Wesley D. Hilton, nominated by Clinton Police Department

On the night of March 6, 2018, Wesley D. Hilton was participating in a citizen ride-along with Clinton Police Officer Nathan Bettencourt. Officer Bettencourt and other officers were dispatched to an unknown disturbance at a residence based on a 911 call. All that could be heard on the call was women yelling at one another, and then line went dead. Upon arriving at the residence, a woman in the front yard said there had been no disturbance, no 911 call, and that no one was inside. Officers initiated a protective safety sweep to confirm no one was injured or in distress. Once inside the residence, officers were ambushed by a man hiding in a bathroom with multiple firearms, including a rifle. Officer Bettencourt and two other Clinton Police officers were struck by gunfire. Bettencourt and another officer returned fire and retreated from the residence. Only later would they learn that Officer Christopher Ryan Morton could not get out of the residence and had been mortally wounded. Officer Bettencourt had been shot twice in the right arm. His wounds were so severe he could not hold his pistol. Officer Bettencourt headed to his patrol car, where Mr. Hilton, without regard for his own safety, left the cover of the vehicle and approached Bettencourt. Hilton applied a tourniquet to Bettencourt’s upper arm, which was bleeding profusely. Officer Bettencourt borrowed a weapon from another officer and joined other officers who engaged the gunman in a firefight as they attempted to reenter the residence to extract Officer Morton, who was no longer responding on his radio. Pinned down by heavy gunfire, the officers were ordered to hold ground until a fully equipped officer rescue team arrived. Mr. Hilton rode with Officer Bettencourt when he was transported by EMS to a local hospital, assisting in removing his body armor so his wounds could be treated. Mr. Hilton stayed with Officer Bettencourt at the hospital and contacted his wife by phone to explain what had occurred. He remained with Officer Bettencourt until he was transferred to a trauma center in Kansas City and continued to visit and support Officer Bettencourt throughout his months-long recovery. After the shooting, it was learned that the 911 system software had misidentified the location of the original call. It has originated 15 miles away from the residence to which the officers had been sent. Of Mr. Hilton’s actions, Officer Bettencourt said, “Wes displayed the calm and bravery of a seasoned combat veteran in the heat of a gunfight and showed thoughtful care for me.” On a tragic night of terrible violence and the loss of Officer Morton, Mr. Hilton’s fast and courageous action helped save the life of Officer Bettencourt.

Catherine J. Stepps, nominated by St. Louis Fire Department

On March 30, 2018, the St. Louis Fire Department responded to a report of a residential structure fire. Smoke was coming from a one-story brick building, which firefighters quickly entered. They conducted a primary search and extinguished a very smoky cooking fire. They found the elderly resident safe outside the home. As firefighters investigated, they discovered that a neighbor, Catherine Stepps, had smelled smoke from inside her neighboring home. She ran toward the residence, jumped a fence, and entered the home. The fire was coming from the kitchen in the rear of the smoky home, so Ms. Stepps covered her face with her shirt to fight the thick smoke. With no firefighting training or protective equipment and without consideration of her own safety, she searched the house and found her elderly neighbor asleep on a couch. Ms. Stepps awakened him and led him out of the house through the smoke. He would tell his rescuer, “Thank you, baby. You’re a life saver.” The responding St. Louis firefighters are convinced that without Ms. Stepps’ fast, heroic response, the man would have been seriously injured or killed.

Tyler Preston, Gabriel Gowen, and Jordan Lambay, nominated by Kirksville Police Department

On the night of June 29, 2018, Kirksville Police officers were dispatched to a domestic assault involving an axe. When officers arrived, they found a woman face down in the street surrounded by blood. She had life-threatening injuries and was airlifted to a hospital for treatment. The officers noticed a civilian holding down another man who was covered in blood. Jordan Lambay, a Truman State University student, was restraining the man who had been wielding the axe. Lambay and fellow Truman State students Gabriel Gowen and Tyler Preston had all helped end the attack and get the victim medical attention. The three students had been in Gowen’s apartment when they heard yelling and screams outside. They saw a man brandishing an axe and the victim trying to defend herself. There were also children screaming for help. While Preston called 911, Gowen and Lambay left the apartment to help the victim. Lambay quickly grabbed the axe and tripped the attacker. Gowen joined the struggle, pulled the axe away, and got it out of the immediate area. Lambay then held the attacker on the ground until police arrived. Kirksville Police believe had Preston, Gowen, and Lambay not responded, the attack would have continued and the victim would have died from her injuries.

Marlin V. Matchett, nominated by Taney County Ambulance District

On July 19, 2018, Mr. Matchett was on the Showboat Branson Belle working as part of the first aid team when a severe storm with high winds and heavy waves sank a tourist duck boat near the showboat. Mr. Matchett, a trained paramedic with decades of EMS experience, quickly called for additional help. He then began rescuing victims by pulling them from the water onto the showboat. Using his extensive EMS experience, he helped triage the injured and also coordinated and directed other civilians who were working to assist the terrified victims. When a young victim was in cardiac arrest, Mr. Matchett performed CPR until ambulance personnel arrived and took over the desperate and ultimately unsuccessful effort. During a catastrophic event, Mr. Matchett heroically worked to help save multiple lives.