President Donald Trump presented the nation's highest award for public safety Monday to six Ohio police officers who responded swiftly to reports of gunfire last month in Dayton, confronted the shooter in under a minute and prevented more deaths.
In a ceremony in the East Room, Trump draped the purple-and-yellow ribbons around the necks of Sgt. William C. Knight and officers Brian L. Rolfes, Jeremy M. Campbell, Vincent J. Carter, Ryan D. Nabel and David M. Denlinger.
The president also recognized five civilians who put themselves at risk after after a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in August.
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"These incredible patriots responded to the worst violence and most barbaric hatred with the best of American courage, character and strength," Trump said. "Faced with grave and harrowing threats the men and women standing behind us stepped forward to save the lives of their fellow Americans."
The six officers were patrolling a popular nightlife area on Aug. 4 when a gunman wearing body armor and carrying extra magazines opened fire on a line of people waiting to get inside Ned Peppers Bar, killing nine and injuring more than two dozen people. The shooting came hours after a gunman opened fire inside an El Paso Walmart packed with shoppers during the busy back-to-School season.
The officers engaged the shooter, killing him in less than 30 seconds. Their swift response is credited for preventing a worse tragedy that could have resulted in more deaths.
Attorney General William Barr, the nation's top law enforcement official, praised the officers for sacrificing their lives by putting themselves between the gunman and the victims. Barr called it the "thin blue line between life and death."
"The line may be thin, but it's very strong," Barr added.
Since they are civilians, the five individuals from El Paso, each received Certificates of Commendation for "displaying tremendous bravery," Trump said, and helping others to flee the scene of the Aug. 3 shooting, in which 22 people were killed and many others wounded.
The Medal of Valor award was established in 2001 as the nation's highest public safety award.
Trump had already recognized 14 public safety officers with the Medal of Valor earlier this year. Attorney General Barr, who joined Trump at the ceremony, said the law allows him to expand the number of recipients "when exceptional instances of bravery arise."
"So that's what we did this year," Barr said.