Southland police officers receive Medal Of Honor at White House

- Two Santa Monica Police Department officers and a Santa Monica College Police Department captain will receive the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor from President Barack Obama at the White House today for placing themselves in "mortal danger" during a 2013 shooting rampage that left six people dead at and around SMC. A Los Angeles Police Department officer will also receive a medal for pulling an unconscious man from a burning vehicle on a freeway, suffering first-and second-degree burns.

The medal honors officers "who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life."

SMPD Officers Jason Salas and Robert Sparks, along with SMC Police Capt. Raymond Bottenfield will be recognized for their actions during the June 7, 2013, shooting spree that began just northeast of the college and ended with a rolling gun battle on the campus.

The three officers responded to the campus and confronted the gunman in the campus library, ordered him to drop his weapon, then opened fire when the gunman pointed his assault weapon at them.

The gunman, John Zawahri, 23, was killed. Police said Bottenfield was in plain clothes and was not wearing any body armor when he helped confront the suspect.

Zawahri had killed his father and brother at their home near the college, then set the house on fire before making his way to the campus, where he fatally shot three more people. 

The officers will be honored "for courage and composure in ending a deadly rampage."

"Officer Salas, Officer Sparks and Captain Bottenfield placed themselves in mortal danger to save the lives of students and staff during a school shooting on the busy campus of Santa Monica College," according to the
White House.

LAPD Officer Donald Thompson will be honored for "courageous action to save an accident victim." At about 2 p.m. on Dec. 25, 2013, Thompson was on his way to work when he saw a vehicle crash into a center divider on the San Diego (405) Freeway and begin to catch fire, according to police.

Thompson stopped his truck and ran to the vehicle, forced the door open and crawled through growing flames and smoke to disengage the unconscious driver's seat belt. He then pulled the man from the vehicle and carried him to safety.

"Officer Thompson traversed two freeway dividers and endured first-and second-degree burns while pulling an unconscious man to safety from a car moments before it became engulfed in flames," according to the White House.

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