A Montana Highway Patrol trooper has been awarded the Medal of Valor.

Talk to anyone who is in law enforcement, and they'll probably tell you that one of the interesting things about the job is that every day is different. One day might be spent traveling the desolate highways of Montana with minimal excitement. Maybe you'll catch a speeder, respond to a DUI, or assist a motorist who hit a deer.

We would guess that Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Thomas Tafoya has spent plenty of relatively quiet days behind the wheel of his patrol vehicle. However, on March 18, 2023, his career in law enforcement took a terrifying turn when he (along with other local agencies) responded to a hostage situation in St. Regis, MT.

St. Regis Travel Center
The St Regis gas station where the incident occurred. Credit Google Maps

A suspected armed robber from Idaho was apprehended in Montana.

ICYMI, the suspect in this case was believed to be involved in an armed robbery at a gas station in Osborn, ID earlier in the day. Idaho officials alerted the Montana Highway Patrol who essentially took over at the state line. Trooper Tafoya was waiting near Lookout Pass with hopes of encountering the vehicle when reports started arriving that the vehicle was spotted in St. Regis.

crime scene do not cross
Credit Canva

Trooper Tafoya along with three Mineral County deputies and two Sanders County deputies approached the Travel Center in their patrol cars and when they arrived, the suspect began shooting. In a press release this week, the Montana Attorney General's Office shared more details of what happened next at the Travel Center gas station,

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.

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MHP Colonel Steve Lavin presided over the recent award ceremony, where Trooper Tafoya was bestowed the agency's highest honor, the Medal of Valor. Lavin said,

There is no doubt that Trooper Tafoya saved many lives on this day.  He risked his own life to save others. 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.

Congratulations to Trooper Tafoya.

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