Five California Officers Receive Medal of Valor Awards

The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act of 2003 gives the governor authority to award medals to public safety officers who are recognized by the attorney general for extraordinary valor above and beyond the call of duty.

California Gov. Jerry Brown and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra presented Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor awards to five officers on Oct. 29 from the California Highway Patrol and the Yuba County Sheriff's Department, all of whom went above and beyond the call of duty. "American democracy is not going to work if it's just based on self-interest or people trying to get what they want. It's also based on serving a much higher ideal," said Brown. "Men and women in uniform demonstrate that more than anyone – and that's why we have a medal of valor and honor these individuals today."

The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act of 2003 gives the governor authority to award medals to public safety officers who are recognized by the attorney general for extraordinary valor above and beyond the call of duty. Becerra's office receives nominations from public safety agencies that are then reviewed by the Medal of Valor Review Board, which makes a recommendation to the AG.

"The officers we recognized today with the Governor's Medal of Valor courageously put public safety before their own safety," Becerra said. "They put themselves in harm's way every day to protect Californians across the state. For this we are forever thankful."

The honorees are:

  • Yuba County Sheriff's Department Deputy Sheriff Dan Harris. On Aug. 1, 2017, Deputy Phillip Bronson and Deputy Andrew Everhart responded to a disturbance call involving two subjects associated with illegal activity, one of whom was said to have brandished a weapon. The location of the call was a remote residence and the site of illegal marijuana cultivation. Upon arrival, the deputies confirmed one subject was in possession of a handgun and a foot chase began as the suspect fled. While in pursuit, the deputies broadcasted for additional assistance. Harris, who was on duty, responded to the call although he was not assigned as a patrol deputy that day; his assignment was with the department's Marine Enforcement, patrolling the waterways in Yuba County in a boat, and he was dressed in shorts and a polo shirt. When Harris arrived on scene and met the deputies, they had established a perimeter around a nearby residence that they believed the suspect had entered. They agreed to have Harris provide cover at the exterior of the residence because he did not have a ballistic vest in his possession. When Deputies Bronson and Everhart entered the residence, the suspect, armed with a .40-caliber handgun, began shooting at them from behind a closed door, and the suspect continued to shoot as he exited the room. Deputies Bronson and Everhart returned fire. Both deputies were each struck by gunfire three times, and the suspect was also struck multiple times. The deputies broadcasted over the radio that shots were fired and they were injured. Harris, armed with a handgun, entered the residence and found the deputies were seriously injured. They still had not located the suspect, although he was fatally wounded inside the same room. Harris helped both men get outside and began providing life-saving measures to both deputies, while also updating the sheriff’s dispatch and responding units with critical information. Deputies Bronson and Everhart were airlifted to an area hospital for treatment, and are both still in recovery.
  • California Highway Patrol Officer Phil Agdeppa, Officer Pete Gavitte, Officer Whitney Lowe, and Officer Chad Millward. On Oct. 8, 2017, a CHP officer with Golden Gate Air Operations was returning to the Napa County Airport from a surveillance flight and observed a glow northeast of Napa – a quickly growing wildfire covering approximately 10 acres. The officer notified the dispatch, who then notified CalFire. CHP Officers Gavitte and Lowe, also with Golden Gate Air Operations, monitored the call and responded to the Atlas Peak area of Sonoma County. Upon arriving, they observed smoke-filled air and a towering wall of flames more than a mile long. They noticed that numerous residents were trapped between the fire and the hillsides. Due to the location of the fire and its rapid increasing size, many residents of the Atlas Peak area were trapped above the fire line. The Golden Gate Air Operations crew monitored radio traffic from CalFire calling for evacuations, but as CalFire resources were unable to reach the Atlas Peak residents, Officers Gavitte and Lowe used the helicopter's public address system, siren, and searchlight to alert the sleeping residents. Officers Gavitte and Lowe recognized that the only escape for the Atlas Peak residents would be by helicopter rescue. Despite the firestorm's 80-mile-per-hour wind gusts and extreme downdrafts and updrafts, the officers decided to fly into the smoke and land near the line of vehicles attempting to leave the Atlas Peak area. The helicopter held only four people at a time, and the officers realized additional assistance would be necessary. They requested help from CHP Northern Division Air Operations, and Officers Chad Millward and Phil Agdeppa responded to the call. The two helicopter crews began coordinating rescues and identifying drop-off locations as fires continuously overran the landing zones, together saving 41 lives. Aerial surveillance from the night of the rescues shows the rescue area was completely overrun by fire.

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