Montana Highway Patrol trooper honored for efforts during St. Regis hostage situation

Valor Award St. Regis Hostage Situation
Posted at 5:14 PM, Jan 29, 2024

BOULDER — A Montana Highway Patrol trooper has been honored with the agency's highest award for his actions during a March 18, 2023, hostage situation at the St. Regis Travel Center in Mineral County.

MHP Trooper Thomas Tafoya received the Medal of Valor for his handling of a hostage situation involving armed robbery suspects, and then providing aid to the hostage who was shot in the incident by the suspect.

To qualify for the award, troopers must show an act of heroism and bravery, knowingly expose themselves to obvious life-threatening peril, or react to a situation without regard for personal safety to effect aid or rescue, according to a news release.

Tafoya confronted two suspects who were wanted for an armed robbery that happened in Shoshone County, Idaho earlier that day.

"There is no doubt that Trooper Tafoya saved many lives on this day.  He risked his own life to save others," said MHP Colonel Steve Lavin, who presided over the ceremony and presented the award. "This is just one of the many brave and heroic acts that our men and women of the Montana Highway Patrol perform on a daily basis. The Montana Highway Patrol is proud of this act of heroism, and I know that the citizens of Montana are proud."

“Our Montana Highway Patrol troopers are heroes as they put themselves in harm’s way to keep Montanans safe every day,” Montana Attorney General Knudsen said on Monday. “Trooper Tafoya exemplifies what it means to be a trooper. He willingly entered a volatile active shooter situation without regard for his own safety. I am grateful for his bravery and quick thinking that helped save lives that day."

Trooper Tafoya responded to a call in March of 2023 from dispatch that the Shoshone County Sheriff's Office in Idaho was pursuing suspects from an armed robbery that occurred in Idaho.

Trooper Tafoya went directly to the area of Lookout pass to assist. Idaho authorities stopped their pursuit, but the suspects continued eastbound into Montana. After searching, Trooper Tafoya was unable to locate the vehicle.

The vehicle was soon reported in St. Regis. One person was detained, and the other person was seen on the boardwalk at the St. Regis Travel Center pacing back and forth.

Trooper Tafoya along with three Mineral County deputies and two Sanders County deputies approached the travel center in patrol cars. As Trooper Tafoya exited his patrol vehicle, the suspect began shooting and ran around the back of the buildings, a news release states.

Trooper Tafoya moved into an alley and began to move to the back of the buildings as civilians began running down the alley toward him. After Trooper Tafoya helped the civilians, he began to move down the alley again.

When the suspect came out of the front of the travel center holding a gun to the head of a hostage, Trooper Tafoya immediately moved toward them and found cover. The suspect moved to the hostage’s car and then shot him.

Trooper Tafoya and several deputies fired, ultimately killing the suspect.