From: Mark Matthews [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, May 16, 2016 12:49 PM
To: Velz, Peter T. EOP/WHO ; Barnes, Desiree N. N. EOP/WHO ; Gabriel, Brian A. EOP/WHO
Subject: in-town pool report #2 (Medal of Valor ceremony)
The East Room ceremony was open press, so please double-check transcript.
POTUS entered the East Room at 11:26 AM with AG Loretta Lynch for Medal of Valor ceremony honoring 13 public safety officers, including one recipient -- Robert Wilson III of the Philadelphia Police Department -- who received the award posthumously.
[Please find a list of the awardees, plus a short bio (per the WH), at the end of this report].
Room was packed with a mix of suits and officers in uniform. Among those in the crowd: U.S. Reps. Chris Collins of New York and Frederica Wilson of Florida, as well as FBI Director James B. Comey.
Lynch opened event with sweeping thanks for the officers and the families/friends who support them. “We are so grateful for your support and we are really inspired by all that you have done to support our honorees. Because we know that so often it’s because of your sacrifices that they are really able to serve.”
On the awardees: “I am so proud to count you as partners in the law and guardians of justice. And I congratulate you on this well-deserved honor,” Lynch said.
POTUS took the podium right after and spoke of how officers responded instinctively to dangerous situations with no thought of recognition.
“This is an award that none of them sought and if they could go back in time I suspect they would prefer that none of this had happened. As one of today’s honorees said about his actions: ‘I could have very well gone my whole career and not dealt with situation and been very happy with that,’” POTUS said.
But “we are so grateful they were there. Some on-duty. Others off-duty. All rising above and beyond the call of duty. All saving the lives of people they didn’t know.”
“If it had not been for their bravery, we likely would have lost a lot of people.”
“They stood up to dangerous individuals brandishing assault rifles, handguns and knives. One officer sustained multiple stab wounds while fighting off an assailant. Another enduring first degree burns to his arms and face while pulling an unconscious driver from a burning car on a freeway.”
On Wilson: “He gave his life when two men opened fire at a video game store where Sgt. Wilson was buying his son a birthday present. To his family, who is here, his grandmother Constance, his brother and sister -- please know how deeply sorry we are for your loss, how grateful we are for Sgt. Wilson’s service.”
Toward end of remarks, POTUS talked more broadly about LEOs and what Washington policymakers could do to help. He noted the “more than 35 who have given their lives in the line of duty so far this year.”
“Not everyone will wear the medal that we give today but every day so many of our public safety officers wear a badge of honor.”
Said “our words will be hollow if they’re not matched by deeds.”
Promoted criminal justice reform in Congress. Mentioned he today signed “a package of bills to protect and honor our law enforcement officers, including one that will help state and local departments buy more bulletproof vests.”
Once POTUS finished speech, he placed Medal of Valor (which has a purple ribbon) around the necks of each of the awardees. The exception was for the family of Robert Wilson; his award was accepted by his grandmother Constance (check spelling with WH staff). His acknowledgement earned the loudest and longest applause. POTUS bowed his head, hugged and put his arm around Constance.
POTUS exited room at 11:51 AM.
Here’s a little background on the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor. The medal is the highest award a LEO can receive and it’s given to public safety officers who have displayed “exceptional courage ... in an attempt to save or protect human life,” according to DoJ. Nominees are vetted and selected by a Medal of Valor Review Board and the U.S. Attorney General. The award was authorized by the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act of 2001.
Per the White House, here’s a list of the 13 recipients.
Note that three officers from Santa Monica were honored for responding to the same incident and one recipient, Robert Wilson of the Philadelphia Police Department, is receiving the award posthumously.
Recipients of the 2013-2014 Medal of Valor
Officer Mario Gutierrez (Miami-Dade Police Department, FL) For bravery and composure while enduring a violent attack. Officer Gutierrez sustained multiple stab wounds while subduing a knife-wielding assailant who attempted to set off a massive gas explosion that could have resulted in multiple fatalities.
Patrolman Louis Cioci (Johnson City Police Department, NY) For courageously resolving a volatile encounter with a gunman. After witnessing the murder of his fellow officer, Patrolman Cioci pursued and apprehended the gunman at a crowded hospital, thereby saving the lives of employees, patients, and visitors.
Officers Jason Salas and Robert Sparks (Santa Monica Police Department, CA), and Captain Raymond Bottenfield (Santa Monica College Police Department, CA) For courage and composure in ending a deadly rampage. Officer Salas, Officer Sparks, and Captain Bottenfield placed themselves in mortal danger to save the lives of students and staff during a school shooting on the busy campus of Santa Monica College.
Major David Huff (Midwest City Police Department, OK) For uncommon poise in resolving a dangerous hostage situation. Major Huff saved the life of a two-year-old girl after negotiations deteriorated with a man holding the child captive at knife point.
Officer Donald Thompson (Los Angeles Police Department, CA) For courageous action to save an accident victim. While off duty, Officer Thompson traversed two freeway dividers and endured first- and second-degree burns while pulling an unconscious man to safety from a car moments before it became engulfed in flames.
Officer Coral Walker (Omaha Police Department, NE) For taking brave and decisive action to subdue an active shooter. After exchanging gunfire, Officer Walker single-handedly incapacitated a man who had killed and injured multiple victims on a shooting spree.
Recipients of the 2014-2015 Medal of Valor
Officer Gregory Stevens (Garland Police Department, TX) For demonstrating extraordinary courage to save lives. Officer Stevens exchanged gunfire at close range and subdued two heavily-armed assailants preventing a mass shooting.
Fallen Sergeant Robert Wilson III (Philadelphia Police Department, PA) For giving his life to protect innocent civilians. Sergeant Wilson put himself in harm’s way during an armed robbery, drawing fire from the assailants and suffering a mortal wound as he kept store employees and customers safe.
Officer Niel Johnson (North Miami Police Department, FL) For swift and valorous action to end a violent crime spree. Officer Johnson pursued a man who had shot a Miami police officer and two other innocent bystanders, withstanding fire from an assault weapon, and apprehended the assailant.
Special Agent Tyler Call (Federal Bureau of Investigation) For his heroic actions to save a hostage. Special Agent Call, who was off duty with his family, helped rescue a woman from her ex-husband who had violated a restraining order and held the victim at gunpoint.
Deputy Joey Tortorella (Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, NY) For placing himself in grave danger to protect his community. Deputy Tortorella confronted and subdued a volatile gunman who had shot and wounded his parents inside their home and by doing so prevented the gunman from threatening the safety of students at a nearby elementary school.