Governor Gavin Newsom honored Correctional Sergeant Hector Villarreal with a Gold Medal in today’s Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor ceremony for his heroic act in protecting citizens in the city of Kerman from a serial shooter in 2018. The award represents the highest honor the State of California bestows upon its employees. The Gold Medal is awarded for an extraordinary act of heroism by a state employee extending far above and beyond the normal call of duty or service and performed at great risk to his or her own life in an effort to save human life.
“Sergeant Villarreal is one of our most outstanding correctional peace officers, a selfless leader, a giving person and a caring family man,” CDCR Secretary Kathleen Allison said. “For his heroic actions, all of us at CDCR congratulates him on this honor.”
In 2019, Sgt. Villarreal was honored at CDCR’s 34th Annual Medal of Valor ceremony with its highest award – the Medal of Valor – earned by distinguishing himself by conspicuous bravery or heroism above and beyond the normal demands of correctional service.
In late 2017, the city of Kerman was in the grip of a series of random shootings in the area west of Highway 99. News reports indicated there could have been as many as 10 shootings in which drivers were randomly fired upon from a moving vehicle.
On the night of Jan. 8, 2018, Villarreal was driving with his family through Kerman when a pick-up truck pulled alongside them.
Realizing the gunman was not going to stop following them, Villarreal pulled into a gas station and parked his vehicle in a safe location. He told his family and other customers at the gas station to stay in their vehicles and call the police.
To draw the gunman away from his family, Villarreal drew his off-duty weapon, took cover and called the Kerman Police Department while keeping a close eye on the gunman, who had parked near a gas pump and remained in his truck.
Kerman police officers arrived, and along with Villarreal, surrounded the suspect’s vehicle with weapons drawn. The suspect complied with Villarreal’s verbal commands and was arrested and taken into custody without incident.
A search of his vehicle revealed he was in possession of a .380 semi-automatic handgun and methamphetamine. The suspect had an outstanding warrant for driving on a suspended license and further investigation by the Fresno Sheriff’s Forensic Laboratory team revealed the suspect’s weapon matched bullets recovered from a shooting spree in five different locations in the Kerman area.
“I’m glad I was there at the right time and that this individual was taken off the streets,” Villarreal said. He also credited his CDCR training in helping to diffuse a tense situation.
“Sergeant Villarreal went above and beyond the call of duty and put himself at great risk of harm that day, while also understanding the best hope for a peaceful resolution was to ensure the gunman focused his attention on him,” Secretary Allison said.
Sergeant Villarreal began working for CDCR in December 2014 and currently works at Central California Women’s Facility.
The Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor Award ceremony honors state employees for their acts of heroism on and off the job. The first awards were presented by Governor Edmund G. Brown, Sr. on March 6, 1959. To date, 700 medals have been awarded to state employees in many different and diverse professions.