18 Public Safety Officer Medals of Valor Awarded

The law enforcement officers and firefighters saved lives, in several cases losing their own lives in the process, during hostage standoffs, house fires, violent domestic disputes, and an inmate's attempted escape.

Federal officials including Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder awarded the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor to 18 people Feb. 20 in recognition of their exceptional courage and heroism above and beyond the call of duty during crises.

Several of the recipients died or were seriously injured during the incidents in which they saved others' lives. For example, firefighter Peter Demontreux of the New York City Fire Department was honored for saving a person during an Aug. 30, 2010, fire in a four-story brownstone. The description of the incident says Demontreux "executed one of the most remarkable rescues ever witnessed. As he assisted the victim through the apartment, the entire third floor suddenly exploded into flames setting both rescuer and victim ablaze. According to the on-scene Battalion Chief’s report, Firefighter Demontreux, now on fire, made the split-second decision that he would not leave victim behind. After reaching the window, Firefighter Demontreux insured the victim was safely on the aerial ladder before diving out himself. Both men were extinguished by a hoseline and though badly burned -- the civilian victim received burns over 50 percent of his body -- both survived. Firefighter Demontreux's protective equipment was subsequently tested and found to have been subjected to temperatures in excess of 1,000 degrees."

"This year's Medal of Valor recipients have fearlessly responded to desperate cries for help, courageously risking their own lives to secure innocent victims, protect fellow officers, and end deadly assaults," Holder said. "These extraordinary public servants have distinguished themselves by going above and beyond the call of duty."

The Medal of Valor, authorized by the Public Safety Medal of Valor Act of 2001, is awarded by the president to public safety officers cited by the attorney general. Officers are nominated by the chiefs or directors of their employing agencies and recommended by the Medal of Valor Review Board.

"We recognize 18 extraordinary individuals for their quick thinking, selflessness, and exceptional courage," said Office of Justice Program Acting Assistant Attorney General Mary Lou Leary, who heads the DOJ unit serving as the federal point of contact for the Medal of Valor initiative. "They are law enforcement, corrections officers, and firefighters who went beyond the call of duty to risk –- and in some cases, to give –- their lives for their fellow citizens and colleagues."

The recipients are Officer Julie Olson, Maplewood Police Department, Minn.; Officer Reeshemah Taylor, Osceola County Corrections Department, Fla.; Wildlife Officer Michael Neal, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission; Officer Sean Haller and Officer Rafael Rivera, California Highway Patrol; Trooper Robert Lombardo and fallen Trooper Joshua Miller, Pennsylvania State Police; Demontreux; Firefighter Hope Scott and Captain William Reynolds, Virginia Beach Fire Department, Va.; Deputy Sheriff Krista McDonald, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, Wash.; Officers Timothy McClintick, Max McDonald, Douglas Weaver, Sergeant Karl Lounge Jr., and fallen Sergeant Thomas Baitinger, St. Petersburg Police Department, Fla.; and fallen Deputies William Stiltner and Cameron Justus, Buchanan County Sheriff's Office, Va.

A total of 78 medals have been presented since the first recipients were honored in 2003.

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