Two Latinos Among 13 Officers Awarded Medal of Valor by Obama

Image: Obama honors public safety and law enforcement officers at a Medal of Valor at the White House in Washington, U.S.
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) honors public safety and law enforcement officers at a Medal of Valor at the White House in Washington, U.S. May 16, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan ErnstJONATHAN ERNST / Reuters

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By Suzanne Gamboa

President Barack Obama awarded the Medal of Honor to 13 police and other public safety officers, including two Latinos, saying they, with their courage and humility, remind Americans what "the highest form of citizenship looks like."

Those awarded the medal Monday saved the lives of strangers at a gas station while on routine patrol, in the middle of a busy hospital, in a grocery store, near a school and on the campus of Santa Monica College in California, Obama said.

"The men and women who run toward danger remind us with your courage and humility what the highest form of citizenship looks like," Obama said in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

"... you put other's safety before your own," Obama said. "In your proud example of public service, you remind us that loving our country means loving one another."

One of the recipients, Sgt. Robert Wilson III was recognized posthumously. He was killed when two men opened fire in a robbery of a video game store where Wilson was buying his son a birthday present. Wilson drew the fire to save others' lives. Some of his family members were at the ceremony to accept the award.

Thus far this year, 35 officers have died in the line of duty, Obama said.

Just before the ceremony, Obama signed a package of law enforcement related bills, including one he said would help officers buy more bulletproof vests.

"We can show our respect by listening to you, learning from you, giving you the resources that you need to do the jobs," Obama said.

Sunday was National Peace Officers Memorial Day.

Those who received medals included:

– Mario Gutierrez, an officer with the Miami-Dade Police Department in Florida. He was stabbed multiple times by a man he stopped from setting off an explosion by setting a gas pump on fire at a gasoline station. Gutierrez survived the wounds.

epa05310538 US President Barack Obama awards Miami-Dade Police Officer Mario Gutierrez the Medal of Valor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, USA, 16 May 2016. The Medal of Valor is awarded to public safety officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect others from harm. EPA/SHAWN THEWSHAWN THEW / EPA

– Jason Salas who along with fellow Santa Monica, California Police Department Officer Robert Sparks and Capt. Raymond Bottenfeld saved the lives of students and staff when a gunmen went on a deadly shooting rampage in the library on the campus of Santa Monica College.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: (L to R) Santa Monica College Police Department Captain Raymond Bottenfield and Santa Monica Police Department officer Robert Sparks look on as Santa Monica Police Department officer Jason Salas receives the Medal of Valor from U.S. President Barack Obama during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, May 16, 2016, in Washington, DC. Established by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and officially recognized by Congress in 2001, the Medal of Valor is the nation's highest honor for law enforcement. 13 police officers are receiving the honor this year. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Others honored were Patrolman Luis Cioci, Johnson City Police Department of New York; Maj. David Huff, Midwest City Police Department, Oklahoma; David Thompson, officer, Los Angeles and Coral Walker, officer, Omaha Police Department, NE for the 2013-2014 Medal of Valor.

Honored with the 2014-2015 Medal of Valor:

Gregory Stevens, Garland Police Department, Texas; Niel Johnson, North Miami Police Department, Florida; Special Agent Tyler Call, FBI and Deputy Joey Tortorella, Niagra County Sheriff's Office, New York.

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