On July 16, as Detective Ethan Grimes was driving to work about 6:45 a.m., his unmarked police car was rammed from behind by a Toyota sport utility vehicle.
As he got out of his car and went to the Toyota, which had overturned, he thought only of checking on the well-being of the person inside.
"I thought it was a drunk driver," Grimes said.
But the driver started running toward the detective. Grimes then realized that the man was 40-year-old Donald Mason, a felon who Grimes had once arrested and who was brandishing a screwdriver.
Mason held a grudge against the detective and had been stalking him and leaving messages on his voice mail, according to police and Grimes.
"I thought there might be a confrontation, but nothing like that," Grimes said.
Grimes chose not to fire his gun at the attacker for fear of hitting bystanders. Grimes had to confront him face-to-face. But passing motorist Mitchell Sanders helped Grimes subdue Mason and Grimes wasn’t harmed.
Grimes said he could have died if not for Sanders’ help.
"It reaffirmed my faith in the public," Grimes said. "I believe in miracles now."
On Wednesday, Grimes was awarded the Metropolitan Police Department’s Medal of Honor at a ceremony at the West Charleston Library.
Sanders, to a standing ovation, was awarded a certificate of appreciation. It was the first time in the department’s history a civilian had been so honored.
"I felt strongly that Mitchell Sanders’ actions deserved to be recognized," said Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie, who called the actions "brave and selfless."
Gillespie on Wednesday awarded similar medals to 19 other officers, detectives and sergeants for actions over the past year.
Officer Jesse Hiddema received a Medal of Honor and officer Brian Jackson received the Medal of Valor for rescuing people from an August 2007 inferno at a southwest valley condominium complex.
Hiddema ran door-to-door to wake people and get them out while Jackson went into the apartment that was the source of the blaze and pulled an elderly man to safety.
Seven officers were recognized for their response to an October 2007 domestic violence call where three officers were shot.
Officer Travis Busby was shot in the wrist, causing an errant shot from his gun to hit another officer. He stayed on the scene despite "bleeding profusely," Gillespie said. He was awarded the Medal of Honor and Purple Heart.
Officer Shawn Izzo also received the Medal of Valor and Purple Heart. He was shot in the chest yet managed to get the mother of the suspect out of the apartment, Gillespie said.
Officer Nevin Hansbarger was also shot and was awarded the Purple Heart. Officer Frances Emery received the Medal of Valor for shielding Hansbarger after he’d been shot. Sgt. Roger Price and officers Almedia Bragg and Jon David each were awarded the Medal of Honor for rescuing Hansbarger while in the line of fire.
Officer Shanan Kelly was awarded the Medal of Honor for a separate October 2007 incident. While off-duty and performing yard work, Kelly saw another officer pursuing a suspect with a handgun, Gillespie said. Kelly chased and tackled the suspect, preventing the other officer from being shot.
Officer Ion Iliescu received the Medal of Honor for saving a civilian taken hostage by a felony suspect in November 2007.
Officer Brad Janecek received the Medal of Honor for his involvement in the shooting of a man who happened to be a Metropolitan Police Department recruit in February 2007. The man had been throwing Molotov cocktails and firing handguns in the air and at officers.
Officer Jon Richter received the Medal of Honor for subduing a taxicab driver who in March 2007 had tried to flee a scene and attempt to run over a Taxicab Authority official.
Sgt. Gary Long, a corrections officer, received the Purple Heart after trying to subdue an inmate in a jail cell, Gillespie said. Long was repeatedly punched by the inmate, and the inmate bit and "removed a chunk of flesh" from Long’s arm, Gillespie said.
Officer Blake Penny was shot in the leg in June by a man who fled police and overturned the black Hummer he was driving in the desert behind Durango High School. Penny received the Medal of Honor and Purple Heart.
Officers Dana Alley, Jason Leavitt and Pete Friday each received the Medal of Valor for their assistance with U.S. Marshals in the apprehension of a fugitive in February. Friday, shot in the leg by the fugitive, also was awarded the Purple Heart.
Sgt. Steven Custer was awarded the Unit Citation for Valorous Conduct.
He wasn’t able to attend a previous ceremony in which peers in his unit were recognized for a 2006 standoff with a gunman which resulted in a rescue of officers that were pinned down by the suspect.
Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0440.Slideshow