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David Watkins, Jr., Mississippi County Sheriff’s Office

2017 Class
Awarded on: 11/13/2018
Medal of Valor

On March 10, 2017, a team from the Mississippi County Sheriff’s Office was serving a search warrant to a convicted felon suspected of narcotics trafficking at a second-story apartment in Wyatt, Mo. Lieutenant Watkins had the lead as the team announced their presence and breached the apartment door. Lieutenant Watkins entered the front door and immediately took fire from the suspect. Other members of the entry team were forced to take cover on the ground outside. Shot in the left leg, and trapped in the apartment with the gunman, Lieutenant Watkins crawled into a nearby room. Unable to stand, he sat against a wall. Outside, his team called for Lieutenant Watkins. Watkins did not answer so as not to reveal his position to the gunman. The gunman, still armed with an AR-15, walked to the front door, where officers were taking cover, and looked outside. He then turned and saw Lieutenant Watkins and began raising his weapon. Lieutenant Watkins fired his weapon striking the gunman in the upper torso, ending the threat to him and the other officers. Watkins then staggered to his feet and held the gunman at gunpoint until his team members took control of the scene. While under fire and while wounded, Lieutenant Watkins demonstrated incredible courage while trapped inside an apartment with a gunman.

Leon Whitener III, St. Louis Fire Department

2017 Class
Awarded on: 11/13/2018
Medal of Valor

On April 22, 2017, a call went out for a structure fire with a person trapped in St. Louis’s Botanical Heights neighborhood. The closest fire station was responding to an earlier reported fire, so there would be a delay in the first company’s arrival. Captain Whitener, who was off duty, immediately responded. He found thick gray smoke pouring out of the two-story residential building. Residents outside the building told him a wheelchair-bound tenant was trapped on the second floor. Captain Whitener charged into the building and up the stairs without any protective equipment. He was followed by a tenant from another unit in the building, Raymond Rayford. The smoke was filling the hallway. Smoke billowed into the room where they found the woman in her wheelchair. She futilely covered her face to try to block out the smoke. Captain Whitener knew time was short because the smoke was building pressure in the room. They pushed the wheelchair to the apartment doorway but furniture blocked the exit. Mr. Rayford threw the furniture out of the apartment to clear a path. Whitener and Rayford then hoisted the wheelchair over the stair railing and down the stair, careful to protect the woman. Once outside, they heard glass shattering. The fire had grown tremendously and was now venting itself out of the room from which they had just rescued the woman. Captain Whitener’s swift and decisive action while off-duty resulted in the rescue of an elderly disabled woman who could not have survived on her own.

Logan Benjamin, Vandalia Police Department

2017 Class
Awarded on: 11/13/2018
Medal of Valor

On June 19, 2017, Corporal Benjamin responded to a residence to check on the welfare of a man who had been texting an ex-girlfriend that he was considering suicide. When he knocked on the front door, Corporal Benjamin heard a loud thud and gasping coming from inside. Corporal Benjamin immediately made entry and found a man hanging from a support beam from a belt that was around his neck. Corporal Benjamin grabbed the man around the legs and waist and lifted him to prevent certain strangulation. But the man repeatedly hit Benjamin in the head. Struggling to prop the man up, Benjamin’s portable radio microphone was knocked off, preventing him from calling for assistance. Despite the man continuing to fight violently, Benjamin managed to call for assistance and used his tactical knife to cut the belt the man was hanging from. As both men fell to the ground, the suicidal man went for Benjamin’s knife. Benjamin drew his service pistol and commanded the man to stop trying to hurt himself and Benjamin. The suicidal man complied and was transported to a hospital for a mental health evaluation. This man remains alive and well to this day because of Corporal Benjamin’s quick thinking and unwavering determination.

Michelle L. Vogel, Missouri Department of Corrections

2017 Class
Awarded on: 11/13/2018
Medal of Valor

On the night of Aug. 5, 2017, Corrections Officer Vogel was off duty when a window air conditioner caught fire in an apartment in Vogel’s apartment complex. Officer Vogel rushed into the burning building. The fire had spread throughout most of the first floor of the apartment. Inside, through thick smoke, and intense heat and flames, Officer Vogel searched to find anyone who might be trapped. As a result of her search, she found a four-year-old girl, who she quickly got out of the building to safety. Officer Vogel also made sure everyone else was out of the burning building. Outside, the girl’s mother, who was pregnant, was having trouble breathing. Officer Vogel attended to the mother until EMS arrived on the scene. Officer Vogel later took children’s clothing to the family to assist them in the aftermath of the fire. While off duty, Officer Vogel acted without hesitation and reached a young child trapped in a burning residence long before firefighters could have reached the trapped child.

