2012 Top Cops: 10 remarkable stories of bravery

“To you, my brothers and sisters that were in the White House today — isn’t it great to be recognized by the leader of the free world? I’m so very proud of all the things you do. You distinguish our profession. It’s a code of conduct — we don’t forget our own. God Bless you all for what you do, and thank you so much for distinguishing my profession.” said Tommy Nee, President of the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO), at the 19th annual NAPO Top Cops Awards Ceremony, on May 12, 2012 at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D. C. 

Cops throughout the nation perform their duties selflessly and with unrelenting devotion. The “Top Cops” who were nominated by their colleagues and honored for their heroic acts humbly accepted the recognition in the nation’s Capitol.

When Master Police Officer Lorin Johnson of the Chattanooga (Tenn.) Police Department accepted his “Top Cop” award for shielding Sgt. Tim Chapin who had been struck in the face and killed instantly by a criminal’s bullet, he was visibly emotional at recollecting the events surrounding the incident involving his close friend and colleague.

“I’m not a ‘Top Cop.’ It’s Sergeant Chapin...” said Johnson, who was shot in the leg and injured himself during an armed robbery in progress at a pawn shop where the suspect fired on them.

Detective Craig Marquez and Motor Officer Kevin C. Cotter, Sr., of the Los Angeles (California) Police Department were nearby an incident that emerged over a failed relationship. The offender began shooting at people passing by America’s most famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine. Both officers were nearby and in plain clothes. When he failed to obey commands to drop his .40-caliber gun, they shot the suspect.

In accepting the award, Officer Marquez said, “We all get it. It’s great to be in a room where everyone gets it.”

Detective 2nd Grade Fernando Almeida and Detectives Steven J. Browning and Michael Sileo of the New York City Police Department Aviation Unit and Detectives Christopher T. Condon and William L. Stevens of NYPD were “handpicked by God to come out of this,” the announcer remarked. When two freshman cadets from the U. S. Military Academy at West Point became disoriented while rock climbing above the Hudson River and became trapped on an 18-inch wide ledge off a rock cliff surrounded by deep ravines, it was this group of cops that came to their rescue.

The young military cadets were freezing and terrified. The jagged rock formations and heavy tree cover made the going very difficult for the rescuers. Det. Browning held the chopper steady at a maximum of 20 feet from the rocks while Condon was lowered by his colleagues to the ledge with a rescue harness. The copter had to make a temporary retreat after securing one man. Detective Condon risked his own life by remaining on the narrow ledge until the helicopter returned and the rescue mission could be completed.

Officer Mark S. Gibbons of the Woburn (Mass.) Police Department was the first to spot the gunman involved in a jewelry store robbery. One officer was already wounded and the suspect fired non-stop on Officer Gibbons as well. Gibbons immediately returned fire, disabled the suspect and climbed out of his cruiser while, at the same time, the criminal regained control of his own gun. After Gibbons shot two more rounds that had no effect, he waited until the suspect made a turn to the right and fired again causing the man to fall to the ground with injuries. He was subsequently charged with several felonies.

When Detective Rachel Martin of the Paramus (N.J.) Police Department attempted to pull over a vehicle, the driver sped off, spun out of control, and hit a snow bank. Detective Morgan approached the vehicle cautiously and before back-up arrived. With her weapon drawn, she continuously ordered the driver out of the vehicle. When she was three feet from the car, she was shot three times and fell to the ground. While she lay bleeding in the snow, she raised her left hand and fired continuously at the suspect. Officer Hayo arrived and also returned fire — he was able to reach Morgan who was seriously injured. After several more rounds, the shots finally stopped and Hayo protected Morgan until help arrived.

“I’m glad I was at the right place at the right time. It’s such an honor. I’m really honored. The President (Obama) kissed my mom today,” said Sgt. Don Jerome of the Chicago (Ill.) Police Department upon accepting his award.

Sgt. Johnson responded to an armed robbery in progress at a store and discovered six victims bound with duct tape in the back of the store — three of them were children. Two suspects attacked Jerome by kicking and striking him, and one tried to grab Jerome’s gun while the other suspect fled. Jerome fought to regain control of his gun — both men fell through the glass front door and landed on the sidewalk outside the store. The fight continued until Sgt. Jerome was able to overpower the suspect and place him into custody with the assistance of a citizen.

It lasted 68 seconds, but the daunting memory is unforgettable. Several officers were wounded and one lost his life. A lone gunman walked into a local precinct of the Detroit (Michigan) Police Department and, without warning, began firing at police officers. The event was a horrific scene, but the precinct responded rapidly and without regard for their personal safety. This episode was teamwork at its best and those honored were: Officers Melissa Adams, David Anderson Bradley N. Clark, Rodney Cushingberry, Theodore Jackson, Jr., Lacell D. Rue, Sergeants Marcellus Ball, Tyrone Guinn, Michael Ingels, James Kirklin, Ray Toufic Saati, Carrie Schulz Joseph Turner, Jr. and Commander Brian L. Davis, and Investigator Amir G. Smith.

Officer Ben A. Campbell of the Copley (Ohio) Police Department arrived at a grisly scene when he discovered an armed suspect had shot eight people and killed seven people in a neighborhood. Without waiting for backup to arrive, he went after the killer and found himself in a completely exposed area. The killer suddenly stepped out and pointed a gun at Campbell who ordered him to drop his weapon more than once. When the man refused, Campbell fired. Campbell saved many lives because it was later learned that the perpetrator had planned to drive to his girlfriend’s family reunion where he would have potentially murdered many others.

“I’m a small town cop. I feel honored by getting the award, but I also feel very saddened about the event that got me this award,” Officer Campbell said.

Miami-Dade (Fla.) Police Detective Oscar Plasencia was one of a four-member team that went to serve a warrant for a career criminal not long out of prison and who was known to be hiding at his mother’s house. Upon entering the home, the suspect began firing and aimed at the head of Officer Amanda Haworth, who was Detective Plascencia’s colleague and friend, and he shot her dead. The suspect also fired at Officer Roger Castillo and killed him. Subsequent to these shootings, Officer Plascencia took a position in front of the killer and, unhesitatingly, shot the suspect and took him down.

“Everything that has been bestowed upon me, I’d trade in a heartbeat to get them back,” Detective Plascencia said, when he accepted his award. 

Police Officers John E. Abel, Beaumont Hopson, David Williams, and Police Officer II Michael A. Ramirez and Corey A. Staheli of the Las Vegas (Nev.) Metropolitan Police Department were honored for their actions involving a crime at the Las Vegas Wal-Mart. When the man being questioned pulled a gun and began firing at point blank range at Officer Ramirez, his bullet-proof vest saved his life but he took bullets in his forearm, elbow, bicep and upper chest. He was seriously wounded but still returned fire despite his serious injuries. The other officers participated in a running gun battle with the offender while trying to protect innocent bystanders at the same time. Officer Hopson ultimately fired eight shots and brought the suspect down.

“I’m very honored and a special thanks to NAPO,” Officer Williams said following receipt of his award. “I feel honored. It’s great to be here,” Officer John E. Abel said.

The 2012 ‘Top Cops’ who were honored in the nation’s Capitol are exemplary role models of inspiration in public service. Their bravery, tenacity, and integrity represent the epitome of professionalism. Congratulations to them all for jobs well done.

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