Trump Honors Police Officers and Civilians in El Paso and Dayton ShootingsImageEleven police officers and civilians were honored at the White House on Monday for their courage during mass shootings in Ohio and Texas.CreditCreditAnna Moneymaker/The New York TimesBy Michael D. Shear
WASHINGTON — It took just 20 seconds for police officers in Dayton, Ohio, to begin firing at a gunman one morning last month, taking him down after he killed nine people and wounded 27 others in the citys entertainment district.
Trump honors El Paso and Dayton heroes at White House ceremony
On Monday, President Trump presented six of the citys officers with the medal of valor, the highest honor for law enforcement officers. In a ceremony at the White House, Mr. Trump said that the officers rushed toward certain danger in an effort to protect the citys residents.
The president also awarded certificates of commendation to five people from El Paso who risked their lives to help others during a separate mass shooting at a Walmart store there a day earlier.
Together, Mr. Trump said, the recipients responded to the worst violence and most barbaric hatred with the best of American courage, character and strength.
Faced with grave and harrowing threats, the men and women standing behind us stepped forward to save the lives of their fellow Americans, he said. Few people could have done, and even would have done, what they did.
Mr. Trump did not comment on the debate over gun control that erupted again after the two mass shootings, saying only that the El Paso attack was a racist attack motivated by pure evil and that the Dayton shooting was committed by a vile, wicked murderer.
Video: Watch live: Trump presents Medal of Valor to Dayton officers who stopped mass shooter
The massacre in Dayton began in the early hours of Aug. 4, when a gunman carrying an AR-15-style rifle and dressed in body armor started shooting. Police said the assailant, identified as Connor Betts, 24, struck more than two dozen people in 32 seconds.
Mr. Betts was shot and killed by an officers bullet, quickly ending his rampage. The citys police chief called the police response crucial, immediate and effective.
The president said the quick response by the officers prevented the gunman from killing even more people as he stood in front of Ned Peppers, a bar in the citys downtown.
On Monday, Mr. Trump awarded the medal to: 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 praised five people from El Paso who he said helped save shoppers when, as Mr. Trump said, a soulless and bigoted monster killed 22 innocent people and wounded 27 others.
The president awarded the certificate to Robert Evans, Gilbert Serna, Marisela Luna, Angelica Silva and Chris Grant.
In the darkest moments of danger and despair, God calls the bravest to action, Mr. Trump said. These 11 individuals answered the call. They stared down evil. They put love of neighbor above life itself.
The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor, which was first established by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and later formalized by an act of Congress in 2001, is meant to honor bravery among police officers and firefighters throughout the country. President Barack Obama presented the award to 13 public safety officers in 2016.
In 2017, Mr. Trump awarded the medal to five officers who responded to an attack on members of Congress at a baseball field. In 2018, the president presented the medal to 12 public safety officers who he said risked their lives to protect Americas citizens and communities.
President Trump presents Dayton officers with Medal of Valor, El Paso civilians with Heroic Commendation.
President Trump on Monday presented the nation's award highest award for public safety to six Dayton police officers who responded to last month’s mass shooting in the Ohio city that left nine people dead and more than two dozen injured.
Appearing alongside Attorney General William Barr, the president presented the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor to the officers who first responded to the Aug. 4 mass shooting in a crowded downtown Dayton entertainment district. The officers confronted the shooter within 30 seconds, a swift response credited with preventing more deaths.
“There are few people who could have done, and would have done, what these police officers did,” Trump said from the White House’s East Room. “To each of you, we are in awe of your swift response, sterling professionalism, and rock-solid nerves of steel.”
The Dayton police officers who received the Medal of Valor were Sgt. William Knight and officers Brian Rolfes, Jeremy Campbell, Vincent Carter, Ryan Nabel and David Denlinger.
According to authorities, 24-year-old Connor Betts shot 26 people in the span of 32 seconds before Knight returned fire after hearing the gunshots from his police cruiser. The five other officers rushed toward the gunman and prevented him from continuing his rampage.
“These officers were the thin blue line between life and death,” Barr said. “We thank God on that horrible night in Dayton we had men with these qualities.”
The president also honored the heroism of five civilians with heroic commendations for having helped others as a gunman opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 people and wounding others.
Calling the shooter “soulless and bigoted” and the attack “racist,” Trump went on to praise the civilians who put their lives in danger to help save others when the gunman began his shooting inside the Walmart.
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“In the darkest moments of despair, God called them into action and they put love of their neighbor above their life,” Trump said. “We are forever inspired by their goodness and the grace of their deeds.”
The commendations were granted to Robert Evans, who notified store employees of the shooting; Gilbert Serna, who guided customers to the back entrance during the shooting and hid them in shipping containers; Marisela Luna, who guided customers near the store’s lobby; Angelica Silva, who helped save the lives of wounded victims; and Chris Grant, who was wounded when he threw soda bottles at the shooter to district him.
“To the families of the heroes, you understand the difference your loved ones made in lives,” Trump said. “We thank you from bottom of our hearts.”
The pair of shootings in August – followed by another one in Texas weeks later – has sparked renewed national discussion of gun control.
In the days after the shootings, which happened within 24 hours of each other, Trump signaled he was open to proposals for new background checks, saying "there is a great appetite" for such measures. But within days, following a call with NRA president Wayne LaPierre, Trump abruptly changed his tone and said background checks would not have helped.
Trump's comments were reminiscent of his wavering last year, when he vowed to support background checks in the wake of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, only to relent after receiving pressure from the NRA.
This time there seems to be more sustained momentum to produce some sort of measure after Trump asked aides to pull together a comprehensive list of ideas. White House officials have been meeting with lawmakers and congressional staff as they try to formulate a plan Trump can support without risking fallout from his political base.