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TSA officer puts life on line to save others during California festival shooting

Wednesday, November 20, 2019
Hernandez Award Winner

Have you ever thought what you might do if confronted with an active shooter? TSA/DHS training tells us to run, hide or fight.

Putting his own life on the line, a lead TSA officer from California’s Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport saved several people during a shooting at a California festival, and TSA leadership took note of that selfless act of heroism.

Benjamin Martinez received the Gerardo Hernandez “In the Line of Duty” Award at the 2019 TSA Honorary Awards ceremony. The award honors the memory of TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez, who was slain in the line of duty during a shooting at Los Angeles International Airport in November 2013.

Martinez was volunteering at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California when shots were fired. As he and another volunteer moved to where the shots came from, a mother carrying a small child approached them from behind. Martinez and the other volunteer acted as a barrier between the mother and the shooter.

His behavior detection training kicked in!

Martinez heard a radio call about a woman who had been shot, and he ran to that location to help. He noticed an open utility vehicle loaded with water and promptly unloaded the vehicle, and as people were running, he and another volunteer started picking up people who couldn’t move fast, including a woman and her small children and two elderly women.

He continued helping even after police arrived. After learning about a possible second suspect, he directed people to take immediate shelter.

“Our TSA training courses are invaluable in preparing us for adverse situations like this,” said Martinez. “Employees can sometimes brush off the purpose and value of our recurring training, but it truly surprised me that through the chaos and uncertainty of what was occurring around me that day, the TSA active shooter training came to mind – clear as day – and guided my actions.”

Martinez said vigilance and situational awareness are crucial at all times, especially at large gatherings. “We must always be vigilant,” he said, “and must not allow ourselves or each other to become complacent in our duty.”