By Matt Dummermuth, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Department of Justice,
Office of Justice Programs
Officer Brent Thompson of the Dallas, Texas, Area Rapid Transit Police Department, along with other Texas officers, was controlling traffic as a protest march passed through an intersection. Suddenly, gunfire hit the officers from about half a block away. Three died and three more were wounded in the attack’s early moments.
Hidden behind a pillar, the shooter continued to target victims. The surviving officers were unable to see him or defend themselves.
Thompson crossed a three-lane road on foot to get closer to the shooter. Armed only with his handgun, Thompson began firing at the man, who was using an assault rifle. Thompson died in that gun battle. His actions had provided cover the other officers needed to move toward the attacker and force him inside a building. The shooter stayed there until Dallas Police fatally wounded him before he could shoot more officers as they arrived at the scene.
Without Officer Thompson’s courageous and selfless actions, many more officers and civilians would have died in Dallas on that July day.
Fallen Officer Thompson was among 14 recipients, two of them posthumous, of the annual Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor on May 22, granted since 2001 “for extraordinary valor above and beyond the call of duty.” It is the highest honor for bravery our nation bestows on law enforcement officers.
The President and Attorney General William Barr presented the awards at the White House.
An outstanding class of honorees joined Fallen Officer Thompson, including these four:
- To bring a murderer to justice, Oregon Senior Trooper Nicholas Cederberg placed himself in the line of fire, took 13 bullets and suffered life-threatening injuries. Senior Trooper Cederberg engaged the man until additional officers arrived and fatally wounded the criminal in a gunfight.
- When a violent criminal raced his car through a crowd in Memphis, Tennessee, Sergeant Verdell Smith Sr. put himself in harm’s way, protecting innocent civilians from likely injury or death. He gave his life that day.
- Fire Captain Dustin Moore and Firefighter Paramedic Andrew Freisner of the Lenexa, Kansas, Fire Department risked their lives to rescue a family, and their dog, trapped in a burning apartment building.
The Medal of Valor is administered by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, part of the Justice Department’s Office of Justice Programs, which funds and administers many valuable programs to help law enforcement officers protect and serve their communities. We support the Bulletproof Vest Partnership; provide active shooter training; fund research on officer stress, fatigue and roadside safety; and sponsor the VALOR initiative, which teaches officers how to prevent violent encounters and how to boost their resilience in the face of the dangers they encounter every day.
According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 158 officers, agents and deputies gave their lives in the line of duty in 2018. We can’t prevent all the tragic deaths of officers who make the ultimate sacrifice, but we do our best to honor them by working continuously to provide the knowledge and tools they need to remain safe while they protect us, uphold public safety and make possible our nation’s rule of law.