By Krissi Khokhobashvili, CDCR Public Information Officer
Photos by Eric Owens and Alan Barrett
Correctional Sergeant Rafael Segovia wasn’t thinking about awards when he pulled a woman from a burning vehicle. Neither was Correctional Officer Ney Vencer, as he and his fellow officers subdued an inmate attack, even as Vencer sustained life-threatening injuries. And recognition was the last thing on the minds of Special Agents Scott Moore and Dennis Reitz, and Parole Agents I Joseph Basile and Nate Castro, when they put themselves in the line of fire to stop a violent fugitive.
These men, along with 102 other California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) employees, were recognized during the 30th annual Medal of Valor ceremony.
The event recognizes employees who go above and beyond the call of duty, putting themselves in harm’s way to save the lives of others.
Segovia, Vencer, Moore, Reitz, Basile and Castro were awarded the Medal of Valor, the highest honor the department bestows. It is earned by employees who distinguish themselves by conspicuous bravery of heroism above and beyond the normal demands of correctional service.
“Our correctional officers, parole agents, treatment staff and the critical support staff at CDCR are charged with assuring that the largest adult and youth offender department in the nation runs safely, securely and humanely – under what are often extremely stressful and challenging conditions,” CDCR Secretary Jeff Beard told the standing-room-only crowd assembled for the ceremony. “You will hear evidence today of what we know – our staff, both on- and off-duty, display the highest moral and ethical standards.”
In addition to the Medal of Valor, employees were honored with Gold, Silver and Bronze Corrections Stars, Unit Citations and Distinguished Service Medals.
Gold Star awardees included Correctional Counselor Daniel Godinez, who rescued two men from a plane crash while he was off-duty.
Silver Star awardees Correctional Officers Alfonso Din Jr. and Ruben Rosales Jr., of Centinela State Prison, saved a man from drowning after he was swept into the swiftly moving waters of a canal.
Parole Agent I Michael D. Williams earned the Bronze Star for his efforts in keeping a gunshot victim safe and calm until emergency personnel arrived.
San Quentin State Prison’s Lt. Sam Robinson returned as the event’s emcee, introducing CDCR officials to present the awards. The stories of heroism were met with applause by the audience, which rose to its feet as the Medals of Valor were awarded.
While the applause was appreciated, Special Agent Christopher Paris said it wasn’t the reason he and his peers in the Office of Correctional Safety sprang into action last October to assist local law enforcement in locating a violent parolee-at-large.
Paris recounted how when Samuel Duran wounded local officers and a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, OCS provided crucial support to units on the ground.
Working as a unit, the Sacramento Fugitive Apprehension Team, Special Service Unit-Rancho Cordova and Criminal Intelligence and Analysis Unit assisted with gathering intelligence, providing updated information to the command post and coordinating cell searches throughout state institutions.
“That’s part of our normal job,” Paris said. “Being able to support local law enforcement is the award.”
The ceremony included CDCR’s Employee Recognition Program, which honored Russ Nichols of the Strategic Offender Management System as Administrator of the Year; Dr. Laura Ceballos as Mental Health Professional of the Year; Dr. Michael Barks as Dental Health Professional of the Year; Youth Correctional Officer Robert Lofton as Division of Juvenile Justice Officer of the Year; Tina Bayles as Rehabilitation Professional of the Year; Guillermo Viera Rosa as Division of Adult parole Operations Employee of the Year; Correctional Officer Macaria Orgazan as Correctional Officer of the Year; Correctional Lieutenant Tony Thompson as Correctional Supervisor of the Year; and Division of Rehabilitative Programs Deputy Director Rodger Meier as Executive of the Year.
For a complete video of the Medal of Valor Ceremony, go to mms://fdcmedia/opec/2014/20140918MOVfinal.wmv
To view it on YouTube, go to https://youtu.be/yx6Qi6jbQfg
To get individual photos from the Medal of Valor ceremony, visit this site: https://2014cdcrmedalofvalorceremony.shutterfly.com/4