FRESNO — Mariposa County Sheriff’s Deputy Rudy Mirelez, a 10-year veteran of the department at the time he was wounded in the line of duty on Oct. 1, 2015, was honored today for his bravery.
Senator Dianne Feinstein today awarded the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery to Deputy Mirelez, who “exhibited exceptional courage in saving and protecting others and whose heroic actions were above and beyond the call of duty.”
U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert and Mariposa County Sheriff Doug Binnewies attended the presentation today in Fresno at the Doubletree Hotel.
“Deputy Rudy Mirelez is a worthy recipient of the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery,” said U.S. Attorney Talbert. “It is an honor for the U.S. Attorney’s office to support the nomination of Deputy Mirelez. He now joins the ranks of law enforcement officers across the nation who stood in the front lines to fight against crime and violence.”
“It is a privilege to count Deputy Rudy Mirelez as a partner in our mission to protect the people of Mariposa County,” said Sheriff Binnewies. “He fearlessly responded when his fellow deputy was in danger. We will never know how many lives he may have saved by his courageous actions that day. I congratulate him on this well-deserved honor. His bravery will always be remembered and will serve as an inspiration to us all.”
Every day, federal, state and local law enforcement officers engage in exceptional acts of bravery while in the line of duty. Often, such acts place the officers involved at personal risk of injury, or result in their sustaining a physical injury.
To honor these acts of bravery, Congress passed the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery Act of 2008, creating the Federal Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery and the State and Local Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery. The act establishes an award to honor exceptional acts of bravery in the line of duty by federal, state and local law enforcement officers. The medals are awarded annually by the U.S. Attorney General and are presented by the recipients’ Congressional representatives.
On Thursday morning, Oct. 1, 2015, at 5:44 a.m. veteran Mariposa County Sheriff’s Deputy Rudy Mirelez logged on early for duty. At approximately 6:01 a.m., Deputy Mirelez and Deputy Justin Sponhaltz heard radio traffic from another deputy involved in a vehicle pursuit heading in their direction.
The pursuing deputy indicated that the suspect vehicle passed him traveling at speeds of 90 miles per hour. As the suspect vehicle approached their location, Deputy Sponhaltz pulled onto State Route 49 to prepare to support the pursuing deputy.
The fleeing vehicle was approaching Deputy Sponholtz’ position at an extremely high rate of speed. The suspect vehicle then appeared to lose control and may have intentionally collided into Deputy Sponhaltz’ patrol vehicle. This collision forced Deputy Sponhalz’s vehicle off of the highway up an embankment. The suspect vehicle was rendered disabled and spun to a stop in the middle of the lane.
Witnessing the collision, Deputy Mirelez pulled to a stop between Deputy Sponhaltz’s vehicle and the suspect vehicle in an attempt to protect the life of his partner. Deputy Mirelez exited his vehicle and was confronted by a 35-year-old man armed with a pistol.
After a brief verbal exchange, where Deputy Mirelez ordered the driver to drop the pistol, gunfire erupted between the suspect and Deputy Mirelez. During the firefight, Deputy Mirelez sustained a direct gunshot wound to the face from the suspect’s .45-caliber gun. This traumatic injury caused Deputy Mirelez to fall to his knees.
Knowing his partner and the community was in danger, Deputy Mirelez got back up and continued to engage the suspect with fire. Deputy Mirelez was then struck in the upper torso. The bullet passed above his ballistic vest panels and caused critical internal injuries.
Deputy Mirelez was able to keep the suspect engaged until his fellow deputies — Deputy Sheriff Tim Lemmons and Deputy Sheriff Michael King — contacted and apprehend the suspect.
Sustaining life-threatening injuries, Deputy Mirelez was flown to a trauma hospital in Modesto where a surgery team was waiting. Less than 24 hours after this incident, Deputy Mirelez, barely alert, began asking about his partners.
Due to the significant and critical injuries sustained, Deputy Mirelez was not able to speak and was unable to move without excruciating pain. Fighting through his pain, he asked for paper and a pen and wrote “Sponholtz.” He then held his hand up showing the number four, the universal law enforcement code for Code 4, meaning “no further assistance needed.”
Throughout his recovery, Deputy Mirelez would focus more on healing those around him than his own well-being.
Less than 30 days after being shot twice, Deputy Mirelez spoke to the Mariposa County Board of Supervisors and community. Appearing in public with his wife and family, with his facial injuries and protruding medical devices that held his jaw in place, he spoke about healing the community, thankfulness, and his desire to get back to work protecting and serving the people of Mariposa County.
After receiving multiple life-threatening injuries and having undergone multiple surgeries, Deputy Rudy Mirelez remains strong for his family and peers.
The investigation into the shooting revealed the suspect was a well-trained U.S. combat veteran who served three tours in Iraq. The suspect, reportedly was “on a mission” to kill an unsuspecting Mariposa County resident unrelated to this event. Due to the courageous actions of Deputy Mirelez, at least one, and possibly many citizens’ lives were saved that morning.
Go to www.bja.gov/CBOB to learn more about the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery.
(Photos courtesy of the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office)
(Source: Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of California.)