It’s a police officer’s job to protect us, sometimes from each other, and sometimes from ourselves (“click it or ticket,” anyone?). It’s easy to sit back and assume one will act accordingly when the need arises, but when circumstances are such that doing their job requires a police officer to put themselves in significant danger, nobody really knows how they’ll react. It requires a split-second decision, and what one decides to do (or not do) can be a matter of life and death. That being the case, Monday, May 16th saw four Southern California officers honored by President Obama with the Medal of Valor for rising to the occasion when they found themselves in one of these difficult moments.
The Medal of Valor is the nation’s highest honor for a police officer.
Officer Donald Thompson of the LAPD rescued a 72-year-old man from a burning wreck on the 405, and was subsequently honored. Jason Salas and Robert Sparks of the Santa Monica Police Department and Captain Raymond Bottenfield of the Santa Monica College Police were recognized for their actions during the shooting rampage that took place at the college in 2013.
Officer Thompson is a member of the bomb squad and was heading to work when he witnessed a crash on the 405. The officer pulled over, hopped over the center divider and wrenched open the door of the damaged vehicle in order to pull the unconscious driver to safety. During the rescue, Officer Thompson received first and second-degree burns.
Offices Salas and Sparks, as well as Captain Bottenfield responded to reports of an active shooter on the campus of Santa Monica College in 2013. The shooter, John Zawahri, had killed 7 people before being cornered in the library. When ordered to drop his weapon, he instead raised it and pointed it at the officers, at which moment they opened fire and killed Zawahri.