Video by Rob Stewart
Office of Public and Employee Communications
When confronted with a gunman who had terrorized the tight-knit community around Kerman for weeks, Correctional Officer Hector Villarreal put his training and devotion to family into action, stopping the shooting spree before it became deadly.
For his quick thinking, outstanding judgment and commitment to public safety, Pleasant Valley State Prison Officer Villarreal is awarded the Medal of Valor, CDCR’s highest honor for bravery above and beyond the normal demands of correctional service.
Throughout September, we’ll be sharing videos highlighting the brave men and women of CDCR. We salute them, along with Officer Villarreal, for their exceptional service.
Watch the YouTube video (link opens new tab, may not play on a CDCR computer).
Margaret Mims, Fresno County Sheriff
They’ve all happened in the same area of Fresno County in the outskirts of the city of Kerman.
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office tells us there has been another random shooting southeast of Kerman.
Officer Hector Villarreal
Everyone around here that I spoke to was in fear of what was going on.
The suspect approaches from the opposite direction and right when the cars are even, fires into the unsuspecting victim’s car.
This guy kept everybody in fear, nobody wanted to drive.
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office believes the shootings are random and appear to be related based on the fact that they have happened in the same general area and at the same times of the day.
By the time he realized, his truck door had been pierced by a bullet.
(911 call recording)
My boss here got shot through her window in the car. Can you send an ambulance?
OK, did…did she get hit?
Yes. She’s bleeding!
Tony Botti, Fresno County Sheriff’s Office
This is a top priority right now, we need to put an end to this.
If this keeps going, it’s going to be a matter of time before we have a murder investigation.
Kerman is my home town, my family and I moved here when I was 8 years old. My parents live in Kerman, we came to visit them.
On the day it happened, I started picking up speed gradually, I pass him up and he flies past me (whoosh), a good maybe like five, 10 cars away ahead of me.
As soon as I’m catching up to him I see his driver’s side window rolls down, as I’m getting closer I see his hand and a gun stick out of the window. So the first thing I say is, “Get down!”
He slammed on his brakes and he got behind me. At this point, I’m just watching my mirrors. I was like, what should I do, what should I do? Where should I drive to? My immediate worry was the safety of my family, so I was like, you know what, let me go over to the FasTrip; it’s a public area, it’s well lit up, I mean it should be empty right now because it’s late.
He drove into Kerman, the suspect vehicle followed him. As it turns out the victim in this particular case was a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Correctional Officer, and he was armed.
this point, I was like man, this guy wants to do something, his intentions
aren’t good at all.
I tell my brothers, call the cops.
Now, my thing is to get his attention away from my family, just hoping I can at least keep an eye on him or hold him in that position in case he decides to get off with his gun, until cops arrive. I was just making sure everybody got out of the way and I was just kinda taking cover there, so I had my gun ready just in case he did something.
I pulled out my phone and I called 9-1-1, I was like, “I’m a peace officer, I got my gun out and I got my badge on in case you guys need to see it.” As soon as I said that you hear them already coming down.
Once the cops got there I started giving orders, “Roll down your window, get out of the truck with your hands behind your head, get on your stomach, cross your feet, place your hands behind your back and face away from us! Do you have a gun on you, I’ve seen a gun on you! Do you have a gun on you!?
So he’s like, “Yeah it’s in the truck.” So once he said it’s in the truck, me and Kerman PD starting moving forward, another officer comes and jumps on his back, cuffs him up and places him in restraints.
Tests on the handgun revealed that the bullets recovered from five of the shootings match bullets that were shot from that handgun.
You gotta do your best every day, you gotta work hard, and always give it your best everywhere you go because people are always watching you.
We all want to do our job and do our best and be there to help people out. Something I’ve learned with this Department is that a lot of us are really close and we’re all about helping people out in time of need. I’m just thankful that I was able to do something good for someone.
I believe that with the arrest of this defendant, that series of shootings is now over.
Because of everything that went down there, he’s no longer in the streets so the public is safer now.
I’m a humble person, a humble man that just is always going to do the right thing, You know, when people run, we’re going toward the danger. That’s something I did and that’s something I’ll continue to do.