State’s highest public safety award is reserved for officers who bravely risk their own lives to protect their fellow Missourians
JEFFERSON CITY – In a ceremony at the State Capitol today, Gov. Jay Nixon awarded the Missouri Medal of Valor to 10 public safety officers from across the state who bravely risked their own lives in heroic efforts to save others and protect the public during 2015.
The honored officers represent a fire department, an ambulance district, two sheriffs’ departments, a municipal police department, Missouri Capitol Police and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. They encountered and decisively responded to a variety of challenges and threats, including rescuing people trapped in a burning house and burning vehicles, pulling multiple victims from swirling floodwaters, and stopping deadly threats posed to others by armed criminals.
“Each of these officers ignored extraordinary dangers to themselves, and instead thought only of the lives of others – people they had never met but who they have a solemn duty to protect,” Gov. Nixon said. “The Medal of Valor recipients carry out brave, decisive and selfless acts to protect the lives of others and make our communities safer. We should all be grateful for our outstanding public safety officers and the sacrifices they make to protect us.”
Family members and the officers’ colleagues were on hand for the presentation of Missouri’s highest public safety award during a ceremony in the Governor’s office in the Capitol. Gov. Nixon was joined at the ceremony by Department of Public Safety Director Lane Roberts. The newest Medal of Valor recipients are:
Jason A. Jameson, Boone County Sheriff’s Department – During a snow storm on the night of Feb. 28, 2015, Boone County Sheriff’s deputies and the Missouri State Highway Patrol responded to a homicide scene north of Columbia where two victims lay deceased and a third was in critical condition. Witnesses reported the killer, armed with a handgun, was escaping in a white car. Jameson and a Highway Patrol sergeant positioned their vehicles in an attempt to intercept the fleeing car, and Jameson observed what he believed to be blood on the side of vehicle.
A tire deflation device disabled the car, which hit a guardrail. Jameson ordered the suspect to show his hands. Instead, the gunman exited the vehicle and immediately pointed his weapon toward Jameson as he fled on foot. Jameson fired his patrol rifle, striking the gunman twice. The wounded gunman was taken into custody without further incident. Facing grave danger, Sergeant Jameson encountered and ended the threat of a double-murder suspect who had fired toward the sergeant and presented a grave threat to other officers and members of the community.
David L. Marshak and Bryan R. Taylor, Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department – On Sept. 10, 2015, Captain Marshak and Corporal Taylor were in a patrol vehicle traveling northbound on Highway 141 when they observed a burning van on the highway shoulder. The vehicle had extensive damage due to a multi-vehicle collision and flames were shooting out of the car. Thick smoke made it impossible to see if anyone was inside the passenger compartment. Marshak used his baton to break the passenger window and then unlocked the door. He discharged a fire extinguisher, but it had virtually no effect. The fire was spreading, thick smoke continued to billow inside the passenger compartment, and leaking fuel under the vehicle was also burning. Taylor called out to the driver but there was no response, and the driver door would not open. Fighting the thick smoke, Taylor entered the cab through the passenger door and tried to extricate the driver. However, his seat belt would not release and the noxious smoke forced Taylor to leave the vehicle. Marshak then entered the van and continued the effort to remove the driver. Now conscious but disoriented, the 85-year-old man began resisting efforts to get him out. Fighting through the smoke, Marshak, assisted by a motorist, was able to dislodge the driver and pull him out of the burning vehicle to safety. Both Captain Marshak and Corporal Taylor were treated for smoke inhalation, and Marshak was also received additional medical treatment for abrasions. Together, their efforts saved the elderly driver’s life.
Jordan V. Selsor, Meramec Ambulance District – On Dec. 29, 2015, Paramedic Selsor was part of an EMS team responding to a call from a motorist caught in floodwater between Catawissa and Pacific with water rushing into the vehicle and reaching the caller’s neck; contact was then lost. With no other responders or a boat on scene, the two paramedics had to act quickly. Selsor donned a life-vest and grabbed a pry axe. He then climbed into the bucket of a farmer’s front-end loader and had the farmer drive him to the submerged car. With the bucket extended from the tractor, Selsor jumped onto the trunk of the car, which was floating. He smashed out the rear windshield, which flooded more water into the vehicle but could not reach the victim in the front seat. Selsor then climbed onto the roof of the car and smashed out the sunroof. Unable to see in the muddy water, he felt around for the victim and began pulling her out by her hair. Eventually, he got a better hold of the victim and managed to extract her through the sunroof. Selsor stood on the car roof knee high in water with the patient until a Pacific Fire Protection District launched a boat and transported him and the victim to shore. The hypothermic patient was treated en route to the emergency room. Selsor was treated for numerous superficial cuts and abrasions from the rescue. Acting quickly and decisively and without concern for his personal safety, Paramedic Selsor saved the motorist’s life.
Charles L. Gerhart, Missouri Capitol Police – On July 30, 2015, Officer Gerhart was off-duty and traveling with his family westbound on I-70 to Kansas City. Near Blue Springs, Gerhart observed a pickup truck in the eastbound lanes traveling at a high rate of speed crash into a vehicle that was stopped in construction traffic. The pickup then burst into flames. Gerhart stopped on the shoulder, left his family in his vehicle, ran across westbound traffic, jumped the median barriers, and quickly reached the burning vehicle. The driver had a broken pelvis, broken hip, multiple broken ribs and vertebrae and was trapped in the cab.
