Governor to honor San Diego firefighter for bravery during a knife attack

SAN DIEGO -- The state's highest award for extraordinary valor above and beyond the call of duty will be awarded to a San Diego firefighter Monday by Gov. Jerry Brown for bravery during a knife attack last year.

Brown will present Alex Wallbrett, who works out of San Diego Fire Station 4 in the East Village, with the Governor's Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor during a late-morning ceremony at the state Capitol in Sacramento.

He will be the first San Diego public safety officer to receive the award since it was established by the state Legislature in 2003.

"Alex is truly one of San Diego's finest, and his selfless bravery saved the life of a fellow firefighter," Faulconer said. "His actions prove that San Diego's first responders are second to none. ... Alex does all of San Diego proud in receiving this award."

On June 24, 2015, Wallbrett put himself in harm's way to come to the aid of fellow firefighter Ben Vernon during an otherwise routine medical call. Vernon was attending to a patient at an East Village trolley stop when a male bystander attacked him without warning, stabbing him with a knife several times and puncturing his lung.     Without hesitation, Wallbrett, who was nearby, vaulted a three-foot high barrier and put himself between his partner and the attacker. He protected Vernon from further injury, but Wallbrett was stabbed in the shoulder and back, with one wound perilously close to his spine.

"Alex is certainly deserving of this honor," Fennessy said. "His actions are the very definition of valor: great courage in the face of danger."   The assailant was convicted of attempted manslaughter and assault with a deadly weapon. He is serving a prison sentence of more than 23 years.