“What is an act of valor?”
That was the question Josephine County Sheriff Dave Daniel went on to answer at the Sept. 20 Board of JoCo Commissioners’ meeting, held at Anne G. Basker Auditorium in Grants Pass.
“An act of valor is considered to be above and beyond the call of duty – exhibiting exceptional courage, extraordinary decisiveness and presence of mind, along with unusual swiftness of action regardless of his or her personal safety, in an attempt to save or protect human life,” the sheriff explained.
“That, by definition, is exactly why I’m here today.”
Daniel recounted an incident that took place almost exactly a year ago, which tragically ended with a fatal shootout but also with a wounded victim being saved as the result of sheriff deputies’ intervention.
“On Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2022 at 4:19 p.m., Oregon State Police and Josephine County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a call for service at the Manzanita Rest area located on Interstate 5 milepost 62 northbound,” Daniel recalled. “A female caller called 911 and reported a disturbance between her and her male companion she was traveling with. The female advised dispatchers that the male was armed with a pistol and a semiautomatic rifle.”
The sheriff shared details regarding how deputies approached the situation: staging a defensive perimeter at both the on and off ramps of the rest area; deputies Chris Watson and Tanner Cheryl hiked through thick brush behind the rest stop to get a better visual; and deputies engaged the gunman in a firefight after he shot the female victim in the arm and leg then attempted to flee the scene.
“This was a gunfight,” Sheriff Daniel affirmed. “Somebody wasn’t going to leave that day. As the troopers and the deputies encountered this individual again, the major gunfight arose and as a result, the male succumbed to his injuries, the male driver of that Jeep. Deputy Cheryl and Watson were able to get to the female, render first aid, call for paramedics and to their credit and the rest of the people on scene, she survived the incident. For their actions on that day, today’s anniversary, these brave men are receiving the Law Enforcement Medal of Valor.”
After deputies Watson and Cheryl were called up to the dais to receive their medals, Daniel said of them, “These gentlemen were placed under heavy gunfire by a subject determined to kill them all. For the purpose of what? Protecting life. They put themselves in a position in the heavy brush and crawled to reach this female. Their primary focus was to provide critical information to the rest of the team, which they very, very well did. I’ve heard the audio, so it’s to their credit. Congratulations gentlemen, for a job well done.”
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Next, Deputy Gerald Baird, who struck the gunman’s Jeep with his vehicle to prevent his escape, was called up to receive his medal. Baird was accompanied by Gibbs, the Sheriff Department’s compassion therapy dog.
“Deputy Baird positioned himself at the on ramp, the North End of the rest area,” said Daniel. “This was done for a critical reason and thought went into it. Deputy Baird put himself in between what is a madman and the general public, basically forcing him to be contained into that situation. Deputy Baird did have to discharge his patrol rifle. It was necessary, it was needed, and it was a great decision for putting yourself in that position.”
Sergeant Craig Ricker and Undersheriff Travis Snyder were next to be awarded. They were critical to containing the dangerous individual to the rest area as well.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a hard job,” the sheriff said in his concluding remarks. “These guys are at the forefront of it. They make split second decisions every day and they choose to put themselves in harm’s way. Remember that this isn’t just writing reports or arresting shoplifters, kicking out trespassers. This is real, and it comes down to life and death. And thank God that we have men and women within our agency and across the nation that are willing to put themselves in harm’s way for the better good. God bless you all and keep up the good work.”