5 Silver Star Recipients in 5 Incidents
The Silver Star medal is awarded for acts of bravery under extraordinary or unusual circumstances. The employee shall display courage in the face of potential peril while saving or attempting to save the life of another person or distinguish himself or herself by performing in stressful situations with exceptional tactics or judgement.
David Vega, Correctional Sergeant, Office of Peace Officer Selection
In January of last year, Sergeant Vega found himself dealing with a gruesome situation, almost beyond description.
Returning with his family from a recital, David saw an object on the freeway being hit by cars. He soon recognized it as a human body.
As he pulled over, a man in front of his car walked into traffic. David ran onto the freeway and guided the hysterical man, who was crying and going into shock, to the center divider.
The man screamed: “I killed him! He just ran in front of my car!”
David calmed the man and then he acted to shelter the dead body, which was mangled from being run over by several cars. He found several traffic cones nearby and used those to mark the body’s position on the freeway.
David also found himself comforting the man’s wife as well as his own wife and niece. All the while, he remained in control of a horrifying event, preventing further injury, until help arrived.
Amanda Duncan, Correctional Officer, Sierra Conservation Center
What began as a fun day at a popular swimming hole soon turned deadly, leaving Officer Duncan facing a life-or-death situation.
A break with her children at God’s Bath, a swimming area on the Clavey River in Stanislaus National Forest, was a nice way to spend a hot July afternoon.
After a few hours, the Duncan family was ready to head home. A man was standing next to Duncan, taking pictures and video of a woman who was jumping off the rock into the water. Amanda saw the woman surface in the direction of the danger of the water fall.
The woman panicked and went under. Amanda dove in and swam to where the woman went down. The current and the conditions made it difficult for Amanda to get a good grip.
Amanda finally was able to get the woman to safety and then began CPR. The woman began to breathe again then was was airlifted out and survived.
Stephen Leach, Correctional Officer, California Health Care Facility
Enjoying an off-day with his daughter, Officer Leach suddenly found himself back in the role of serving and protecting.
While driving on the freeway, he saw a mangled car that had been in accident. He stopped to see if he could help. A driver – a man – was trapped in the car with his wife. The man was bleeding and incoherent. Smoke began to come from under the hood.
The female passenger began to panic. Stephen smashed the passenger-side window and pulled the woman to safety. Returning to the driver, he began to help the man, who was pinned by a crushed door and dashboard.
Ignoring the fire risk, Stephen used his shirt as a dressing for the man’s head wound. He reached into the car and began removing parts of the door and dashboard to free the man.
Soon, others, arrived and the man was freed using the Jaws of Life. The man and his wife lived to tell the story of the bad accident they were in, thanks to Stephen and his cool head and bravery.
James Lehman, Psychologist, Substance Abuse & Treatment Facility
James normally provides assessment and therapy to clients. But one day he had to apply direct physical force when an inmate attacked a Correctional Officer.
While doing his work, James witnessed an inmate grab an officer by his vest and punch him in the face repeatedly. The officer fell and the inmate straddled him, continuing to land punches.
James ran to the attack scene and pushed the inmate off the officer. He wrapped his arms around the inmate’s torso and held him down, risking exposure to OC pepper spray.
James’s allowed responding officers to secure the inmate without further injury to anyone else. Although events unfolded rapidly, James stayed focused and helped end the attack.
Ricardo Ancheta, Correctional Officer, California Men’s Colony
Correctional Officer Ancheta was surprised to see a SUV wedged under a semi-trailer truck as he drove home.
Smoke and flames could be seen coming from the SUV’s engine. Using bolt cutters, Officer Ancheta broke the back window so he could crawl in and check on the driver.
The victim urged him to find her son, but Ricardo couldn’t find the child in the SUV. He called for bystanders outside the vehicle to check. The child was found sitting by the side of the road with minor injuries.
Ricardo stayed with the victim and kept her from panicking as flames continued to burn under the hood. CHP units arrived and put out the fire. Richardo stayed with the victim until responders used the Jaws of Life to free the victim.