The residents were all victims of terrifying crimes, but showed extreme bravery in their situations. They were honored at a ceremony as part of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week.
The recipients of this year’s award are Kris Walker, Ana Daugherty, Connie Hoagland, Harry & Mary Mathis, Joe Buniva and Gary and Joyce Hicks.
Prior to the award ceremony, several of the 2013 recipients shared their stories with Fox 5.
“We had a struggle in the garage,” said Mathis. “I had a gun and decided I was going to defend myself.”
As his attackers were brutally beating him, he was able to fire two shots before the gun jammed.
Mathis said he had purchased the gun after a break-in at his house a short time before the home invasion.
“I gave up the gun and the violence stopped,” said Mathis.
The attackers forced him into his home where his wife, Mary, was inside with no idea what was coming.
“From there it was going in the house,” said Mathis. “Getting the safe open with a gun to my head and his partner telling him to shoot me if I didn’t hurry up.”
Outside neighbor Joe Buniva was walking his dog and heard the gunshots.
“I heard pop! Pop!” said Joe Buniva. “Then I heard a woman scream ‘Oh my God!’”
Not hesitating, Buniva ran to the Mathis home to help. Turns out he played a huge role in foiling the attack.
“I told Joe, ‘you risked your life for me and I’ll never forget it,’” Mathis said.
Their story is one of several being honored this week in San Diego County. Connie Hoagland’s is another.
“Went to my truck,” said Hoagland. “Put the key in. It blew up.”
In the aftermath of the explosion, Hoagland learned her ex-husband was responsible for placing a bomb beneath her pick-up truck.
“It’s a miracle I can walk,” said Hoagland. “Actually, with the explosion, it’s a miracle I’m even alive today.”
Hoagland recovered from severe injuries to her legs and feet and, with courage, testified against her ex-husband at trial.
Despite it all, she doesn’t look back with hate, but with hope.
“I can never thank God enough for just saving my life from a terrible, terrible thing,” said Hoagland. “Although in my eyes, sometimes, it’s my freedom that the explosion gave me. Freedom to live again.”