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Published: Monday, September 09, 2019 @ 9:52 AM
Updated: Monday, September 09, 2019 @ 11:50 AM
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Monday awarded the nation’s highest decoration for law enforcement to the six Dayton police officers who ended a gunman’s deadly rampage in the Oregon District.
During a special ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Trump said the six officers earned the public safety officer Medal of Valor for extraordinary bravery by putting their lives on the line for others.
“These incredible patriots responded to the worst violence and most barbaric hatred with the best of American courage, character and strength,” Trump said.
The award recipients are officers Sgt. William C. Knight, Vincent Carter, David Denlinger, Ryan Nabel, Brian Rolfes and Jeremy Campbell.
Trump called them “unbelievably exceptional Americans.” He said the officers saved countless lives by acting heroically and without hesitation while staring down evil and horror.
“Few people could have done and even would have done what they did,” the President said.
Five civilians who helped assist and save lives in the aftermath of a deadly mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, also were honored with certificates of commendation. The El Paso shooting occurred a day before the Oregon District massacre.
Nine people were killed and about 27 more were injured during the shooting that occurred just after 1 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 4, on East Fifth Street, near the bars Blind Bob’s and Ned Peppers.
The six officers engaged and killed the shooter, Connor Betts, within about 32 seconds, preventing what could have been many more deaths, Dayton police and city officials said.
U.S. Attorney General William Bar, the nation’s top law enforcement official, also attended Monday’s awards ceremony. He said the officers put themselves between the shooter and a crowd of innocent civilians.
People can show courage and bravery in all kinds of circumstances, Barr said, but valor is when people put themselves in mortal danger to protect others.
“For the people out in Dayton that night, these officers were the thin blue line between life and death,” he said. “The actions of these six officers show that though that line may be thin — it’s very strong.”
Millions of Americans have seen security video footage of the officers calmly charging forward in the midst of chaos and gunfire to end the killer’s attack, risking their own lives and saving countless others, Trump said.
“The light from these intrepid souls defy the darkness and confronted the most sinister danger,” Trump said.
The officers took down the “maniac” just before he was able to enter a crowded bar, the President said. Betts was killed in front of the entrance to Ned Peppers.
The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor was created in 2001 to honor law enforcement, firefighters, corrections, court, emergency services or civil defense officers who exhibit exceptional courage in the attempt to save and protect people’s lives.
The Medal of Valor is the highest national award for public safety officers and is given to recognize an act of extraordinary bravery above and beyond the call duty, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Since 2001, fewer than 140 people have been awarded the Medal of Valor decoration, not counting the Dayton officers, according to department data.
Addressing the six officers, Trump said, “To each of you, were are in awe of your swift response, sterling professionalism and rock-solid nerves of steel.”
“On behalf of our entire nation,” the President said, “we thank you for your remarkable and heroic actions in the line of duty.”
The Dayton Police Department in a statement said it is incredibly proud of the officers who were honored by the President.
“We are deeply grateful for all of the love, support and recognition we have received from members of our community, our country, and from around the world in response to these officers’ heroic and selfless service on Aug. 4, 2019,” the department said.