Gerhart forced open the driver door and pulled the driver out of the burning vehicle. With the assistance of a motorist, he moved the driver away from the burning pickup. Gerhart then called the Missouri State Highway Patrol to report the crash and need for assistance. The severely injured pickup truck driver would spend more than three months in the hospital and skilled nursing care recovering from his injuries.
While on a family outing, Officer Gerhart observed trouble and rushed to assist. Yet, his commanding officer never learned of Gerhart’s heroic actions until three months later when the driver’s adult son contacted Missouri Capitol Police to inform them, saying he should be recognized.
Jason M. Hurt, Missouri State Highway Patrol – On Nov. 21, 2015, Trooper Hurt was off-duty and traveling in his personal vehicle in Monroe County. It was cold and had recently snowed, but Trooper Hurt noticed a barefoot woman on the side of the road. Hurt stopped and the woman stated her intoxicated boyfriend was attempting suicide in a nearby cabin and a neighbor was with him. Hurt responded to the cabin and found two men struggling over a rifle. He drew his handgun, entered the cabin, identified himself as a trooper and told the men to put down the rifle. The men continued to fight over the gun. With one man’s finger on the trigger and the rifle pointed toward the ceiling, Hurt holstered his weapon and attempted to seize the gun. A shot was fired into the ceiling but Hurt gained full control of the weapon, and ended the disturbance. The suicidal man was transported for a psychiatric evaluation. While off-duty, Trooper Hurt first came to the aid of a civilian in need of assistance, which led to him placing himself in harm’s way by entering a highly dangerous struggle over a loaded gun. His selfless and brave action ended the threat to both the suicidal man and the civilian. Trooper Hurt has since been promoted to the position of Corporal.
David H. Brown and Robert W. Garrett, Missouri State Highway Patrol – Shortly after 2 a.m. on Dec. 27, 2015, as Missouri was experiencing record rainfall and flooding, Marine Operations Corporal Brown and Trooper Garrett responded to a call for a man clinging to a tree in the flooded Pomme De Terre River. The man had attempted to cross a bridge in Polk County on foot and was swept away. With no sign of the flood victim and his cries for help as their only guide, a jet boat was launched, operated by Garrett with Brown using a spotlight to search a tree line for the victim. Eventually locating the victim in a tree about 10 feet above the swift-moving flood water, Corporal Garrett tactically maneuvered the boat through the turbulent water to the tree. Wet and hypothermic, the man slipped as he started to climb down. Unable to see him, Brown immediately dropped prone in the bow of the boat and reached both arms down in the roiling floodwater. He got hold of an arm and the man’s hair. The victim was devoid of strength and being pulled under by the current, but Brown got him into the boat and Garrett maneuvered it back to the safety of the shore. Corporal Brown and Trooper Garrett worked as a team using skill, decisiveness and bravery to overcome perilous circumstances and save a flood victim’s life.
Jeffrey A. Haislip, St. Charles Police Department – On the night of Feb. 4, 2015, Officer Haislip was first on the scene to a structure fire on North Third Street. Haislip quickly noticed the blaze from a vacant commercial building was spreading to a house just a couple of feet from the burning building. Officer Haislip banged on the storm door to alert anyone inside. When there was no answer to his banging on the door, he broke the glass on the storm door and kicked open the wood door, even as flames were racing up the side of the house and across the roof. During his search, Haislip discovered a frightened and disoriented 86-year-old woman who was unable to move. He picked up the woman and carried her outside. With thick black smoke now choking the neighborhood, Office Haislip carried the woman down the street to medical attention at an ambulance. Before the fire service had arrived on scene, and without protective equipment, Officer Haislip’s swift, decisive, selfless action saved the life of a fire victim who could not have escaped on her own.
Michael J. Kuss, Springfield Fire Department – As midnight approached on May 29, 2015, following a major storm and flash flooding, the Springfield Fire Department Water Rescue Team responded to a mutual aid call from the Logan-Rogersville Fire Protection District. A vehicle had been swept off a bridge over the James River east of Springfield. In the pitch dark, two parents and their three children were desperately fighting for their lives against the swift, churning floodwater by clinging to trees. When the Springfield Fire team arrived, the victims had been holding on for 30 minutes and were yelling that they could not last much longer. A boat rescue attempt was immediately launched, piloted by Rescue Specialist Marc Becker. In the darkness, and with floodwaters roiling, the team’s single boat reached the victims. However, the boat did not have room for all of the victims and the adults were losing the strength to hold on and remain afloat. Firefighter Kuss volunteered to stay behind in the water with the adults as the three children were placed in life vests, pulled into the boat, and moved to the safety of the shore. With their resistance flagging in the frantic situation, Firefighter Kuss’s calm support and instructions for the adults was critical in saving the parents until the rescue boat could return and reunite them with their children on the shore.
About the Medal of Valor
The Medal of Valor was first awarded in 2008 and is bestowed annually based on recommendations submitted by the Medal of Valor Review Board. Recipients must serve a public agency, with or without compensation, as a firefighter, law enforcement officer or emergency personnel. The nominating form states the Medal of Valor is 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.”
Nominations are now open for acts performed during 2016 and must be received by March 31, 2017. The nominating form is available on the Missouri Department of Public Safety Web site at http://www.dps.mo.gov/documents/MedalofValorForm.pdf.