One day after the deadly Dallas attack on five officers, the Metropolitan Police Department honored 21 of its own for acts going above and beyond the call of duty.
During its fourth annual Best of the Badge awards gala, Metro recognized the officers for their actions during 14 incidents, many of them life-threatening.
“We have heroic actions that take place every day in our department,” Metro spokesman Michael Rodriguez said before the ceremony Friday night at Red Rock Resort. “But there are certain events throughout the year that really rise to the level of an award, of recognition.”
The events in Dallas underscore the significance of awards ceremonies such as Best of the Badge, Sheriff Joe Lombardo said Friday night.
“Godspeed to those officers, and their families, and the police department and the community. This shows why we do this, because of what happened there,” Lombardo said. “It’s a tragedy, and it brings the officers back to what we do for a living: help the weak and crush the evil. It brings that understanding around.”
Most of the officers awarded were involved in situations which threatened their lives and those of others.
“We know that officers are supposed to save lives, and take action and be heroes. But certain things rise to a higher level, and that’s what these cops are getting (honored for) tonight,” Rodriguez said.
One of those heroes, Greg Sedminik, was shot in December while investigating an unrelated domestic violence call. The bullet entered Sedminik in his bicep, tore through his armpit where it re-entered his chest, broke several ribs and finally exited through his torso. Sedminik returned fire on his assailant but did not strike him; the suspect was apprehended later.
Sedminik was rushed to the hospital where he began his recovery. He will return to full duty in a couple of weeks, he said. On Friday night, he received Metro’s Medal of Valor and Purple Heart.
Asked whether he was targeted specifically because he was a police officer, Sedminik said he didn’t know. “I’d like to ask him,” he said, referring to the perpetrator.
Having a connection with his fellow wounded officers, Sedminik knows all too personally the effects of violence against police, and said his heart went out to the families of the Dallas officers.
“You have to be alert at all times, whenever you put on this badge and walk out the door,” Sedminik said. “That’s what every officer has to do.”
Officer Kyle Hirschi was awarded the Purple Heart for a severe injury he sustained in 2001, when he was still a trainee. Hirschi chased down a suspect who had fought with other officers into an apartment before the suspect struck him in the face with a cutting board. Hirschi suffered a shattered eye socket, broken cheekbones, several lost teeth and a broken nose. After two surgeries, a titanium eye socket and five titanium plates, Hirschi recovered from his injuries.
On New Years Eve 2014, Sergeant David Callen and Officer Paul Lourenco were flying a Metro helicopter when it suddenly lost power over a neighborhood. Callen, the pilot in command, were able to crash land the aircraft on an asphalt street in the neighborhood, quickly and deftly maneuvering away from power lines and houses. Lourenco pulled Callen to safety from the wreckage of the downed helicopter. Both were awarded the Medal of Honor.
On June 26, Officer Ryan McNabb began a traffic stop for a vehicle with high beam headlights on, but as he approached the car, the driver started shooting out the window. McNabb pursued the vehicle, until the driver got out and started shooting at McNabb. McNabb returned fire until the driver ran on foot, and McNabb chased him again. The suspect entered a backyard in a nearby neighborhood, but was apprehended when an arriving police K-9 was able to locate him. McNabb was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Officer Thomas Moore was responding to a report of a suspicious person in a neighborhood on April 29, 2014, when he approached a man at a window of a home. The man said he lived there, but as Moore approached, he saw a gun in the man’s hand. Moore then rushed the man, without backup. During the ensuing altercation, Moore fired one round, which struck the man, causing him to drop his gun. After the suspect was in custody, he said he had tried to convince Moore that he lived there and had intended to scare off residents with the gun. Moore was awarded the Medal of Honor.
On Jan. 21, 2014, Officer Samuel Solorio was investigating a series of robberies in Laughlin when he noticed a man leaving the market. Solorio followed the man in his vehicle and parked it in his path. When Solorio ordered the man to come to the vehicle, the man produced a gun and held it at his own head before approaching Solorio, who commanded him to drop the gun. The man did not listen to Solorio’s commands and kept advancing, at which point Solorio fired his own weapon at the man. Solorio was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Officers Thomas Clevenger and Sergio Orizabal stopped at a red light in their vehicle at the intersection of Nellis Boulvard and Tropicana Avenue when they were fired upon. Clevenger was struck in his hand. Both officers left the vehicle. Clevenger, with his hand wounded, ran to cover a woman near the shooter while Orizabal apprehended the teenager. According to Metro, the shooter said he wanted to kill police officers. Both Clevenger and Orizabal were awarded the Medal of Valor, Metro’s highest honor, and Clevenger was given the Purple Heart.
