Roseville/Placer News

‘Integrity and courage’: How two locals earned medals of merit from Placer sheriff

An 8-year-old girl and an 8-year Army veteran were honored Monday in Auburn for displays of heroism in separate, violent incidents that took place last month.

Placer County Sheriff Devon Bell presented Isabell Pierce and Tyler Metildi with a Citizen’s Medal of Merit, a rare award given in a ceremony at the sheriff’s office headquarters.

Isabell received the award proudly while her father, Brian Pierce, sat in the first row of a crowded conference room, still wearing a sling around his shoulder from a bullet wound sustained almost a month earlier.

“I’m probably gonna keep this (medal) for the rest of my life, I guess,” Isabell said with a smile and giggle.

On Jan. 15, Brian Pierce was driving with Isabell on Rock Springs Road in south Placer County when he was shot in the chest by a round allegedly fired by Stanley Stepanski III, a 48-year-old Montana man in the middle of a shooting spree through the region.

“I got hit in the chest with something, and it took me a little bit of time to figure out it was a bullet,” Pierce said.

Isabell alerted her dad that he was bleeding, and applied pressure to his wound by holding a sweatband to his chest as he continued to drive. Brian Pierce drove himself to a Loomis fire station, where he received medical attention. The shot broke his collarbone.

“She’s not afraid of slimy and dirty things,” Pierce said.

The spree shooter allegedly shot and killed Mary Toste, a 93-year-old woman, at the front door of her home on Rock Springs Road in Penryn, Placer County Sheriff’s officials said. Stepanski was killed in a gun battle with deputies after crashing into a divide on Interstate 80 near Highway 65 that same night, authorities said.

Bell awarded Isabell with a certificate, medal and ceremonial pin. The third-grader said she plans to wear the pin on her backpack.

“She is amazing,” Bell said. “I know many adults that would’ve absolutely freaked out under similar circumstances.”

Four days earlier in an unrelated incident, undercover law enforcement officers had tracked a serial burglary suspect, Timothy Trujillo of Reno, to a Best Buy parking lot in Roseville.

Tyler Metildi, 26, worked in asset protection at the store and was near the front curb assisting a customer when deputies began their pursuit of Trujillo.

As surveillance footage showed, Trujillo punched a deputy in the face and began to flee on foot. That’s when Metildi, an 8-year Army veteran, gave chase, tackling and restraining Trujillo and allowing officers to take the suspect into custody.

Metildi was controversially fired from Best Buy about two weeks later, he said, for violating a corporate-level policy that prohibits employees from chasing or physically engaging with people.

He said he did not regret his decision and accepted the consequences, though he believed such a policy was intended to apply to confrontations with potential shoplifters, not suspects wanted by law enforcement.

“I feel like I did the right thing,” Metildi reaffirmed Monday.

Shortly after news of the incident went public, Best Buy announced it would reverse its decision and offer Metildi his job back.

Metildi said Monday he did not accept that offer. He instead wants to become a Placer County sheriff’s deputy, and is set to take a written test at the end of February in hopes of entering the academy.

The event gave Metildi - by his own admission shy and not a fan of spotlight - an opportunity to meet Bell and several other deputies, many of whom congratulated him Monday and told him he did the right thing.

“The character to do the right thing and to put yourself in harm’s way, recognizing that there could be consequences to his own physical safety and certainly to his employment with Best Buy, having that kind of integrity and courage - boy that puts him right in the mix,” Bell said.

Dozens of friends, family members and sheriff’s deputies packed a ceremony room at the sheriff’s office to honor Metildi and Isabell. Placer Sheriff K-9 Eros, who was also shot and injured in the spree shooting incident and is still recovering, made a cameo appearance as well.

The Citizen’s Medal of Merit was established by the sheriff’s office in 2006 and had only been awarded six times prior to Monday, Bell said. He said it was bittersweet to have two more awarded so closely in time, given the danger involved in both incidents and the crimes that necessitated the heroism.

Metildi said his dad and his cousin have backgrounds with California Highway Patrol, but that the ceremony and recognition helped open his eyes to the Placer County Sheriff’s Office as a job possibility. He’s also attending a two-month program at a school for body guards in April.

“I’m sure he doesn’t appreciate all the attention,” Bell said. “He’s a very humble guy.”

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Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.