California state government honored 52 of its employees Wednesday afternoon with its highest honor for public servants, the Medal of Valor.
The ceremony, held at the California Highway Patrol Academy in West Sacramento, recounted dozens of life-saving rescues and showdowns with violent suspects.
During one particularly emotional moment, Transportation Secretary Brian Kelly recalled the tragic events of a routine traffic stop in Alamo in 2012 that turned deadly when the driver shot CHP Officer Kenyon Youngstrom in the head. His partner, Officer Tyler Carlton, shot and killed the gunman and then performed CPR on his mortally wounded comrade. Youngstrom died in a local hospital. His organs were donated to seven people.
As Kelly retold the story, Carlton wiped his eyes, head bowed. Dozens in the audience of 550 people dabbed their faces with tissues, then gave Carlton a standing ovation as a gold medal was placed around his neck.
Other departments whose employees were honored included Cal Fire, Caltrans, the Conservation Corps, Fish and Wildlife, DMV, Parks and Recreation and Water Resources. (Read the full list of honorees here.)
Gov. Jerry Brown’s top aide, Executive Secretary Nancy McFadden, presented the medals to honorees with top officials from each employee’s department or agency. Brown would have attended, she said, but he was on standby for jury duty.
Since the award’s inauguration 56 years ago, 523 state workers have received the Medal of Valor. The number of medals awarded this year was unusually high because the state didn’t schedule a ceremony in 2014.
Call Jon Ortiz, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1043.