Latino Officer Among White House Medal of Valor Honorees

In 2010, two California Highway Patrol officers came under gunfire when they were helping a fallen officer.

The officers, Rafael Rivera and Sean Haller, braved the gunshots to try to save a local policeman, Javier Bejar, who was shot while serving a warrant to a man wanted in a series of arsons. Haller and Rivera engaged in a shootout with the suspect, and Rivera made diligent attempts to remove Bejar from the line of fire. Rivera continued trying to move Bejar even as the suspect began firing directly at him.

For their bravery, Rivera and Haller are among 18 recipients of the Public Safety Medal of Valor.

The honor, which Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder presented Wednesday at a White House ceremony, is the highest national award of its kind for law enforcement officers and firefighters.

The award recognizes “officers who exhibited exceptional courage in saving and protecting others and whose heroic actions were above and beyond the call of duty,” according to the Bureau of Justice Assistance Web site.

The medal, awarded annually, grew out of an act of Congress in 2001.

The White House issued a statement saying Officers Rivera and Haller exhibited great personal courage, while putting themselves in danger in their efforts to save Officer Bejar’s life.

As Haller fired at the suspect, Ricky Liles, Rivera managed to move Bejar from the scene.

Bejar, whom the suspect shot with a high-powered rifle that was outfitted with a scope, did not survive.

Bejar was a five-year veteran of the Reedley Police Department, where he first started working when he was just a teenager. He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps.