Six CHP Officers Presented with Medal of Valor

June 25, 2024


Six California Highway Patrol officers were presented with a prestigious Gold Medal of Valor during a ceremony today at the CHP Academy in West Sacramento. The Special Act Award, given on behalf of Governor Gavin Newsom, is the highest honor the state can bestow upon its employees who have risked their lives to save others or protect state property.

“I am incredibly proud of these courageous officers who, even in the face of great danger, honored their sworn oath by putting their own lives at risk to protect others. Their unwavering commitment and courageous actions exemplify the true spirit of law enforcement,” said CHP Commissioner Sean Duryee.

For their noble actions, each of the following CHP officers received a Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor Award:

• On May 2, 2023, Officer Jose Benitez rescued an unconscious, pregnant woman from her submerged vehicle in a canal outside of Corcoran (Kings County). Recognizing the life-threatening situation, Officer Benitez used a crowbar to smash a window, entered the water, and pulled the woman to safety despite the imminent danger of the vehicle sinking further.

• On Nov. 30, 2022, Officer Christian Lara rescued a driver trapped in a burning vehicle that had crashed on Interstate 8 in San Diego County. With the vehicle partially hanging over an overpass and engulfed in flames, Officer Lara broke a window and pulled the injured driver to safety, risking his own life in the process.

• On Aug. 27, 2020, Officers Chad Smith and Jonathan Wion responded to a private airplane crash near Benton Airpark in Redding. They navigated a steep, brush-filled ravine to reach the burning wreckage, rescuing two victims from the flames. Despite a secondary explosion, they managed to move the victims to safety and provided crucial first aid until medical teams arrived.

• On June 6, 2020, Officers Michael Estey and Luis Rodriguez responded to an ambush in Santa Cruz County where deputies were under fire from a domestic terrorist. Despite their patrol vehicle being hit by gunfire, they engaged the shooter, wounding him and preventing further casualties. Their quick actions and bravery saved lives that day.

These officers should take great pride in their Gold Medal of Valor for their extraordinary acts of heroism, which extend far above and beyond the normal call of duty.

The mission of the CHP is to provide the highest level of Safety, Service, and Security. #2024MOVCeremony#MedalofValor

(Left to right: Assistant Commissioner Ezery Beauchamp, Officers Christian Lara, Chad Smith, Luis Rodriguez, Jonathan Wion, Michael Estey, Jose Benitez, and Commissioner Sean Duryee)

@californiahighwaypatrol / CHP Facebook