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Schwarzenegger and Brown Present Six Officers with Medal of Valor Awards

Thursday, September 10, 2009
Contact: (415) 703-5837

Sacramento – Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today presented six California peace officers who “exhibited extraordinary bravery in the line of duty” with the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor at a Capitol ceremony today.

“These individuals exhibited extraordinary bravery in the line of duty when they risked their lives to protect their fellow officers and members of the public,” Brown said. “It is fitting that we honor their fine service and thank all the men and women of law enforcement who safeguard our communities every day.”

“Today we honor California's best and bravest for showing extraordinary strength and character while answering the call of duty,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “In the face of danger, each of these men protected their fellow officers, members of the public and communities. They are true heroes and serve as an inspiration to us all. On behalf of all Californians, I thank them for their selfless and courageous service.”

The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor is the highest state award for valor awarded to a public safety officer. Under the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act of 2003, the Attorney General nominates individuals who demonstrate extraordinary valor above and beyond the call of duty, and the Governor subsequently awards the medal.

On June 12, 2009, Brown nominated six individuals for the Medal of Valor in a letter to Schwarzenegger. On Thursday, Schwarzenegger officially awarded the officers with their medals at a ceremony in the Governor’s Council Room.

Attached is a copy of Brown’s letter of nomination:

June 12, 2009

The Honorable Arnold Schwarzenegger
Governor of California
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

Re: 2008 Governor’s Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:

The Medal of Valor Review Board met on April 29, 2009, to assess 28 nominations for the 2008 Medal of Valor. The Board made six selections and presented those to me for approval. I concur with the Board’s unanimous recommendations that the following public safety officers deserve this award:

• Lieutenant Raymond Garcia and Officer Scott O’Connor, El Segundo Police Department
April 11, 2008 Lieutenant Garcia and O’Connor were working a special detail at a theatre complex when they were told by the manager of an uncooperative man in the lobby who was demanding a ticket refund. The officers approached and noticed the man appeared extremely sweaty. The subject pulled away at an attempted pat down and then retrieved a weapon when the officers reached for him. The subject opened fire, his first shot striking Lieutenant Garcia in the face. The round entered above Lieutenant Garcia’s lip, shattering the right side of his upper jaw, knocking out several teeth. The bullet continued on, striking a vertebrae and finally lodging in Lieutenant Garcia’s neck. Officer O’Connor tackled the subject, but he continued firing, striking Officer O’Connor in the chest and shoulder at point blank range. Fortunately Officer O’Connor’s bullet proof vest absorbed the impact from the torso shot, but the shoulder shot caused extensive damage, severing several tendons and muscles. The subject then got up and ran from the building. As he did so, Officer O’Connor followed, engaging the subject in a running gun battle. Lieutenant Garcia, dazed and bleeding profusely fought off his injuries and followed, also firing his service weapon. Both officers fired until the subject was incapacitated.

• Officers Bryan Paul and Joe Romeo, Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Police Department
On October 17, 2008 Officer’s Paul and Romeo received a call that a car had left a driveway and gone backwards down a steep embankment on an isolated hillside. The older couple in the car was uninjured, but the driver, now holding the brake, was unable to leave the car without it sliding further down the hill. Officer’s Paul and Romeo had to first scale a locked gate and then search for the car in the dark. Footing was treacherous when the officers located the vehicle, and when the victim attempted to exit the car, it started to slide further down the hill. There was no way to brace the car, so Officer Romeo held the driver’s door while Officer Paul continued pressure on the brake with his hands, exposing his body to a rollover threat, but relieving the exhausted driver. Officer Paul and Romeo held these positions for over a half hour as fire personnel worked to set up rigging to stabilize the car. When the officers themselves began to tire, they devised a plan to extricate the driver in a sudden move pulling him free. As this plan was deployed, the driver was rescued, but Officer Romeo was dragged down the hill by the now released car as he continued to hold the door for the rescue. Fortunately no one was injured in the incident.

• Sergeant Dave Peruzzaro, San Mateo Police Department
On November 25, 2008, at roughly 9:30 AM, numerous San Mateo police officers were dispatched to a residential robbery in progress. Sergeant Dave Peruzzaro, one of the first to arrive, approached the front door and saw the male suspect walking down a hallway in the residence carrying a handgun. It was determined that the 24-year-old female resident and her two children, ages three years and one year, were being held against their will by the armed suspect. The victim spoke with negotiators over a cellular telephone and stated the suspect was trying to break down the door to the bedroom. She told negotiators that she was going to drop her two children from the bedroom window to safety.

An armored rescue vehicle was driven to the scene to attempt the rescue of the victim and her children. Sergeant Peruzzaro climbed onto the exposed roof of the armored rescue vehicle and it was driven to a position directly below the bedroom window. Sergeant Peruzzaro placed himself in a precarious and defenseless position in order to accept the children from the victim. Sergeant Peruzzaro leaned toward the window frame and placed both his hands against the building. The mother of the children handed Sergeant Peruzzaro the first child who was quickly and safely passed on to other officers on the ground. As the second child was handed to Sergeant Peruzzaro, the suspect fired 10 rounds through a wall into the room where the victim was standing. Three rounds struck the victim while four struck the frame around the window where Sergeant Peruzzaro was accepting the last child. As the bullets tore through the bedroom walls, Sergeant Peruzzaro kept his grasp on the child, but lost his ability to support himself and fell to the ground from the roof of the armored rescue vehicle. As Sergeant Peruzzaro fell, he placed his arms around the child and twisted his own body to protect the child. Sergeant Peruzzaro, stunned by the fall, got to his feet and ran with the child to safety, believing he was shot due to a burning pain in his upper body. Ultimately, upon medical examination, Sergeant Peruzzaro was determined not to have been struck by a bullet. Tragically, the mother of the two children was fatally wounded by the suspect. The suspect was also located, deceased from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

• Officer Roger Smith, California Highway Patrol
Tuesday December 2, 2008 CHP Officer Roger Smith responded to a domestic violence call to provide backup to Tehama County Sheriff’s Deputies and another CHP officer already on the scene. Officer Smith picked up radio traffic indicating that the other officers had come under shotgun fire from the subject, and that one of the officers was injured. While rushing to assist, Officer Smith relayed critical information to the communications center. The injured officer, wounded in the femoral artery and bleeding profusely, advised that he was still pinned down and feeling faint. Upon arrival, and realizing the urgency of the situation, Officer Smith positioned his car, rear doors open and still under fire, so as to facilitate the extraction of the injured officer. Having rescued the bleeding officer from the scene, Officer Smith drove him to awaiting medical personnel.

As you will see from the enclosed nomination forms, these six public safety officers put their own lives directly in jeopardy. The State of California, and particularly their communities, should be proud of these individuals for their bravery, character, professionalism and willingness to serve with such uncommon valor.

Therefore, I request that you award the Medal of Valor to the aforementioned public safety officers. Tom Sawyer, your Public Safety Liaison Officer, has notified the Board that the date of September 10, 2009 and a time from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Governor’s Council Room has been reserved by your office for the 2008 Medal of Valor Ceremony. The Department of Justice will have the awards prepared and notifications sent to the award recipients, their families and the Medal of Valor Review Board members.

Thank you for your consideration of this very worthy recognition of California’s top public safety officers.

Sincerely,

EDMUND G. BROWN JR.
Attorney General

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