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.
Carlos Garcia, Correctional Supervising Cook, Calipatria State Prison
In September 2020, Mr. Garcia was driving down Old Highway 111 between Calipatria and Brawley when he noticed a vehicle on the side of the road with a flicker of flames growing underneath it.
Without hesitation, Mr. Garcia sprinted to the scene, and with the help of another bystander, pulled a man from the vehicle shortly before it became engulfed in flames.
Because of Mr. Garcia’s selfless actions and quick thinking, a life was saved.
Correctional Sergeant Randy Turner, San Quentin State Prison
On Father’s Day of 2020, while driving down a street in Vallejo with his family, Sergeant Turner witnessed a vehicle slam into a tree and catch fire.
He immediately pulled his car over to assist and found that the occupants of the vehicle were injured and incapable of moving.
Also on the scene was a retired officer from the Solano County Sheriff’s Department.
Together they pulled the victims out of the wreckage before the flames accelerated.
Sgt. Turner applied his training from CDCR when responding to this incident, and prevented further harm. Thank you for your brave act.
Correctional Officer Earl Cooper, California State Prison, Solano
In October of last year, the California Highway Patrol responded to an incident involving a suspect experiencing a mental health crisis.
The subject had led the officers on a high-speed pursuit Eastbound on Interstate 80 and intentionally drove his car into a tree.
The driver refused to exit the vehicle that began to catch fire.
Officer Cooper, who happened to be in the area, noticed a CHP officer struggling to remove the driver from the vehicle.
He ran to the aid of the officer, and together, they were able to remove the 6’5″, 250-pound man.
The responding CHP officer said that he would not have been able to save the man’s life if it were not for Officer Cooper.
Correctional Sergeant Veronica Cantu, Valley State Prison
On Saturday, December 19, 2020, Sergeant Cantu and her husband, Alex Cantu, were driving south on Highway 145, just outside the City of Madera, when they saw a sedan and an SUV on the side of the road.
The vehicles had just been in a collision and smoke was coming from the sedan.
Without hesitation, Sgt. Cantu and her husband exited their vehicle and sprinted to the distressed vehicles to provide aid.
They were able to open the driver’s side door of the sedan, but the passenger’s side was jammed.
Sgt. Cantu’s husband worked to get the two passengers safely out of the vehicle through the open door while she went to assist those in the SUV.
Luckily, those in the sedan were pulled to safety before flames began to emit from the engine.
The SUV, however, was not in good shape and the three passengers inside were in desperate need of help.
The driver of the SUV was restricted by their seatbelt and having a difficult time breathing. Sgt. Cantu’s husband Alex cut the belt and freed them.
The driver then told them that she had sustained leg and hip injuries and could not move, so with the help of bystanders, they safely removed her from the vehicle as well as the other two occupants of the SUV.
Another occupant of the vehicle was unconscious, to whom Sgt. Cantu’s husband performed CPR until emergency personal arrived on scene and took over life-saving measures.
High Desert State Prison employees help crash victims
On June 9, 2020, prison employees worked together to provide assistance during a fatal head-on collision on Interstate 395, just south of the city of Doyle.
Taking a vanpool from Reno to Susanville were:
- Officer Larry Middlesworth
- Officer Alejandro Munoz
- Officer Allen Freitas
- Sergeant Molly Kaoorn
- Officer Andrew Curzon
- Officer Glenn Martinez
- Officer Jordan Paige
- Officer Jamil Patterson
- Lieutenant Jonathan Sieberg
They responded to an incident where a Toyota Corolla struck a Chevrolet Astro Van head-on while attempting to pass another vehicle.
They approached the Astro Van, which was rolled over on the passenger’s side, and had two adults and a small child inside.
With the help of civilian bystanders, the four officers were able to extract one adult and the child from the van.
The other adult, a female, was pinned under the front right of the vehicle, which was now on fire.
Additional staff responded with fire extinguishers to quell the flames while others attempted to extract the female occupant.
Eventually, all staff members and a few bystanders were able to push the van upright.
The van was still on fire, and the trapped occupant warned them that the van contained flammable material, and that they needed to hurry.
Seven fire extinguishers were emptied while trying to keep the flames at bay.
Finally, the female was freed and Sergeant Kaoorn provided first aid until emergency services arrived.
High Desert State Prison staff then turned their attention to the other vehicle, a Toyota, involved in the crash, and provided assistance to emergency personnel now on scene.
Together, they used crowbars to pry open the Toyota.
A single male occupant was in the vehicle. After removing him from the vehicle, staff performed breath cycles and chest compressions. Despite their best efforts, the driver succumbed to his injuries.
The CHP called the 10 High Desert staff members “heroes” who saved the lives of a family in serious trouble.