Wash. officers ambushed in drive-by shooting earn Shriners awards
"The officers displayed extreme calm under the most difficult circumstances."
By Garrett Cabeza
The Spokesman-Review, Spokane, Wash.
SPOKANE, Wash. — Two Spokane police officers who authorities say were targeted by gang members in a shooting earlier this summer earned El Katif Shriners Officer of the Year awards Saturday, a ceremony that honors local law enforcement and remembers the lives lost on 9/11.
"The officers (Kris) Honaker and (Michele) Kernkamp were targeted simply for being police officers," said Michael Castelan, high priest and prophet of the Shriners. "That makes this incident even more heinous and is a reason why we honor them today with the Shriners Officer of the Year Award."
Honaker was shot in the leg and a bullet grazed his scalp in the drive-by shooting. He was treated and released from a local hospital within a day of being wounded.
Isaac Ott, 21, and Ray Wynecoop, 22, are accused of shooting at two houses in northeast Spokane on June 28.
Spokane Police Chief Craig Meidl said Kernkamp was one of the first officers to respond to the area when she noticed the suspects filming her from a vehicle. The two men then pursued her in a 2014 Chrysler 300, according to court documents.
Meidl said Honaker was the first officer who was able to get close to Kernkamp's vehicle when shots were fired from the suspects' vehicle.
Seven shots were fired in less than two seconds, according to documents. Meidl said Honaker turned his head at the last second to avoid the gunfire.
"Had he not done that instinctively, he probably would not be here with us today," Meidl said.
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Castelan said the wounded Honaker and Kernkamp still relayed information that led to the capture of Ott and Wynecoop, who are both in the Spokane County Jail on bonds of $2 million.
"The officers displayed extreme calm under the most difficult circumstances," Castelan said.
Meidl said both officers went back to work shortly after the shooting even though he urged against the swift return.
"It's just a calling," Kernkamp said of her eager return to service. "This is something I've always wanted to do. I love it. There's no better place I'd wanna be right now than working for the Spokane Police Department."
Honaker said he recovered quickly physically but he still struggled.
"My first week back was hard," Honaker said. "I did not sleep very well."
He said taking care of himself and receiving support from fellow officers, friends, family and the community helped in his return to work.
Other area first responders also earned Shriners awards Saturday as the Shriners hosted its second annual law enforcement appreciation and 9/11 remembrance event in the parking lot of El Katif Shrine Center near the Spokane International Airport.
"These guys have a hell of a job and we want to make sure they know that they're appreciated out here," Castelan said.
Various law enforcement, firefighting and emergency medical services personnel and their vehicles were on hand for the event.
Many people examined the names and faces of the 608 law enforcement officers who died last year across the country. The fallen officers were on the Beyond the Call of Duty trailer that travels each summer across the nation to support families of the fallen officers and law enforcement agencies.
The Shriners conducted a short 9/11 remembrance ceremony.
"I hope that today can be a remembrance of those who have fallen, those who have served and those like yourself who still stand guard and protect our communities and our freedoms," said Justin Hughes, potentate of the Shriners.
Wreaths were placed above a firefighter's uniform, police uniform and EMS uniform.
Luanne Gehrig placed a green wreath above her husband's blue Spokane police uniform. She said Roger Gehrig, a 26-year veteran of the department and former Shriner, died last year from cancer.
"Last year I did it and I think I was still numb from losing him," Gehrig said of the wreath laying. "This year was pretty emotional, especially when they started playing Amazing Grace."
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