Local state trooper awarded state Medal of Honor

  • State Police officers Michael Baker, A.J. Kardoos and Scott McDonald receive awards in the State House, Thursday. Contributed photo

For the Gazette
Saturday, October 14, 2017

SOUTH DEERFIELD — A local Massachusetts State Trooper has received the highest recognition for actions last year during a violent gunfight with a felon who fatally shot an Auburn police officer.

State Police Sgt. Michael H. Baker of South Deerfield was awarded the George L. Hanna Medal of Honor at the State House Oct. 5.

On May 22, 2016, Baker, A.J. Kardoos, and Scott McDonald, Special Tactical Operations Team members, breached an Oxford duplex culminating an hours-long standoff with Jorge Zambrano, a convicted felon who had a history of violence.

Three hours earlier that day, Zambrano shot and killed Auburn Police Officer Ronald Tarentino Jr. during a routine traffic stop. Tarentino relayed information citing Zambrano as the shooter before he died.

Mid-way through the search Zambrano ambushed the officers from a closet, shooting Kardoos in the shoulder.

“As the troopers opened the closet door, a pit bull charged out of the closet and ran out of the room, and, simultaneously, a hand holding a gun thrust out from behind clothing and opened fire,” according to a State Police statement released earlier this year.

They returned fire, killing Zambrano. Kardoos, after going through emergency surgery, recovered from his injuries.

Kardoos and McDonald also received the medal of honor. Earlier this year, Baker, Kardoos, and McDonald received “Top Cop” awards in Washington, D.C., from the National Association of Police Organizations.

At Thursday’s ceremony 23 people received awards at the statehouse, according to the State Police.

“For his actions above and beyond the call of duty, exhibiting extraordinary bravery and courage in the face of extreme risk to protect and save the life of a colleague, Trooper Michael H. Baker is well deserving of the George L. Hanna Medal of Honor,” said Rep. Stephen Kulik in a statement. “I thank him for his service and for his steadfast commitment to public safety.”

The state’s website explains “the Hanna Memorial Awards for Bravery is an annual award ceremony named after Trooper George L. Hanna, who lost his life serving the Commonwealth on February 26, 1983,” also during a traffic stop also in Auburn.