Story by OPEC staff
Photos by Scott Sabicer, Director, TV Communications Center

During the annual Governor’s State Employee Medal of Valor ceremony on May 17, CDCR Undersecretary Ralph Diaz and Director Kathleen Allison presented awards to 13 correctional officers in honor of their heroic acts. Recipients included a dozen Pelican Bay State Prison officers who quelled an attack by 130 inmates and an officer who confronted a knife-wielding robber in Modesto.

Pelican Bay officers attacked by 130 inmates

On May 24, 2017, at 10:20 a.m., Pelican Bay State Prison Correctional Officers Anival Avila, Zach Basnett, Sergio Chavez, Christopher Corpstein, Aaron Featherstone, John Franz, Michael Humphrey, Zackery McCully, Dale McDonald, Travis Molina, Aaron Schaad and Shaun Tayman were attacked by roughly 130 inmates.

Officers had to individually fight off or face down as many as 20 attacking inmates. Some of the officers were overwhelmed by the sheer number of attackers, who battered them. Some of the officers were knocked to the ground and then kicked before other officers could rescue them. In one attack, the inmates wrenched an officer’s baton from him but another officer confronted the inmate and regained control of the baton. Still other officers attempted to fight their way to downed officers as attacking inmates swarmed them.

During the attack, officers in towers responded to the danger with fire from their less-than-lethal weapons or state-issued rifles, forcing inmates to back away from the downed officers.

Officers used batons, chemical weapons, their training and sometimes their fists to quell the attackers. There was a real danger that the inmates would overwhelm the officers and take control of the yard. If that had happened, the efforts to regain control could have possibly had lethal consequences to officers and inmates. However, these officers, through their bravery and combined actions, were able to overcome this mass attack and quell the riot despite some of them suffering severe injuries.

“With no regard for their own safety, these correctional officers saved the lives of their peers and ensured the safety of the inmates. The State of California takes great pride in presenting these Gold Medals of Valor to (these) correctional officers,” Undersecretary Diaz said.

Correctional officer confronts knife-wielding robber

On July 28, 2016, at 5 p.m., a man stole a knife from the Costco store in Modesto and threatened employees and shoppers. Costco employees evacuated the store, and forced the man out by creating a barrier with shopping carts and other objects. The knife-wielding man remained a danger to everyone outside the store. Modesto Police Detective John McGill stated that the man’s actions “brought panic to the general public.”

Correctional Officer Kevin Machado of Deuel Vocational Institution approached the man outside the store, drew his concealed weapon, identified himself as a peace officer, and ordered the man to drop the knife. The man jabbed with the knife, and lunged at Officer Machado several times.

The man continued to pursue Officer Machado, getting within five to eight feet of the officer. Officer Machado fired a single shot and wounded the man, thus stopping the assault. After the man was released from the hospital, he was charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, and one count of robbery.

“With no regard for his own safety, Officer Machado’s heroic service saved the lives of fellow Costco shoppers from a knife-wielding attacker. The State of California takes great pride in presenting this Silver Medal of Valor to Correctional Officer Kevin Machado,” Undersecretary Diaz said.