It’s a situation, Parole Agent Louis Cardenas said, that could have fallen into anyone’s lap, but it fell into his.
“I heard some gunshots behind me. Two rounds went off,” Cardenas said. “So I turned and was watching people run from Walmart, and I knew that I had to go down there and find out what was going on.”
That moment happened back in December in Bakersfield while Agent Cardenas was checking on a parolee.
What Agent Cardenas heard changed the entire course of his day, and natural instincts from his training kicked in.
“Unfortunately nowadays with the state of our country, there are too many shootings taking place in public places, and I was pretty sure this was going to be one of those situations,” Agent Cardenas said.
Agent Cardenas quickly drove over and identified a person with a pistol in a shopping center parking lot in town. He said he was able to recover the pistol, and he kept the Bakersfield Police Department in the know the whole way.
“I was informed by the witnesses that were running around that the individual that I was looking for had run inside, that another person that had run inside had fired the weapon,” Agent Cardenas said. “So I quickly got a description of that individual, I relayed the information to the Bakersfield police, and I told them that I was going to go inside, and attempt to make contact.”
Ultimately he was able to get the suspect inside to the ground until backup from BPD arrived to clear the building. No one died or was hurt that day.
The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation awarded Agent Cardenas the highest honor of their department: the Medal of Valor, in a virtual ceremony on Friday. The medal is “earned by distinguishing himself by conspicuous bravery or heroism above and beyond the normal demands of correctional service,” according to the CDCR. BPD also acknowledged his efforts.
“They said ;hey, you did a really good job, we really appreciate it.' It’s good to have those guys recognize me that way, because they help me a lot on the street,” Agent Cardenas said. “I have a gang caseload and I'm constantly walking into houses that I consider extremely dangerous, and we work alone.”
Even though his peers say what he did was heroic, Agent Cardenas said peace officers are still human. He himself had a decompression process that his department offers and encourages fellow officers to talk about what they go through and how they feel.
“Of course this one has a good outcome, so a lot of pats on the back and a lot of high fives all around,” Agent Cardenas said. “Peer support and counseling is always important and nobody should shy away from that.”