Washington, D.C. – The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Master Officer Ken Hammond of the Ogden City (UT) Police Department as Officer of the Month for April 2007.
Off-duty. That term is a paradox to any law enforcement officer. Unlike many professionals, law enforcement officers are never truly “off-duty.” They often find themselves performing duties normally associated with officers who are “on the clock.” These instances range from disaster response to first aid. On occasion, “off-duty” officers are forced to react to life-or-death situations in order to protect the lives of innocent civilians. Such was the case with Master Officer Ken Hammond, who responded to a mall shooting in heroic fashion.
Master Officer Hammond grew up in Southern California and was an avid football player. In 1984, Ken’s cousin, Chris Hammond, joined the Montclair (CA) Police Department and thus began Ken’s interest in law enforcement. Ken took every chance he had to go on ride-alongs and even participated in the Montclair Police Department’s Cadet Program in order to get a firsthand look at law enforcement.
Ken has stayed very close to his cousin throughout the years and asked him to travel to Utah and present him with his diploma upon graduating from the police academy. Ken joined the Ogden City Police Department six years ago and has distinguished himself as a quiet and unassuming officer who would do anything for anybody. Yet one incident changed everything and thrust this Master Officer into the national spotlight.
On Monday, February 12, 2007, Master Officer Hammond offered to pick up an extra shift to cover for officers who had taken time off for the Valentine’s Day holiday. He decided to take his pregnant wife, Sarita Hammond, a dispatcher with the Ogden City Police Department, out for an early Valentine’s Day dinner at the Trolley Station Mall. After dinner, Sarita took a moment to rest on a bench outside the restaurant when they heard popping noises coming from down the mall. At first Master Officer Hammond thought it was construction noise, but as he told his wife to stay on the bench and went to investigate, he heard screams and realized his first impression was very, very wrong. Instantly, he told his wife to get back into the restaurant, lock it down, and call 911. Worried that responding officers would not realize there was a plain clothes officer responding to the situation, Serita gave a detailed description of what her husband was wearing.
Master Officer Hammond ran down the mall corridor shouting to the patrons, “Ogden City Police! OPD! Get Down! Get Back!” Gun drawn and in plain clothes, Master Officer Hammond wanted the patrons in the mall to know he was not a threat. He continually tried to pull his badge out of his pocket, but it was caught and he did not want to risk holstering his gun. As a store owner directed Master Officer Hammond to the location of the shooter, the shootout began.
Seeing “seriously injured people” on the ground level of the mall, Master Officer Hammond looked up and saw the suspect, 18-year-old Sulejman Talovic. He was wielding a shotgun and carrying a backpack full of ammunition and a .38-caliber pistol. The officer and suspect exchanged shots until Master Officer Hammond went around to take cover.
Master Officer Hammond feared that Talovic might be able to get a position behind him on the escalators. ”That’s when I noticed a uniformed Salt Lake City police officer standing on the lower level about equal with me,” says Master Officer Hammond. “It was kind of tense for a few seconds because I was standing up with a gun in my hand.” He was shouting to the other officer, identifying himself as an off-duty Ogden police officer until the officer on the lower level was convinced he wasn’t a threat.
Running down the stairs, Master Officer Hammond quickly met the other officer and the two observed the gunman go into a store. As the two officers fanned apart to get better vantage points of the suspect, Master Officer Hammond circled to the left taking shots at the gunman. He recalls, “There was a brief moment after I fired my last two shots. There was probably five or ten seconds of silence. I heard what sounded like rapid fire from a machine-gun type weapon. I looked around the corner and I could see glass falling and I could tell the suspect was down.”
As Master Officer Hammond and the Salt Lake City police officer ran up to the suspect, SWAT officers were taking him into custody. In the end, it was one of Hammond’s bullets that put an end to the shootout and took the life of the suspect. Taking the life of an 18-year-old man “is a tragic event for any officer,” says Master Officer Hammond. Yet his actions undoubtedly saved countless innocent lives.
“I went from romantic-date mode to I-need-to-protect mode,” explains Master Officer Hammond. Still, he believes “we were there for a reason. I had my gun on me for a reason.”
Master Officer Hammond continues to serve and protect with the Ogden City Police Department. He is married and has one child, and one on the way. He has received numerous commendations for his heroic actions on that fateful day at the Trolley Station Mall. He has received 20 Excellent Work Awards, an Employee of the Month Award, a Distinguished Unit Citation, and a Lifesaving Medal for an incident from June 2003. Master Officer Hammond is a member of the Ogden City Police Benevolent Association.
Located in our nation’s capital, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF), a nonprofit organization, is dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers. The NLEOMF established the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in 1991 and is now working to build the National Law Enforcement Museum. The NLEOMF Officer of the Month Program, which began in 1996, recognizes federal, state and local officers who distinguish themselves through exemplary law enforcement service and devotion to duty.
"The NLEOMF Officer of the Month Program is sponsored by a generous contribution from THE FORCE.”