In a solemn ceremony at the White House, President Joe Biden bestowed the prestigious Medal of Valor upon nine public safety officers, including two fallen New York Police Department (NYPD) officers and the rookie cop who bravely neutralized the assailant. The president commended their unwavering courage and dedication, stating, “You run into danger when everyone else runs away from danger.” The families of the officers were also recognized and thanked for their sacrifice.
NYPD officer Wilbert Mora and his partner Jason Rivera responded to a call in Harlem on January 21, 2022, where they were tragically shot while addressing a family dispute. Officer Sumit Sulan swiftly intervened, fatally shooting the gunman and averting further harm to civilians. Regrettably, Rivera succumbed to his injuries that night, while Mora tragically passed away four days later. Their families received the Medal of Valor on their behalf.
These fallen officers were intimately familiar with the tensions between the NYPD and the communities they served, having witnessed it firsthand. Both officers aspired to be agents of change within the police force but were denied the opportunity they deserved, falling victim to a series of officer shootings in the city in 2022.
President Biden, who recently announced his intention to seek reelection, has been vocal about the need for police reform and improved community relations following the deaths of George Floyd and other Black individuals at the hands of law enforcement. He emphasized the challenging nature of police work and expressed gratitude, saying, “You represent the best of who we are as Americans.”
Rivera, only 22 years old at the time of his death, had served as a police officer for a brief period. Mora, 27 years old, had four years of dedicated service. In recognition of their bravery, all three officers were posthumously promoted to detective, and Sulan was presented with detective shield No. 332, symbolizing their unity at the 32nd precinct in Manhattan.
With approximately 35,000 officers, the NYPD stands as the largest police department in the nation, followed by Chicago with 13,000 officers. Attorney General Merrick Garland praised the recipients for their extraordinary valor and acknowledged the indispensable support of their families, stating, “It is your care and encouragement that makes it possible for our public safety officers to do their jobs.”
In addition to the NYPD officers, President Biden also honored three New York City firefighters for their remarkable acts of bravery. Lt. Justin Hespeler, who rescued a newborn from a burning building, and Firefighter Patrick Thornton, who saved a man trapped under a capsized vessel, were commended for their heroic actions. Retired Lt. Jason Hickey, part of the FDNY’s marine training unit, received recognition for saving a man from drowning in the Harlem River.
The other esteemed recipients of the Medal of Valor included Corporal Jeffrey Farmer of the Littleton, Colorado Police Department, who courageously defended his partner during a shootout and personally drove him to the hospital; Deputy Bobby Hau Pham of the Clermont County, Ohio Sheriff’s Office, who rescued a drowning woman despite being unable to swim; and Sergeant Kendrick Simpo of the Houston, Texas Police Department, who apprehended an armed suspect at a mall, averting a potential tragedy.
The Medal of Valor ceremony served as a poignant reminder of the exceptional bravery exhibited by these public safety officers in the face of perilous circumstances. Their selflessness and unwavering commitment to protecting others epitomize the noble spirit of service that defines the American people.