. gear to provide assistance by assembling a team of deputies and administer tactical assignments. The team moved up the stairway to rescue the detective, even though the suspect continued to fire his gun. The team was able to carry Detective Perez to safety.
Additionally, a woman and two small children ran from the apartment complex in panic. Observing they were in the suspect’s line of fire, Officer DeWitt left his position of safety, ran toward the woman, picked up her four-year-old child, as the woman carried her infant. Officer DeWitt directed her to follow him across the street to safety.
Sergeant Johnson who was seriously wounded, and another deputy, remained in danger in an adjacent apartment next to the suspect’s. Officer DeWitt ran back to the complex to assist with the rescue of Sergeant Johnson and apprehension of the suspect.
Detective Perez and Sergeant Johnson were rushed to surgery and are recovering from their injuries.
California Highway Patrol: Officer Dane Norem
Officer Dane Norem of the California Highway Patrol was dispatched to a call of a possible suicidal male pedestrian who was climbing the overpass fence directly over State Route 91. Unknown to Officer Norem, the pedestrian was a local transient who was under the influence of illicit drugs and had been experiencing paranoid thoughts against law enforcement personnel.
Officer Norem drove toward the pedestrian to conduct a welfare check. When he arrived on the scene, the pedestrian began to scale the fence in an attempt to jump from the overpass. Without any hesitation and the need to preserve a life, Officer Norem exited his patrol vehicle and ran towards the pedestrian who was now near the top of the overpass fence.
Officer Norem believed if the pedestrian jumped onto the freeway (approximately 40 feet) that not only would the pedestrian die but that unsuspecting freeway drivers and passengers would be in severe danger, as well. Officer Norem grabbed the pedestrian’s right leg as he straddled the top of the fence. In an attempt to free himself, the pedestrian, now a suspect, pulled a utility knife from his jacket and stabbed Officer Norem multiple times in the face, arm and upper shoulder.
As the suspect began stabbing Officer Norem, two off-duty law enforcement officers stopped to assist. The officers ordered the suspect to drop the knife and the suspect refused to do so and waved the knife toward officers.
When a second CHP Officer arrived, the officer used a less-lethal shotgun and fired one round at the suspect. The less lethal round caused the suspect to fall off the top of the fence and back onto the overpass where he was immediately taken into custody.
Officer Norem was transported to a hospital and underwent surgery for his stab wounds and severe eye injury. The suspect was taken into custody and booked on several charges, including attempted murder of a peace officer.