Corrections officer Everard Fennell was at the Clark County Detention center when he was attacked by an inmate. Fennell was seriously injured during the attack, Metro said, but Fennel fought back and gained control until other officers were able to respond. Fennell was awarded the Purple Heart and the Medal of Valor.
Officers William Moore and Ryan Rotta were both awarded the Medal of Valor after the events of July 29, 2014. The officers responded to an scene where a man and woman entered a home and killed the mother and father of the family in front of their three children before the officers arrived. Both suspects escaped the first house, and the male suspect aimed his gun at Moore. Moore shot the man, and the female suspect was taken into custody. The man entered a second home, shot the female resident, and brought her out with a gun to her head as he used her for a human shield, Metro said. When the woman was able to free herself, Rotta shot the suspect.
Sergeant Esmeralda Boveda was just promoted to seargeant when a woman with a knife in each hand ran up to her patrol car on the night of March 21, 2014. Boveda, who first noticed the woman crossing the traffic, had stepped out of the vehicle before she saw the knives. Metro said the woman was five feet from Boveda when the sergeant fired her weapon at the woman. She was awarded the Medal of Valor.
On Feb. 9, 2015, Officer Thomas Griffin was still a trainee when a man started a fight with him. When he noticed the man pulling out a gun, Griffin warned his field training officer, who began to back away. The man continued raising the gun toward the officer, so Griffin drew his gun and shot the man. He was awarded the Medal of Valor.
July 10, 2015, Officer Carlos Luna pulled over a vehicle near Sahara Avenue. The driver began yelling when he was pulled over, Metro said. Passing Officer Brian Kroening stopped to investigate. Metro said the driver’s behavior became more and more erratic before he reached over and grabbed a gun from under a towel. Luna attempted to gain control of the weapon when he heard a gunshot. Luna then shot the driver multiple times. Behind the suspect vehicle, officer Christopher Dowler and then-trainee Evan Hogue were in place, Metro said.
Hogue was struck in the neck before he fell to the ground.
Luna grabbed Hogue and told him to apply pressure to the wound. He was transported to University Medical Center and survived the shooting. Officers Luna, Dowler and Kroening received the Medal of Valor, and Hogue received the Purple Heart.
Officers Malik Grego-Smith and Jeremy Robertson were dispatched to a report of a prowler in a backyard on Sept. 4, 2015. As the officers entered the backyard of the residence, two men began firing. One was armed with a shotgun, the other with an AK-47. Robertson was struck in the hip, shattering bone. Grego-Smith returned fire, hitting the suspect with the rifle in the leg and striking the other suspect’s shotgun. Both suspects were taken into custody. Grego-Smith was awarded the Medal of Valor, and Robertson was awarded the Purple Heart and a Meritorious Service Award.
The Purple Heart was awarded to officers Kyle Hirschi, Thomas Clevenger, Greg Sedminik, Jeremy Robertson, correction officer Everard Fennell and analyst Evan Hogue.
The Medal of Valor was awarded to officers Thomas Clevenger, Sergio Orizabal, Greg Sedminik, William Moore, Ryan Rotta, Thomas Griffin, Brian Kroening, Carlos Luna, Christopher Dowler, Malik Grego-Smith, corrections officer Everard Fennell and Sgt. Esmeralda Boveda.
The Medal of Honor was awarded to officers Paul Lourenco, Ryan McNabb, Thomas Moore, Samuel Solorio, Christopher Dowler and Sgt. David Callen.
Also honored at the event was K-9 Nicky, the police dog who recovered from machete wounds he received in February when apprehending a suspect, but was killed by friendly fire in the apprehension of another suspect in a shootout with police less than a month after returning to duty. His posthumous Purple Heart was presented to Sgt. Eric Kerns, Nicky’s handler and caretaker, who accepted the award on his behalf.
The event also serves as a fundraiser for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Foundation.
“It’s a nonprofit organization that’s responsible for providing equipment for sections in need, or after-school programs for kids — things like that, that our department can use this money for, that is one of the elements of this event,” Rodriguez said. “But the main idea is for us to honor these cops.”
Lombardo said the turnout helps support the foundation, but it also allows the community to recognize police officers.
“And I say that because it’s not just Metro employees, not just cops here, it’s all the members of the community. So it’s a big deal,” he said.
“You usually see the murders and the other things that take place out in the community, but you don’t really get to understand the heroic acts and what we do on a nightly basis.”
Lombardo estimated about $150,000 was raised for the foundation.
The event serves another purpose, he added. “It’s tough after those kind of incidents to get them to go out and put on a uniform and do what they do,” Lombardo added. “This brings up morale, and helps us understand why they do it.”
Contact Christian Bertolaccini at firstname.lastname@example.org and 702-383-0381. Follow @bertolaccinic on Twitter.