Sheriff employees receive highest honors
Deputy receives Purple Heart, field training officer receives Medal of Valor for May 3 machete attack
TULARE COUNTY – During a special awards ceremony on Sept. 11, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux honored two of his deputies with the most prestigious awards for law enforcement – the Purple Heart and the Medal of Valor.
The Medal of Valor is the highest honor the Sheriff can award to sworn staff for a selfless and courageous act taken at the risk of their own lives with full awareness of the danger involved. The Purple Heart is awarded to sworn staff who are wounded or killed in the line of duty.
Sheriff Boudreaux awarded the Purple Heart to Dep. Juan Serrano and the Medal of Valor to Dep. Daniel Villalobos.
Dep. Serrano was violently attacked during a call for service on May 3, 2018. Accompanying him was his Field Training Officer, Dep. Villalobos, who defended him and came to his aid.
The two of them had been dispatched to a residence in Orosi regarding a mental health issue. After speaking to the suspect’s mother at great length, Dep. Serrano agreed to check on her son, whom she said suffers from a mental illness, wasn’t taking his medication and was acting erratically.
The deputies were led inside the house by the suspect’s mother who directed them down the hallway to his bedroom door which was closed. Dep. Serrano led the way down the hallway with Dep. Villalobos behind him a short distance away.
Dep. Serrano knocked on the door and asked calmly, “Would you mind if we came in to talk to you?”
The subject responded “no” in a passive voice.
Situation turned violent
A few seconds later, the suspect opened the door and immediately raised a large knife, described as a machete, and swung it downward, striking Dep. Serrano’s head, causing a large laceration.
Dep. Serrano was dazed but continued to fight off his attacker. Dep. Villalobos stepped in to engage the suspect who, unbeknownst to him, was still in possession of the machete.
Next, Dep. Serrano said aloud, “He has a weapon.”
Dep. Villalobos disengaged from the suspect and drew his firearm. He saw the suspect with a machete and Dep. Serrano in a close quarter confrontation.
As Dep. Serrano pulled away from the suspect, Dep. Villalobos fired his duty weapon to stop the threat. The suspect was shot and succumbed to his injuries at the scene.
During the gunfire, Dep. Serrano sustained a single gunshot wound to his right wrist.
Dep. Villalobos took control of the situation, advising dispatch of the shots fired, officer down and suspect hit by gunfire. He instructed Dep. Serrano to leave the house and seek medical attention from ambulance personnel who were standing by for the initial call for service.
Dep. Villalobos remained calm despite the critical incident and maintained the scene until back up arrived, Sheriff Boudreaux said.
“His actions were based on instincts from his training, knowing there was only one course of action and that was to protect others,” he said “Dep. Villalobos undoubtedly saved Dep. Serrano from greater injury or death.”
Dep. Serrano was transported to Kaweah Delta Medical Center where he was treated for his injuries, including a laceration to his head, gunshot wound to his right wrist and a concussion.
Despite the fact that Dep. Serrano was new to Patrol and in his last weeks of field training, he displayed extraordinary bravery, heroism and courage in the face of imminent life-threatening peril, Sheriff Boudreaux said.
“His actions went above and beyond the call of duty and exemplified the highest standards of a law enforcement officer,” he said. “Dep. Serrano’s strong will to survive this violent encounter is a true reflection of his call of duty.”
In all, 10 employees were honored with Letters of Commendation and Employee Recognition certificates for going above and beyond the call of duty to maintain public safety and, in several cases, save lives.
Detective Sgt. Alan Knight received a Commendation and Employee Recognition for working diligently with Donor Network West to make it easier for organ and tissue donations to occur when possible.
Deputy Brent Worley received a Commendation and Employee Recognition for saving the life of an inmate who attempted to commit suicide while in a holding cell at the Visalia Superior Courthouse.
Detective Bari Molyneux received a Commendation and Employee Recognition for investigating a vehicle theft in Terra Bella that grew into the recovery of additional stolen property, identifying the suspect and multiple victims of thefts. Ultimately, he linked the suspect to 15 burglaries, thefts and stolen vehicles in Corcoran, McFarland, Pixley, Tulare and Hanford.
Sgt. Mario Sandoval received a Commendation and Employee Recognition for de-escalating a SWAT Operation by developing rapport with the armed suspect who had barricaded himself inside of a residence, ultimately giving himself up.
Correctional Deputy Juventino Torres received a Commendation and Employee Recognition. While on assignment guarding an inmate in the emergency room at Kaweah Delta Medical Center and after securing the inmate, Dep. Torres intervened when a security guard was being choked by a subject. Because of his quick response, Dep. Torres likely saved the security guard’s life.
Deputy Justin King received Employee Recognition for saving the life of an inmate at the Porterville Substation who attempted to commit suicide in a holding cell.
Detective Chris Franks received Employee Recognition for using his expertise in clarifying a video for a recent attempted homicide for the Livingston Police Department. Without his assistance, Livingston Police said they would not have been able to arrest the suspect which also led to successful prosecution.
Sheriff Security Officer Melissa Vasquez received Employee Recognition for spotting a firearm hidden in a brief case during the X-ray process at the Visalia Courthouse. She quickly alerted her law enforcement partners and her supervisor. The briefcase was seized as evidence and the suspect who brought in the briefcase was detained without incident.