BOULDER – Montana Highway Patrol (MHP) Trooper Thomas Tafoya today received the Medal of Valor, the agency’s highest award for mitigating a hostage situation involving armed robbery suspects, and then providing aid to the hostage who was shot in the incident by the suspect. MHP Colonel Steve Lavin presided over the ceremony and presented the award.
To qualify for the award, troopers must show an act of heroism and bravery, knowingly expose themselves to obvious life-threatening peril, or react to a situation without regard for personal safety to effect aid or rescue. In March, Tafoya confronted two suspects that were wanted for an armed robbery in Idaho earlier that day.
“There is no doubt that Trooper Tafoya saved many lives on this day. He risked his own life to save others.” Colonel Lavin said. “This is just one of the many brave and heroic acts that our men and woman of the Montana Highway Patrol perform on a daily basis. The Montana Highway Patrol is proud of this act of heroism, and I know that the citizens of Montana are proud.”
“Our Montana Highway Patrol troopers are heroes as they put themselves in harm’s way to keep Montanans safe every day,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “Trooper Tafoya exemplifies what it means to be a trooper. He willingly entered a volatile active shooter situation without regard for his own safety. I am grateful for his bravery and quick thinking that helped save lives that day.”
Trooper Thomas Tafoya with MHP Colonel Steve Lavin following Monday’s ceremony.
On March 18, 2023, Trooper Tafoya responded to a call from dispatch that the Shoshone County Sheriff’s Office in Idaho was pursuing suspects from an armed robbery that occurred in Idaho. Trooper Tafoya went directly to the area of Lookout pass to assist. Idaho authorities stopped their pursuit, but the suspects continued eastbound into Montana. After searching, Trooper Tafoya was unable to locate the vehicle.
Shortly after, the vehicle was reported in St. Regis. One occupant was detained, and the other occupant was observed on the board walk at the Travel Center pacing back and forth. Trooper Tafoya along with three Mineral County deputies and two Sanders County deputies approached the travel center in patrol cars. As Trooper Tafoya exited his patrol vehicle, the suspect began shooting and ran around the back of the buildings.
Trooper Tafoya moved into an alley and began to move to the back of the buildings as civilians began running down the alley toward him. After Trooper Tafoya assisted the civilians, he began to move down the alley again. When the suspect came out of the front of the travel center holding a gun to the head of a hostage, Trooper Tafoya immediately moved toward them and found cover. The suspect moved to the hostage’s car then shot him. Trooper Tafoya and several deputies fired, ultimately killing the suspect.