Paso Robles officers awarded medals of valor

October 7, 2020

Dispatcher Kate McKinley, Battalion Chief Randy Harris and Sgt. Ricky Lehr


Paso Robles Police Chief Ty Lewis on Tuesday presented three employees with medals of valor for their actions during an active shooting event in June that left two people dead and four suffering from gunshot wounds. Dispatcher Kate McKinley, Sgt. Ricky Lehr and Battalion Chief Randy Harris each received medals of valor.

In the early morning hours of June 10, McKinley, the only dispatcher on duty, noticed a person standing outside the police department with a firearm. She alerted officers and then had the forethought to notify firefighters who were headed back to the station, advising them to stay away from the Public Safety Center.

Even though she was rattled by the attack on the station, she kept her composure and tracked the shooter on surveillance cameras. She is credited with saving the lives of the firefighters.

At 4:25 a.m., the words “officer down,” came over the radio system. Mason James Lira had shot San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Deputy Nicholas Dreyfus in the face.

As officers and deputies attempted to find a way to safely rescue Dreyfus, a white truck was spotted approaching the location of the downed officer. Unbeknownst to anyone, the driver of the truck was Sgt. Lehr, who was answering the call for help.

Lehr later recalled hearing gunshots coming from his directions as he drove south on Riverside Avenue towards the wounded deputy. Lehr continued through the sounds of gunfire, to Dreyfus.

Wearing only sweatpants, sandals and a T-shift, Lehr selflessly jumped into action to save Dreyfus. As a U.S. Marine, Lehr never contemplated his own safety. Lehr removed his own shirt and immediately applied pressure to  Dreyfus’ wound.

Lehr then used the deputy’s radio to help coordinate incoming medical units.

Simultaneously, while in the area and scanning the police department radio traffic, Chief Harris jumped into action. With an ambulance and fire engine staged for deployment at the fairgrounds, Harris planned an extraction.

Without regard for his own safety, Harris drove his SUV into the unsecured area, where he and Lehr placed Dreyfus into the SUV. At that time, they did not know where the shooter was.

“Harris’ heroic, selfless, actions allowed him to get Deputy Dreyfus to safety, where life-saving medical attention could be obtained,” according to the police department’s Facebook page.

“For these reasons, McKinley was awarded the bronze medal of valor, Harris was awarded the citizen of valor award, Lehr was awarded the department’s highest honor, the gold medal of valor,” according to the department.

Over the span of a day and a half, Lira shot and killed a homeless man; shot and injured a SLO County Sheriff’s deputy, an Arroyo Grand police officer, a California Highway Patrol officer and a Kings County Sheriff’s deputy. Lira, who was shot and killed, was believed to have been schizophrenic and suffering from other mental conditions.

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Guess this is one difference between police departments, in Paso officers are awarded for valor, in SLO officers are awarded for doing whatever the chief tells them, nevermind if it is illegal and wrong.

So proud of all three of you. Thank you for your service.