Fair Oaks man given Carnegie Medal for heroism

A Fair Oaks man was honored with a Carnegie Medal for his role in saving a woman’s life during gunfire in Sacramento last year that left two dead.

The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission in Pittsburgh on Friday designated 20 individuals as recipients of the medal named after the 19th century industrialist-philanthropist Andrew Carnegie.

The medal is given to those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others. John Bigwood, 59, of Fair Oaks was honored with the medal for his actions in saving Glenda J. Gully on Feb. 21, 2012.

On that day, the Sacramento Area Modelers were about to start their monthly meeting at the Sacramento Municipal Utility District headquarters when gunfire erupted. Bigwood, president of the Sacramento Area Modelers club, heard glass blow out the front of the SMUD building.

He went to investigate and was confronted in the lobby by the shooter, club member Robert Gully, 73. Gully had shot and killed fellow club member Jerome Votaw, 62, in the parking lot. Gully then fired at his estranged wife, who was reportedly involved in a relationship with Votaw.

The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission noted that Robert Gully chased his estranged wife into the SMUD building lobby, where she sought refuge at the security desk.

Bigwood walked toward the assailant and stood between him and Glenda Gully. The armed man threatened to shoot his estranged wife and then pointed his weapon at Bigwood, threatening to open fire on him, too.

In an interview with The Sacramento Bee last year, Bigwood said he replied, “You don’t have a beef with me,” and persuaded Robert Gully to leave the building.

Bigwood followed Gully to a grassy area outside the SMUD headquarters and continued to speak with the armed man. As officers pulled up, Gully turned the gun on himself and died at the scene.

In addition to the Carnegie award, Bigwood was honored by the Sacramento City Council in 2012 for his willingness to face down the gunman. Sacramento police said Bigwood may have saved many lives that day.

Eight club members were inside the building, along with about 15 SMUD employees.

When he accepted the accolade of the City Council a couple of months after the shooting, Bigwood said he did not dwell on the danger he had faced.

“What hit me was that my best friend of 25 years was dead,” Bigwood said of Votaw. “A kind, innocent man got caught up in the midst of this and was killed.”