The Oregon Peace Officers Association honored several Salem police officers last month for actions in life-threatening situations. Among the awards were a Medal of Honor, a Medal of Valor, a Purple Heart and several lifesaving awards.
An officer-involved shooting incident Aug. 11 in Benton County resulted in the arrest of a suspect, and five Salem officers were singled out during the OPOA awards for their extraordinary service. Officers Matt Gill, Tyler Verhaar, R.J. Smith and Eric Hernandez received the Life Saving Award. Cpl. Andrew Connolly received the Purple Heart. Hernandez received the Medal of Valor.
Connolly was shot in the leg while trying to apprehend the suspect. Benton County sheriff’s Sgt. David Peterson also was shot, and Hernandez broke cover to move him to safety. Hernandez and Verhaar were credited with helping to save the sergeant’s life. Gill and Smith applied first aid to the suspect who also was shot during the shooting.
Officer Adam Waite received the Life Saving Award for using chest compressions to save the life of a Salem resident who was found unconscious and not breathing in his home early in the morning of Jan. 2.
Officer Brian Kohlmeyer was credited with saving the life of a woman who was thought to be preparing to commit suicide by jumping off the Center Street bridge in August 2011. He received the Life Saving Award.
Officer Oscar Zambrano exchanged gun shots with a robbery suspect on Commercial Street SE Feb. 10, and he received the Medal of Honor from the OPOA. Following a robbery at FED EX-Kinko’s, the suspect fled on foot, and Zambrano found him hiding nearby. Flushed out of the bushes, the suspect ran into Commercial Street where he stopped and shot at the officer. Zambrano returned fire, hitting the suspect, who was then arrested.