Two veteran California Highway Patrol officers were honored with the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor in Washington, D.C.
The award, which is the highest national award for valor by a law enforcement officer or firefighter, was presented to CHP officers Sean Haller and Rafael Rivera for their heroic actions during a February 2010 shooting in the Fresno County town of Minkler.
Presenting the prestigious award to the 18 recipients were Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder. Each of the honorees exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life. Including the newest awardees, 78 medals have been presented since the first recipients were honored in 2003.
“Officers Haller and Rivera exhibited great personal courage, while putting their own lives on the line in an attempt to rescue their fallen brother that day,” CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow said. “The actions of these two brave men truly exemplify courage, and I am honored to have them among the ranks of California’s finest.”
Both officers were grateful yet humble after receiving the award, and regretful in the fact the incident that lead to their honor resulted in the deaths of Reedley Police Department Officer Javier Bejar and Fresno County Sheriff’s Office Detective Joel Wahlenmaier.
“I’m extremely honored to be selected to receive this award,” Haller said after the ceremony. “It’s bittersweet, though, because Javier and Joel are very deserving of this, and unfortunately we lost two good officers that day.”
Rivera’s reaction was much the same as his partners.
“I really appreciate that we got recognized, but sometimes I feel like Joel and Javier should be here instead of us, or someone standing in for them,” he said.
Both Haller and Rivera have been with the CHP for more than a decade and were awarded in 2011 with a state Medal of Valor from Gov. Jerry Brown for their heroic efforts.
— James Richards is a public information officer for the California Highway Patrol.