Las Vegas officers honored for heroic acts were just 'doing their job'

The seventh annual “Best of the Badge” commendation ceremony recognized 70 cops

By Ricardo Torres-Cortez
Las Vegas Sun

LAS VEGAS — Portraits of Metro Police officers who were honored Friday night adorned the spacious Strip resort ballroom. Each of the 70 cops photographed represented a tale of heroism, selflessness and sacrifice, some that could have been scripted into a movie.

There was Officer William Umana, who in a pursuit of a pair of murder suspects on a sunny summer morning shot through his cruiser’s windshield to stop the culprits’ vehicle as they recklessly shot dozens of bullets in busy Las Vegas traffic.

Umana and his colleagues, Officer James Parker and Officer Paul Solomon, were awarded the Medal of Valor for their actions on July 11, 2018.

In a prerecorded video broadcast to the dozens in attendance at Wynn Las Vegas for the seventh annual “Best of the Badge” commendation ceremony, Umana paused, broke down and said, “I knew I had to go home to my family.”

Then, wearing his ceremonial brown Metro uniform, Umana walked onstage, where Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo awaited. The crowd, which included local, state and federal dignitaries, roared in a standing ovation.

There was also the officer who received a Purple Heart for being wounded in a shootout in 2017; a pair of officers who rescued a suicidal motorist who earlier this year intended to drive off a cliff near Mount Charleston, and a team of officers who rescued a toddler in a hostage situation in which they took gunfire from a man in 2017.

An officer who used a tourniquet to save a drive-by-shooting suspect shot by police also was recognized.

Then there were those who weren’t there to receive their awards.

Officer Igor Soldo and Officer Alyn Beck, who were slain by anti-government extremists more than five years ago, were posthumously awarded Purple Heart commendations. Their portraits were shown on three large video screens as their loved ones accepted the honors.

Again and again, those in the crowd stood on their feet and cheered loudly as the men and women were honored.

The ceremony is organized by the Las Vegas Metropolitan Foundation, the non-profit fundraising arm of the police department. Gov. Steve Sisolak described the officers’ work as crucial. “Our state is safer as a result of the fine men and women of Metro, and I’m so proud of you.”

Lombardo said it was important that his officers are rewarded for their bravery, and that the ceremony was as much about their loved ones who endure that the cops make a living by risking their lives.

But if they were asked to reflect on their split-second, life-threatening actions, Lombardo said, each officer wouldn’t say much more than, “I was just doing my job.”

That sentiment was obvious when Officer Kevin Stephens spoke prior to the ceremony. Being part of the team that rescued the 4-year-old hostage, he was quick to mention the other officers instead: “They try their best to give 100% every day,” he said, noting that he’s often in awe with their heroics.

Sgt. Jason Harries, who participated in the shootout Hollywood-movie-style pursuit and got the Medal of Honor, was quick to praise Umana. He said the recognition was humbling, but that it wasn’t something officers expect or ask for. “We just go out there and do the job.”

©2019 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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