Correctional Officer Kevin Machado was shopping at the Modesto Costco with his girlfriend and his 11/2-year-old son on a Thursday afternoon last year when an alarm began to sound in the store.
He asked employees, “ ‘What’s going on’ and they said ‘There’s a guy in here with a knife trying to stab people’ and I said ‘OK I’m a peace officer. Where’s he at’.”
Gary Harlan Scott was in front of the store. Employees had surrounded him with shopping carts and other objects to force him outside.
Machado’s girlfriend took his son and followed other customers to a back door that employees were directing them to exit through. Machado went to the front of the store to confront Scott.
“We, as sworn peace officers, take an oath to protect people so the way I look at it is, if I wasn’t there I would want someone to protect my family from getting injured or killed,” said Machado, a correctional officer at Tracy’s Deuel Vocational Institution, who on Thursday will be awarded a Medal of Valor for his bravery during the incident.
As he got to the front of the door that hot July afternoon, Machado drew his concealed firearm, identified himself as a peace officer and told Scott to drop the knife. Instead Scott moved toward Machado with his outreached arm holding the knife.
Machado backed up, keeping his firearm fixed on Scott, but Scott just continued toward him, only a distance of several feet between them. Machado said he continued to back up during Scott’s advances, taking account of all the bystanders around him and focusing not to get “tunnel vision” on Scott.
“I gave him a lot of opportunity (to drop the knife) … he just kept coming toward me and lunging at me,” Machado said. “I didn't know when the police were going to get there and I just finally made the decision, I’ve got to stop this guy before he stabs me or someone else.”
Machado fired once, striking Scott in the torso between his chest and stomach. He fell to the ground and a Costco employee kicked the knife away from him. More employees got towels and held them on Scott’s gunshot wound until police and an ambulance arrived several minutes later.
Scott survived and in February was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading no contest to one count of assault with a deadly weapon.
On Thursday, Machado is scheduled to receive the medal at a ceremony in Elk Grove from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. One of his coworkers at the Tracy prison where he works also will receive the medal for risking his own safety to rescue victims of a four-vehicle crash as they teetered on the edge of a 60-foot drop.
“It is a good feeling, it is a high achievement, but I really wasn’t expecting anything,” Machado said during an interview at DVI this week. “I am just glad everyone is OK.”
Machado, a Stanislaus County resident, has worked at DVI for about 18 months and previously worked patrol as a deputy sheriff in Merced and Tuolumne counties. He continues to work as a reserve police officer for the city of Atwater.
Machado has extensive firearms training as a patrol officer and as a correctional officer must qualify every three months in order to carry a concealed firearm off duty.
“I never thought this would ever happen; I guess that’s why we always prepare and train ... in case a situation like this arises and somebody needs help,” Machado said. “Here we are surrounded by convicted felons so we’ve always got to be mentally prepared because you never know what is going to happen and there is a lot more of them than there is of us so you always have to be on alert.”
Machado said he believes Scott’s sentence is fair. He understands from reading accounts from Scott’s family in media reports that he was intent on committing suicide that day.
“I think he probably wasn’t in his right state of mind … who knows, maybe he didn’t really want to hurt anybody or maybe he did; I have no idea what his intentions were,” Machado said. “I’m thankful everyone is alive, he’s still alive. It’s a bad situation any way you look at it but it’s either him or me; I am going home to my son.”