Prison guards honored for bravery

By: Raheem Hosseini Telegraph Correspondent
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Three Folsom State Prison and two California State Prison, Sacramento, correctional officers may be sporting some pretty impressive bling to go along with their badges, following a recent ceremony that awarded them for acts of valor and bravery. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation adorned some 50 correctional officers throughout the state with medals and citations at the April 30 event in Sacramento. Among those honored were local officers Brian D. Chord, who received a gold star medal, and Ernest F. Johnson, Jeremy J. Viles, Robert M. Rodriguez and Douglas George Stever, all of whom received silver star medals. Chord, 48, got his honor for an off-duty act of heroism last August. While driving with his family on the afternoon of Aug. 30, Chord spotted a sedan up ahead that began swerving violently before hitting the center divider and launching into the air. The sedan crashed back onto the cement divider, trapping its female driver inside as the car burst into flames. Unable to guide the panicked woman out of the vehicle, Chord grabbed her through an open window and pulled her to safety just as the flames reached the interior cabin. Chord directed traffic until law enforcement units arrived to secure the scene. The driver, Caroline Pochy, was treated at a hospital and arrested for driving while intoxicated. Johnson and Viles, CSP Sacramento employees, were noted for exhibiting bravery during a December 2009 incident, in which an inmate armed with a handmade blade slashed the 33-year-old Viles’ neck, jaw and ear. Viles was able to fend off further attacks, and the inmate, 39-year-old Jonathan McClaurin, fled upstairs, pursued by Johnson and Viles. The officers were able to convince McClaurin to drop his weapon and be placed in handcuffs without using any force, said department spokeswoman Rhonda Carter. Johnson, 62, called for help and directed his fellow officer to place pressure against Viles’ wound, saving his life. Viles has yet to return to work and the investigation into the attack remains ongoing, Carter added. Rodriguez and Stever also received silver star medals in bravery. Rodriguez, 36, stopped a violent thief after he had seriously beaten two men while robbing them at the Pacific Plaza in south Sacramento last March. Stever defused a tense situation at UC Davis Medical Center last February, when a patient high on methamphetamine began destroying medical equipment and threatening nurses with a pair of scissors. Stever, 59, was able to talk the patient into surrendering. “I believe I can say that the staff here at Folsom State Prison is extremely proud of the courage and composure displayed by our three correctional officers when they each were faced with a dangerous and potential life threatening situation,” Warden Rick Hill said in a prepared statement.