22 police officers, firefighters to receive Medal of Valor - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Dalton native Andrew Michael Keith among 22 police officers, firefighters to receive Medal of Valor

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Attorney General Eric Holder (left) stands with Knoxville Police Department Officer Andrew Michael Keith as he is awarded the Public Safety Medal of Valor by Vice President Joe Biden during a ceremony Wednesday. Photo by JORDAN GASS-POORE/NEWS SENTINEL Attorney General Eric Holder (left) stands with Knoxville Police Department Officer Andrew Michael Keith as he is awarded the Public Safety Medal of Valor by Vice President Joe Biden during a ceremony Wednesday. Photo by JORDAN GASS-POORE/NEWS SENTINEL

By JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Dalton native and Knoxville Police Officer Michael Keith used his own shirt to beat back flames from a car, then pulled a state trooper to safety just before the vehicle exploded.

Sgt. Daniel Hutchinson was shot three times but still managed to rescue two fellow sheriff's deputies from an active shooter.

Fire Chief John Curly broke a burning building's window with his bare hands to rescue an unconscious woman inside.

The three public servants joined 19 others on Wednesday as they received the Medal of Valor, the nation's highest honor for public safety officers who risk their own safety to save or protect others. Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder were on hand to present the medals during a ceremony at the White House complex.

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This year's ceremony will honor individuals who committed acts of valor between 2011 and 2013, the White House said. A total of 95 medals have been handed out since Congress created the award in 2001 - including this year's recipients, which include a number of officers who died in the line of duty.

Approaching the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in August 2012, Lt. Brian Murphy and Officer Savan Lenda of the Oak Creek Police Department saw two dead victims on the ground and a suspected gunman fleeing the temple. Murphy pulled his gun, but the suspect fired first, hitting Murphy in his throat, legs and hand. When Lenda arrived on the scene and shot the suspect, he crawled out of view and then killed himself with a single shot.

Lenda sent fellow officers to help Murphy, but the lieutenant waved them away and insisted they help those still inside the temple. The White House said the two officers' actions helped save the lives of many.

Five special agents from the FBI's Alabama-based hostage rescue team will receive the award for helping rescue a 5-year-old abducted from a school bus in 2013. For six days, the child was held in an explosives-laden underground bunker. The FBI team mounted a rescue mission and liberated the boy unharmed from a smoke-filled hole while coming under heavy gunfire from the suspect.

Seven officers and firefighters from Watertown, Mass., are being honored for their role in saving lives during a gunfight with a suspect in the Boston Marathon bombing.

Also receiving the medal Wednesday:

-Special Agent John Francis Capano, New York, who was killed while confronting a suspect during an attempted robbery attempt.

-Sgt. Bradley Alan Wick, Duluth, Minnesota, Police Department, who shot and killed a convicted felon after an armed robbery and car chase.

-Clifton P. Lewis, Chicago, who was off-duty when he was shot four times and killed while confronting two masked gunmen at a grocery store.

-Sgt. Michael Darrell Brown, Brevard County, Florida, who helped save a woman whose estranged boyfriend was attempting to stab her to death.

-Deputy Jenna Underwood-Nunez, Los Angeles, who was five months pregnant and off-duty when she rescued a teenager from drowning at the bottom of a muddy lake.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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