ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - A pair of detectives from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department are among nine public safety officers honored at the state capitol Wednesday as recipients of the Missouri Medal of Valor.
Governor Jay Nixon presided over the ceremony honoring the bravery and heroism to protect the public in 2012.
The Mo. Medal of Valor recipients are identified as follows:
Kevin Bacon, West County EMS and Fire Protection District
Firefighter and paramedics Kevin Bacon and Cody Jennemann responded to a crash on July 29, 2012, in which an SUV went off a highway, rolled and landed upside down and on fire in the backyard of a residence. While Jennemann remained out front to help direct incoming firefighters, Bacon went to the aid of the driver. Bacon discovered the driver had been partially ejected and trapped under the vehicle. The driver had no pulse. Bacon managed to lift the overturned vehicle onto its side and pull the driver away from the fire. He and Jennemann resuscitated the victim, who was then transported to a local hospital and eventually made a full recovery.
Michael Betz and Angela Hawkins, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department
Detectives Hawkins and Betz were traveling in an unmarked police vehicle on the night of March 29, 2012 when they heard several gunshots not far from where they were. They heard more gunshots as they arrived at the scene saw a uniformed police officer engaged in a foot chase and gun battle with an armed man. The detectives pursued the man into an alley, who pointed a large gun with an extended magazine in their direction. Hawkins fired five shots at the gunman and killed him. Authorities later learned the gunman had an extensive criminal history which included murder and armed criminal action charges.
Robert Bratcher, Liberty Police Department
Liberty police and the Clay County Sheriff's Department were dispatched to a large fire at the Days Inn Motel on Highway 291 in the early morning hours of December 12, 2012. Police officers and sheriff's deputies began going door-to-door to evacuate guests.
Upon hearing that a family was trapped on the second floor, Officer Robert Bratcher and a sheriff's deputy climbed the stairs to the second floor. The smoke was so thick it overwhelmed the deputy, preventing him from going any further. Bratcher crawled to a room where he found an infant, a 4-year-old, and a man and woman suffering from smoke inhalation.
Bratcher picked up the woman, took the 4-year-old by the hand, instructed the man to carry the infant, and guided them to safety.
David Crank, Missouri State Highway Patrol
Trooper David Crank initiated a traffic stop on an SUV on the evening of March 10, 2012 on Interstate 55 in New Madrid County. Crank smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle. The driver was cooperative and exited his vehicle and accompanied Trooper Crank to his patrol car. The trooper asked for IDs from the three passengers, who denied having them. Crank then asked for backup.
Corporal Jeremy Stewart arrived and he and Crank approached the vehicle and asked the three passengers to get out the SUV. The front passenger would not exit the SUV and locked the door. Trooper Crank saw the passenger reach between the seat and center console. Corporal Stewart opened the driver's side door and was shot once in the neck. Trooper Crank opened fire at the armed passenger and killed him.
Corporal Stewart underwent surgery, made a full recovery and eventually returns to active duty.
Jared Debrecht, Iron County Sheriff's Department
Deputy Debrecht was with a trainee when the two were dispatched to a mobile home fire to assist the Pilot Knob Fire Protection District in the early morning hours of October 28, 2012. The fire department had trouble locating the scene, so the deputy had the trainee drive back to Highway 21 to flag down the responding firefighters.
A woman told Debrecht her husband was trapped inside the mobile home. Knowing that firefighters would be delayed, Debrecht entered the smoke-filled mobile home on his hands and knees and called out the victim's name. Eventually, Debrecht saw the victim's arm near the floor, as though he were searching for a way out. The deputy grabbed the man's arm and dragged the victim back to the rear of the trailer and outside - all while crawling on his hands and knees.
Once outside, the deputy and the victim's wife got the man away from the burning mobile home, which had become fully engulfed in flames.
Gerad Gonzalez, Manchester Police Department
Officer Gonzalez arrived on the scene of a bad collision involving two SUVs on August 14, 2012. Both SUVs were heavily damaged, one fully engulfed in flames. Gonzalez made sure the driver of the burning vehicle had gotten out safely before turning his attention to the other SUV. With the fire in danger of spreading to the second vehicle, the officer and a civilian tried to rescue the other driver, a large man who had been knocked unconscious. The flames and heat made it impossible to get to the driver through the driver's side door, so Gonzalez went around through the other side and was able to pull the man out over the center console. The victim survived and was taken to a hospital.
Thomas Kenyon, O'Fallon Police Department
In the early morning hours of April 18, 2012, Officer Thomas Kenyon was dispatched to a home for a disturbance involving an armed man under the influence of drugs. When he arrived at the scene, Kenyon noticed a naked man attacking a woman with a large metal club.
The naked man charged Officer Kenyon, who quickly used his Taser but to no avail. The two men struggled on the ground. The suspect bit Kenyon in the face, jumped on his back and attempted to choke the officer, all while reaching for his service weapon and threatening to kill him.
Fearing for his safety and of the woman, Officer Kenyon pulled out his weapon and fired over his shoulder at the naked man, hitting him the arm. The suspect charged again, but Kenyon shot the man in the leg and subdued him.
Michael Vernon, Florissant Police Department
Officer Vernon was one of several police officers to respond to a home burglary in the early morning hours of May 28, 2012. The officers at the home saw a suspect flee in the direction of a nearby shopping center. Vernon went to the shopping center and noticed an article of clothing near a dumpster. As Vernon approached the dumpster, the lid opened and the suspect fired several shots, hitting the officer in the right shoulder, left leg and spinal cord. The suspect fled the scene on foot. Despite his extensive wounds and blood loss, Vernon relayed a detailed description of the suspect. Officers sealed off a nearby subdivision and eventually captured the gunman. Officer Vernon remains paralyzed from the waist down and has since retired from the police department.
Nominations for the 2013 Missouri Medal of Valor are open and must be received by March 31, 2014. The medals are awarded "to a public safety officer who has exhibited exceptional courage, extraordinary decisiveness and presence of mind, and unusual swiftness of action, regardless of his or her own personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life."