Deputy Sean Harper

Medal of Valor

On July 2, 2016, at approximately 1400 hours, you were rafting with your father, uncle and cousin on the Trinity River in Lewiston, CA in an area of the river named Cemetery Hole. As you were floating down the river, you saw a kayaker had become trapped by the branches of a submerged tree in strong rapids. You and your family immediately set off to help the trapped kayaker. The kayaker was able to free herself from the tree and waded to the bank of the river. You began to try and free the entangled wreckage.

While you were attempting to free the kayak, a second inexperienced kayaker (the first kayaker’s husband) came upon the scene to investigate and was immediately pulled under the same tree, flipped into an inverted position and became trapped underwater. You saw that parts of his harness and rigging had become looped around the tree making it impossible for him to right his boat or to free himself from the rushing current.

You and your cousin, Officer Andrew Harper of the San Bruno Police Department, who was carrying a knife began trying to cut the man free. You were joined a short time later by your father, Special Agent Keith Harper, of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, and your uncle. All four of you began to cut at the rigging that had trapped the kayaker submerged underwater between the tree and the riverbed.

Ultimately, you and the other members of your family were able to lift the tree just enough to reach the snagged straps holding the kayak in place and cut them. It was reported by witnesses that had you and the other members of your family not stopped to help when they saw the first kayak trapped in the tree, the second kayaker would have surely drowned under the tree. Your courageous and selfless actions and the actions of the other members of your family surely saved the second kayaker’s life. You acted without hesitation or reservation and never gave thought to your own well-being or the danger you were in.

You are to be commended for your bravery, professionalism and dedication to duty.

Dated:  September 13, 2016


Greg Munks, Sheriff
County of San Mateo