Jason Glendenning and Tyler Zimmerman, Missouri State Highway Patrol

2016 Class
Awarded on: 10/28/2017
Medal of Valor

On July 16, 2016, following heavy rain, Sgt. Glendenning and Trooper Zimmerman were deployed on a jet boat in the Niangua River in Dallas County to search for potential flooding victims. There were swift-water conditions with lots of debris in the river. They found a raft with four occupants pinned against a large downed tree. The raft was taking on water. The officers, using their extensive swift-water rescue training, quickly maneuvered the boat and rescued a woman who had fallen out. Next, they maneuvered their craft to rescue a second woman who had been thrown from the raft and was tangled in the tree and could not keep her head above water. After getting all four boaters to safety, Sergeant Glendenning and Trooper Zimmerman returned to the downed tree to cut down large branches that were a continuing danger. While working on the tree, another raft with five occupants was swept up into the tree. One occupant was immediately ejected and the raft was sinking. Working as a team, the officers rescued all of them, and then saved a kayaker and a young girl on an inner tube who had been ejected and entangled in the tree and ropes. Acting swiftly and skillfully as a team, Glendenning and Zimmerman bravely saved the lives of several people in highly treacherous flooding conditions.

Adam Brannin, Jason Francis and Rusty Rives, Joplin Police Department

2016 Class
Awarded on: 10/28/2017
Medal of Valor

Early on Aug. 13, 2016, Joplin Police Captain Rives and Officers Brannin and Francis responded to a call for a gunman firing multiple shots inside a residence. Before reaching the scene, the officers encountered the gunman firing numerous shots from an AR-15 into a church van at a traffic intersection. Francis stopped and provided assistance as Brannin and Rives pursued the gunman in a fleeing vehicle, who soon fired more shots into another vehicle. Next the gunman drove back toward the church van shooting location. Francis moved a victim with multiple gun-shot wounds out of the line of fire and prepared to provide lethal cover. Brannin and Rives continued in pursuit. The gunman eventually abandoned the vehicle while it was still moving and Brannin and Rives quickly captured him. In all, three victims at two scenes were struck by gunfire, with two of them sustaining multiple gunshot wounds. Three other victims sustained fragmentation injuries. When a gunman brought terror to the streets of Joplin, these three officers responded heroically and ended the threat of further violence. (Rives is now chief of the Lamar Police Department.)

Eli Dorsey and Brandon Sherman, Gladstone Department of Public Safety

2016 Class
Awarded on: 10/28/2017
Medal of Valor

On the night of Nov. 20, 2016, Corporal Dorsey stopped a speeding vehicle with two occupants on U.S. Highway 69. Detecting the odor of marijuana, he called for backup and Sgt. Sherman responded. The vehicle’s passenger then fled on foot. Sherman quickly reached the fleeing suspect, who then pulled a handgun from his waistband. Sherman wrestled for control of the gun and was shot in the hand. As the suspect prepared to fire again, Dorsey fired his service weapon, striking the gunman, who succumbed to his injuries. Sherman, though wounded, secured the driver of the vehicle without further incident. During a traffic stop on a dark highway, Sherman and Dorsey – in the face of grave danger – disarmed a gunman. When fired upon the officers ended the threat to the community.

Jeffrey A. Haislip, St. Charles Police Department

2015 Class
Awarded on: 11/28/2016
Medal of Valor

On the night of Feb. 4, 2015, Officer Haislip was first on the scene to a structure fire on North Third Street. Haislip quickly noticed the blaze from a vacant commercial building was spreading to a house just a couple of feet from the burning building. Officer Haislip banged on the storm door to alert anyone inside. When there was no answer, he broke the glass on the storm door and kicked open the wood door, even as flames were racing up the side of the house and across the roof. During his search, Haislip discovered a frightened and disoriented 86-year-old woman who was unable to move. He picked up the woman and carried her outside. With thick black smoke now choking the neighborhood, Office Haislip carried the woman down the street to medical attention at an ambulance. Before the fire service had arrived on scene, and without protective equipment, Officer Haislip’s swift, decisive, selfless action saved the life of a fire victim who could not have escaped her burning residence on her own.

Jason A. Jameson, Boone County Sheriff’s Department

2015 Class
Awarded on: 11/28/2016
Medal of Valor

During a snow storm on the night of Feb. 28, 2015, Boone County Sheriff’s deputies and the Missouri State Highway Patrol responded to a homicide scene north of Columbia where two victims lay deceased and a third was in critical condition. Witnesses reported the killer, armed with a handgun, was escaping in a white car. Jameson and a Highway Patrol sergeant positioned their vehicles in an attempt to intercept the fleeing car, and Jameson observed what he believed to be blood on the side of vehicle.

Michael J. Kuss, Springfield Fire Department

2015 Class
Awarded on: 11/28/2016
Medal of Valor

As midnight approached on May 29, 2015, following a major storm and flash flooding, the Springfield Fire Department Water Rescue Team responded to a mutual aid call from the Logan-Rogersville Fire Protection District. A vehicle had been swept off a bridge over the James River east of Springfield. In the pitch dark, two parents and their three children were desperately fighting for their lives against the swift, churning floodwater by clinging to trees. When the Springfield Fire team arrived, the victims had been holding on for 30 minutes and were yelling that they could not last much longer. A boat rescue attempt was immediately launched, piloted by Rescue Specialist Marc Becker. In the darkness, and with floodwaters roiling, the team’s single boat reached the victims. However, the boat did not have room for all of the victims and the adults were losing the strength to hold on and remain afloat. Firefighter Kuss volunteered to stay behind in the water with the adults as the three children were placed in life vests, pulled into the boat, and moved to the safety of the shore. With their resistance flagging in the frantic situation, Firefighter Kuss’s calm support and instructions for the adults was critical in saving the parents until the rescue boat could return and reunite them with their children on the shore.