By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Pedro A. Rodriguez, Naval District Washington Public Affairs
WASHINGTON (NNS) -- U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia Channing D. Phillips recognized three officers assigned to Naval District Washington (NDW) Security Forces during an awards ceremony at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C., Feb. 29.
Capt. Patrick Gardner, Lt. Mark Jefferson (who was a Sergeant at the time) and Officer Denise Torres were recognized for their acts of heroism during the events that took place Sept. 16, 2013 at Washington Navy Yard building 197.
Phillips congratulated and praised the awardees during a speech before presenting the awards.
"Those who stand out are shining examples for the rest of law enforcement, I deeply appreciate your hard work, your personal sacrifice and enjoy your passion," said Phillips. "There's no doubt that your job has never been tougher, but there's also no question that result remains un-waivered. It all starts by your courage and determination, honor and commitment to the job."
According to the citation the three officers were directly engaged with active shooter Aaron Alexis the morning of the incident. Torres and a Naval Sea Systems Command security officer were providing cover for Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) agents and NDW officers by guarding an elevator bank on the first floor near the atrium area. As the gunman ran through the atrium area he fired his weapon at Torres and her partner. Her partner returned fire, and while clearing the first floor one of the NCIS agents heard the gunshots and returned to the direction of the oncoming gunfire. The gunman fired three rounds striking the wall, floor and ceiling, Gardner and then Lt. Jefferson returned fire in the direction of the shooter.
Gardner talked about his experience during that day and his thought process as he was searching the building looking for the active shooter.
"I was thinking that I had two young security officers, I was concerned about their safety and the people inside the building safety and well-being as we were trying to locate and stop the shooter inside the building," said Gardner. "I wasn't so much concerned about my own safety knowing I'm an active shooter instructor, it was the people that were stacked with me and the people in the building that I was mostly concerned about. I wanted to make sure they got home to their families and that stayed safe and follow the instructions that were given to them."
The Attorney General's Award for Excellence in Law Enforcement recognizes outstanding professional achievements by law enforcement officers.
"This award means a lot to me," said Gardner. "For someone to put us in for it, to think of us like that means a whole lot. We didn't think we would get recognized for what we did. We never thought anyone would think about us like that. Receiving this award let us know that somebody thought very highly about what we did."
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