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SACRAMENTO -- Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr., along with Governor Schwarzenegger, today presented 10 California peace officers who “showed tremendous bravery in risking their lives for others” with the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor at a Capitol ceremony.
“The 10 peace officers awarded the Medal of Valor today showed tremendous bravery in risking their lives for others,” Brown said. “Today, we have the opportunity to thank them for their extraordinary courage. It’s inspiring to read their stories.”
“Hollywood can’t dream up heroes as amazing as those we are honoring here today,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “These public safety officers are our real-life action heroes who have shown extraordinary strength and character in the line of duty. On behalf of all Californians, I thank them for their service and dedication to the people of this great state.”
The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor is the highest state award for valor awarded to a public safety officer. Under legislation signed into law in 2003, the Attorney General nominates individuals who demonstrate extraordinary valor above and beyond the call of duty, and the Governor hands the medals to the recipients.
In June, Brown nominated 10 officers for the Medal of Valor in a letter to Schwarzenegger. On Tuesday, Schwarzenegger and Brown presented the officers with their medals at a ceremony in the Governor's Council Room.
Brown's letter of nomination follows:
June 28, 2010
The Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of California
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Re: 2009 Governor’s Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor
Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:
The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act authorizes the Governor 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 Medal of Valor Review Board met on May 26, 2010, to review 62 nominations. The Board submitted ten selections for my consideration. I concur with the Board’s unanimous recommendations that the following public safety officers receive this award:
• Officers Rodney Richards and Jason Smith, California Highway Patrol.
On September 24, 2009, CHP Officers Richards and Smith responded to an accident of a tractor trailer rig that was engulfed in flames. The driver, entangled in the wreckage, was screaming that he was on fire. Officer Richards used his fire extinguisher to extinguish the flames, but the extinguisher went dry. Officer Smith soon arrived and, together with Officer Richards and passing motorists, tried desperately to open the crushed cab of the truck while battling the flames. Finally, using extraordinary strength, the officers were able to open the truck cab and free the driver. Officer Smith then used his bare hands to extinguish the driver’s burning clothing. The driver was flown to a hospital with third degree burns over 30 percent of his body. Officers Richards and Smith were both treated for severe smoke inhalation, and Officer Smith was also treated for minor burns on both of his hands.
• Sheriff Tom Allman, Mendocino County.
On August 11, 2009, rescue personnel were dispatched to a vehicle accident and fire on Highway 101 in Redwood Valley. The wrecked vehicle was in the center divider and fully engulfed in 20 foot flames. Rescue personnel observed Sheriff Allman, reaching into the burning vehicle to free the driver. He successfully removed the occupant, but as the flames and heat from the fire intensified, Sheriff Allman had to move the victim a second time. Sheriff Allman received second degree burns to his hands and arms. Unfortunately, the driver did not survive injuries sustained in the fire.
• Detective Eric Bradley, Lodi Police Department.
Detective Bradley was the lead investigator in the case of David Paradiso who brutally murdered his girlfriend by slashing her throat. On March 4, 2009, Paradiso was on the witness stand testifying when he made derogatory comments about the victim, which caused a commotion in the courtroom. As bailiffs attempted to restore order, Paradiso grabbed a shank that was concealed in his leg brace, and stabbed Judge Fox in her neck and arm. Detective Bradley, seated at the prosecution’s table, drew his sidearm and fired, striking Paradiso in the chest. Paradiso attempted to stab the judge again. Detective Bradley placed his hand on the back of the judge’s head to protect her from the line of fire as she lay on the bench, and fired once more, killing Paradiso. Judge Fox was transported to the hospital for treatment. The entire event took approximately six seconds.
• Deputy Ken Skogen, Placer County Sheriff’s Department.
On August 30, 2009, Placer County deputies responded to an uncontrolled fire at Rock Creek Road and Highway 49. While evacuating the neighborhood, Deputy Skogen was approached by a frantic bystander who reported that a woman was trapped in her fully engulfed house. Deputy Skogen looked into a bedroom window and saw an elderly woman, confused and in a state of shock, standing with her walker, staring back out at him. He then broke the window, but was unable to persuade the woman to go to the window so he could help her out of the burning house. Realizing that time was of the essence, Deputy Skogen ran to the rear door, and kicked it open. Risking his own safety, he entered the burning house and carried the woman out. The house completely burned to the ground moments later.
• Captain Kevin Raffaelli and Officers Rick Apecechea, Jeff Dellinges and Roberto Gonzalez, San Mateo Police Department.
On August 24, 2009, officers responded to reports of shots fired and a possible explosion at Hillsdale High School. When Officer Apecechea arrived on the scene, he rushed to the aid of school faculty who were holding a male juvenile on the ground. As he handcuffed the suspect, Officer Apecechea realized that the suspect was wearing a tactical vest over his clothing that contained numerous pipe bombs. Officer Apecechea immediately ordered school staff to move away for their safety. Despite a continuing struggle with the suspect, he was able to broadcast his location and report that the suspect was armed with bombs. He handcuffed the suspect just as Captain Raffaelli and officers Dellinges and Gonzalez arrived to assist. Captain Raffaelli held the suspect and instructed the three officers to move away from the suspect in case the bombs exploded. All three officers determined that they needed to continue to assist Captain Raffaelli, and did not leave his side. The Captain cut the tactical vest from the suspect’s body. Officers Apecechea, Dellinges and Gonzalez then lifted the suspect, removed the vest, and took him to a patrol car while Captain Raffaelli secured the tactical vest and the bombs. Subsequent investigation revealed that all ten bombs were live and capable of causing lethal injuries.
• Officer Kelley Merritt, Susanville Police Department.
Officer Merritt was part of a county-wide narcotics task force that included officers from multiple agencies. On June 16, 2010, during a reconnaissance operation on a suspected marijuana garden in a remote area of Lassen County, the officers discovered a large marijuana plot and three adult males in a makeshift camp near the garden. As the officers approached the campsite, gunfire erupted. Two suspects complied with the officers’ orders, but one individual inside a tent seven to ten feet away, began firing an AK-47 at the officers. During the gunfight, Lassen County Sheriff’s Sergeant Martin and Deputy Woginrich were struck. Woginrich received a flesh wound; Sergeant Martin received serious injuries to his right hand, forearm and shoulder. As the gunfight continued, Officer Merritt placed himself in peril while shielding Sergeant Martin from the gunfire while applying life saving first aid. Officer Merritt stopped the bleeding, bandaged the wounds and made a sling for Sergeant Martin’s arm. Sergeant Martin was then moved to a location that was suitable for an airlift.
As you will see from the enclosed nominations, these ten public safety officers placed their lives in jeopardy in the line of duty. The State of California, and particularly their communities, are proud of these individuals for their bravery, character, professionalism and willingness to serve with such uncommon valor.
I respectfully request that you award the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor to the aforementioned public safety officers. The Department of Justice will prepare the awards and send notifications to the award recipients, their families and the Medal of Valor Review Board members.
Thank you for your consideration of this very worthy recognition of California’s top public safety officers.
EDMUND G. BROWN JR.