Gold Star

2023 Gold Star Medal

CDCR Gold Star medal

The 2023 Gold Star medal is awarded for heroic deeds under extraordinary circumstances.

The employee shall display courage in the face of immediate peril in acting to save the life of another person.

2023 Gold Star recipients

Two California Rehabilitation Center employees

  • Duke Tamulonis, maintenance mechanic, CRC
  • Scott Brady, correctional plant manager II, CRC

On Sept. 10, 2022, Scott Brady and Duke Tamulonis were spending time at Duke’s house in Banning when a thunderous noise suddenly echoed through the air, violently shaking the foundations of the house and sending debris in all directions.

Reacting swiftly, they instinctively checked on the safety of their loved ones and surveyed their surroundings, confirming with relief that everyone was unharmed.

As they ventured out to investigate the source of the chaos, a chilling scene unfolded before them—the wreckage of a Cal Fire helicopter lay strewn across the yard. The helicopter had tragically crashed while approaching the Banning municipal airport, its three occupants bearing the brunt of the impact.

Without hesitation, their main priority was to rescue any survivors.

Tamulonis used his bare hands to break the windshield, while Brady kicked the glass, enabling them to extract the pilot. Following the crash, the sole conscious passenger told Brady to turn off the engine. He then climbed up to the helicopter and located the power, engine, and fuel switches, turning them off to prevent any fires, explosions, or fatalities.

Thanks to the bravery of Brady and Tamulonis, all three injured individuals in the helicopter crash were able to recover without any burns.

Scott Brady and Duke Tamulonis saved lives and their actions have made us all proud. As a result, they are being awarded the prestigious Gold Star.

David Peebles, Correctional Officer

On Dec. 4, 2022, Officer David Peebles demonstrated remarkable courage while overseeing a crew of three incarcerated individuals engaged in trail cleanup in Vacaville.

Witnessing a woman under a brutal attack, enduring repeated stabbings by a stranger, he and his crew sprang into action without hesitation.

Their swift response, under Officer Peebles’ leadership, exemplified their commitment to the well-being of others. Their heroic actions ensured the survival and continued well-being of the victim, reflecting the epitome of courage and service.

In addition to maintaining control over the assailant, Officer Peebles provided vital first aid to the victim by applying a tourniquet, playing a critical role in her survival. His actions showcased the depth of his training and compassion, ensuring that help arrived in time.

Officer Peebles has always demonstrated an eagerness to serve, from his time in the U.S. Coast Guard to his time as a firefighter to his current position as a dedicated officer of CDCR.

Ernie Cantu, Lieutenant

While commuting to work on May 3, 2022, Lt. Cantu witnessed a collision on Cutoff Avenue in Coalinga. A semi-truck had crashed into an SUV, with the smaller vehicle catching fire.

He quickly got out of his car with only one thought in his mind, to save those on board. As he approached, he saw that it was a woman, unconscious.

Lt. Cantu, putting his life at risk, without fear of getting burned, broke the window of the vehicle to get the driver out and take her to a safe place to prevent her from burning. Fortunately, a nurse was passing by and stopped to help.

Ever since he was in high school, Ernie Cantu knew he wanted to be part of law enforcement. One day, a friend asked him to take him to fill out an application to join the California Department of Corrections. There, Ernie was given an unsolicited application, filled it out, and was admitted. His friend was not.

It has been 25 years since then and many things have changed for him. Professionally, he has become a Lieutenant at Pleasant Valley State Prison. Personally, he has built a great family with his wife Anna.

Lt. Cantu’s actions on that night are indicative of the great character, level of training and experience he possesses.

Hector Macedo, Correctional Officer

Hector Macedo wearing sunglasses
Hector Macedo

On Aug. 8, 2022, while commuting to Calipatria State Prison, Officer Macedo noticed off-duty Correctional Officer Elizabeth Ramirez on the side of the road.

Then he spotted an overturned car in the river canal, situated near Highway 111, eight miles from Calipatria, Imperial Valley.

The car’s wheels were facing upwards, and water was entering the vehicle.

Officer Macedo jumped into the swift-moving water to rescue the vehicle’s occupants.

Despite his best efforts, he could not immediately open the door due to the strong current but did not give up. He kept trying to open it, a feat made more complicated by the damaged door.

Finally, he opened it and saw a woman unconscious, but still breathing.

While the water level rose almost to her head, the driver had her seatbelt on. Officer Macedo checked for anyone else trapped in the car but found none.

Then, he lifted the driver with his back, removed her seatbelt, and pulled her out of the vehicle onto the canal bank.

He and off-duty Correctional Officer Elizabeth Ramirez continued to monitor her breathing until paramedics arrived on the scene.

Read more stories of bravery on Inside CDCR’s Above the Call series.

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