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Remarks on Presenting the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor and Certificate of Commendation

September 09, 2019

Thank you very much. Thank you. Well, I want to thank the Attorney General for not only this today, but for doing an incredible job. Thank you very much, Bill. Appreciate it.

Today I'm honored to welcome you to the White House as we recognize 11 extraordinary American heroes. These incredible patriots 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. Few people could have done, and even would have done, what they did.

In a few moments, I will award six police officers from Dayton, Ohio, with our Nation's highest public safety award, the Medal of Valor. I will also honor five Americans from El Paso, Texas, with Certificates of Commendation, recognizing these civilians who displayed tremendous bravery.

The light from these intrepid souls defied the darkness and confronted the most sinister danger. Would you all please join me in expressing our deepest gratitude and highest admiration to these unbelievably exceptional Americans? Thank you.

We're also joined by Senator John Cornyn and several members of my Cabinet. And I want to thank you all for being here. John, thank you very much.

Most importantly, to the families of our heroes: You understand better than anyone the difference your loved ones have made in the lives of so many Americans. We treasure you, and we really do thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Again, thank you very much. Great job.

One month ago, America witnessed horror beyond belief. On Saturday, August 3d, at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, the soulless and bigoted monster killed 22 innocent people and wounded 27 others. It happened very quickly. It was a racist attack motivated by pure, evil hatred. The next day, in Dayton, Ohio, a vile and wicked murderer stole 9 lives and injured 34 others.

Our Nation is shocked and enraged by these inhuman and sadistic acts of bloodshed. We fail to comprehend how any person could be so warped by malice and contempt. Every heart breaks for the families who lost precious loved ones, and every American grieves for those who were so cruelly taken from us.

In the midst of such profound anguish, one memory fills us with hope: When evil showed its hideous face, Americans of all walks of life rose up—and they did. They rose up, they defied fear, they stared down death to protect the innocent—and stand tall they did, just for righteous and for good.

Several days after the shootings, the First Lady and I visited both cities. We met with first responders, hospital staff, survivors, and families. We will never forget the unity and love we saw in those communities and at those hospitals. It was incredible.

In Ohio, I had the privilege of meeting the six Dayton police officers who, without a moment's hesitation, immediately and courageously engaged the gunman, ending his attack and rescuing countless lives. Who knew, and who can even understand, how many lives would have been taken if they didn't act so quickly? Just after 1 a.m. on August 4th, these officers were patrolling the streets of downtown Dayton when the killer opened fire into an innocent crowd.

The shooter continued firing as he ran down a sidewalk packed with people. Sergeant William Knight was stationed in his cruiser about 150 feet away. He heard the gunfire, jumped out of his car, and quickly returned fire. Meanwhile, Officer Brian Rolfes ran directly towards the shooter and into the onslaught of incoming bullets. Then, Officers Jeremy Campbell, Vincent Carter, Ryan Nabel, and David Denlinger moved in, engaging the shooter at close range, calling upon years of training in the span of an instant.

Millions of Americans saw the video footage of these officers calmly charging forward in the midst of chaos and constant fire. Without a thought for their own safety, they stood square to the target, executed their mission, and brought down the murderers with precision gunfire. It was just before that maniac was ready to enter a very crowded restaurant and bar.

Within 32 seconds of the start of the attack, these six officers ended the violent rampage and saved countless lives. Today it is my immense honor to award the Medal of Valor to those law enforcement heroes: Sergeant William Knight and Officers Brian Rolfes, Jeremy Campbell, Vincent Carter, Ryan Nabel, and David Denlinger.

To each of you, we are in awe of your swift response, sterling professionalism, and rock-solid nerves of steel. On behalf of our entire Nation, we thank you for your remarkable and heroic actions in the line of duty. And we just want to thank you so much. What a great job you've done. Thank you very much. Please. [Applause] Great job.

Today we are also honoring five Americans who risked their lives to save others during the brutal attack at the Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Walmart Store Manager Robert Evans was outside the store entrance when he heard the gunman fire his first shot. Robert instantly alerted employees of the active shooter. He saw the killer heading towards the store, so he raced inside and directed customers toward the nearest emergency exits, helping hundreds escape to safety. Incredible. Robert, you exemplify noble leadership and selfless service. Thank you very much, Robert. Great. Thank you, Robert.

Walmart employee Gilbert Serna heard Robert's alert over the radio, and immediately, without hesitation, guided dozens of shoppers to refuge through a rear exit, boosting some people over a 12-foot wall and hiding others in shipping containers. So smart to think of that. Who would think of that, under these circumstances? A lot of people would just run for their lives. He cleared out the back area of the store a minute before the shooter got there. Gilbert, your unwavering resolve inspires us all. Thank you very much, Gilbert. Great job. Thank you.

Marisela Luna was managing the McDonald's inside the Walmart when the murderer burst into the entrance. She quickly gathered customers from the lobby and led them to refrigerators and other hiding places, shielding them from the shooter's line of sight. Thank you, Marisela, for racing to rescue others from grave danger. Thank you very much. Thank you, Marisela. Thank you. Thank you.

McDonald's supervisor Angelica Silva was working at another location when she got word of the active shooting. She drove straight to the scene to check on her employees. Upon arriving, Angelica saw two people in the parking lot who were very, very badly wounded. She alerted first responders and helped save the life of one of those severely injured victims. Angelica, we thank God you were there. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Chris Grant was picking out snacks for his kids when he suddenly saw the murderer firing at innocent shoppers a few aisles away from him. Chris grabbed—listen to this—soda bottles and anything else in front of him and began hurling them at the gunman, distracting him from the other shoppers and causing the shooter to turn toward Chris and fire at Chris, whereby Chris suffered two serious gunshot wounds. But he is recovering well, and we wish him the best. His family is here. So please thank Chris for us, please. Think of that.

In the darkest moments of danger and despair, God calls the bravest to action. These 11 individuals answered the call. They stared down evil. They put love of neighbor above life itself. And we are blessed by their courage. We are honored by their presence, we are overwhelmed by their example, and we are forever inspired by the goodness of their hearts, the grace of their souls, and the enduring greatness of their deeds.

To every one of the heroes we recognize today, thank you and God bless you all. Thank you very much. Incredible.

Now I would like to ask the Military Aide to come forward and read the citations, please.

[At this point Lt. Col. Michael E. Ziegelhoffer, USA, Army Aide to the President, read the citations, and the President presented the medals and certificates, assisted by Maj. Brandon M. Westling, USAF, Air Force Aide to the President.]

Thank you, everybody. Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:34 a.m. in the East Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Attorney General William P. Barr, who introduced the President; El Paso, TX resident, Nicolasa Velasquez, who was wounded in the terrorist attack at a Walmart in El Paso, TX, on August 3, and her husband Juan, who died on August 5 from injuries sustained during the attack; and El Paso, TX, resident Christopher Grant. Mr. Grant's Certificate of Commendation was received by his mother Millie Grant.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks on Presenting the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor and Certificate of Commendation Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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