The Medal of Valor is the Department’s highest award, earned by employees distinguishing themselves by conspicuous bravery or heroism above and beyond the normal demands of correctional service. The employee shall display great courage in the face of immediate life-threatening peril and with full knowledge of the risk involved. The act should show professional judgment and not jeopardize operations or the lives of others.
Medal of Valor recipient
David Tapia, Correctional Officer, North Kern State Prison
On Aug. 31, 2021, Officer Tapia, in his assignment in the Investigative Services Unit, was conducting duties off prison grounds in Delano. He was in an unmarked CDCR state vehicle.
As he approached a shopping center, he saw a man throw a softball-sized rock at the front window of the Department of Human Services.
Officer Tapia immediately called 911 to report the incident but was placed on hold. He pulled to the side of the street and maintained a constant visual on the subject.
The man threw additional softball-sized rocks at the window several more times. Meanwhile, Officer Tapia entered the shopping center and positioned his vehicle near the DHS building.
The man threw another large rock at the window, this time shattering it, then entered the building. Officer Tapia got out of his vehicle to get a closer look, still on hold with 911 waiting to report his observations.
Officer Tapia heard people inside the building screaming. The man then left the building, returned, and threw a flaming canister inside, which fully engulfed the building in flames.
Officer Tapia did not know how many people and children were inside the building. He knew this was a life-threatening situation so he decided to make contact with the suspect and detain him. Officer Tapia un-holstered his state-issued handgun and carefully walked toward the man, who started approaching him.
The man was about 15 yards away when Officer Tapia pointed his weapon, identified himself, and yelled, “Police!”
He ordered the man to get down on the ground and assume a prone position. Fortunately, the man complied.
Officer Tapia then ordered him to place his hands behind his back and cross his feet, to which he also complied.
Since Officer Tapia was the only responding law enforcement officer at the time, he kept his weapon pointed at the subject until police arrived.
The Delano Police Department eventually arrived, restrained the man and took him into custody. Meanwhile, responding firefighters extinguished the flames inside the building. Fortunately, no one was injured.
Dena Murphy, Director of the Department of Human Services in Delano, sent a thoughtful letter to Officer Tapia and personally thanked him for apprehending the subject.
Officer Tapia demonstrated great bravery to protect the community and displayed courage in the face of immediate life-threatening danger.