SACRAMENTO – Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. was joined by Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today to honor three individuals with the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor for their extraordinary commitment, service and bravery in the line of duty.
This year’s recipients of California’s highest public safety award included San Francisco Fire Department Firefighter William Mulkeen, Riverside Police Department Officer Zachariah Fishell and El Cajon Police Department Officer Jarred Slocum.
“The heroes we honor today faced incredible danger and without hesitation, put their own lives on the line to protect others,” said Governor Brown. “Their courage under fire is deeply inspiring.”
The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act of 2003 gives the Governor the authority to award a Medal of Valor to public safety officers who are cited by the Attorney General for extraordinary valor above and beyond the call of duty. The Attorney General’s Office receives nominations from public safety agencies. These nominations are reviewed by the Medal of Valor Review Board, which makes a recommendation to the Attorney General.
“Peace officers and firefighters enter the most noble of professions and put service above self every day,” said Attorney General Kamala D. Harris. “The three heroes we honor with the Medal of Valor put themselves in harm’s way, acted decisively and courageously. They saved lives and we thank them for their bravery.”
The following individuals were awarded the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor today:
San Francisco Fire Department Firefighter William Mulkeen
On January 1, 2011, at 1:30 a.m., Firefighter William Mulkeen and other San Francisco Fire Department personnel were dispatched to an active fire of a three-story multi-residential building. Upon arrival, the fire truck was unable to park in a manner to deploy the truck’s high rise ladder. Smoke was pouring from the top of the building and while a perimeter check was conducted, two elderly people were seen frantically waving their arms and pleading for help from a third story window. An immediate rescue of the trapped residents was needed.
As is one of the vital skill-sets of California’s firefighters, San Francisco Fire Department personnel quickly improvised another rescue plan due to the unavailability of the truck’s ladder. As critical time hung in the balance, Firefighter Mulkeen, his captain and another firefighter took action. The triad used a portable 24-foot ladder and rope to “bridge” the ladder over an alley located between the burning structure and the roof of the adjacent building. While the Captain lowered the ladder into the window where the two elderly people were trapped, the other firefighter anchored the ladder. Firefighter Mulkeen, who was wearing full firefighter safety equipment, then crawled across the make-shift bridge ladder in between the two buildings to rescue the trapped residents.
When Firefighter Mulkeen reached the two people, they were emotionally overcome by smoke, fearful of crawling across the ladder due the concrete alley below and were now uncooperative. Firefighter Mulkeen removed his turnout coat and wrapped it around the first victim in order to restrict his movement. He then removed his self-contained breathing apparatus, grabbed the man and carried the man while crawling back across the ladder. Once again, Firefighter Mulkeen put himself in harm’s way and returned across the ladder to rescue the second trapped person, who was also uncooperative. He repeated the same actions and without hesitation, he carried her across the ladder to the roof of the adjacent building. Due to Firefighter Mulkeen’s extraordinary bravery, both residents’ lives were saved.
Riverside Police Department Officer Zachariah Fishell
On May 10, 2011, at 5:50 p.m., Officer Zachariah Fishell was on routine patrol driving his marked police unit through a bustling Riverside residential neighborhood. Suddenly, Officer Fishell heard gunshots and within ninety seconds, he located the origin of the gunfire. One victim had already been shot and as concerned neighbors stood in their yards, Officer Fishell found the “active shooter” suspect who was still firing his weapon.
Officer Fishell could not wait for assistance and he courageously approached the house where he could see the suspect shooting a second victim who lay prone on the ground. Officer Fishell immediately engaged the active shooter suspect and fired his service revolver at the suspect who then stopped his deadly attack on the second victim. The suspect hid behind a large truck in an attempt to find out where the single shot had come from. Officer Fishell continued to advance the suspect who crossed the street and was running towards residential homes.
Officer Fishell believed the active shooter suspect would enter one of the houses and continue his deadly attacks against additional innocent residents. Although still thirty yards away, Officer Fishell fired three rounds and mortally wounded the advancing suspect. Tragically, both shooting victims died at the scene. Officer Fishell’s heroic actions reflected one of law enforcement’s fundamental duties which call upon officers to protect the peaceful against violence and disorder.
El Cajon Police Department Officer Jarred Slocum
On August 21, 2011 at 5:09 p.m., Officer Jarred Slocum and his trainee partner, along with other El Cajon Police Department patrol units, were dispatched to a possible shooting call. Unbeknown to the responding officers, a suspect had shot and killed his mother-in-law and 14-month old daughter. Upon arriving on scene, officers saw that the residence was on fire. The suspect had armed himself with a handgun and was hiding out of view on the front porch.
As Officer Slocum approached the burning structure, he used the cover of vehicles in an attempt to avoid being struck by possible gunfire. The suspect then began firing his handgun and Officer Slocum was shot in the head.
Although seriously injured, Officer Slocum was able to return gunfire, forcing the suspect to retreat into the residence. Officer Slocum remained composed and focused and continued to cover the suspect’s residence for the safety of his fellow officers and citizens. Officer Slocum was then able to remove himself from the immediate threat to an area where he could receive medical assistance. Officer Slocum’s exemplary “will to survive” during this violent encounter allowed him to remain courageous and calm in the face of extreme danger.
Photo Credit: Justin Short, Office of the Governor.