By Lisa Walton
Many police officers go their whole careers without facing gunfire or firing a weapon at someone while on duty. Colorado Springs officer Allison Detwiler experienced both situations in her 22nd year as a police officer. On Monday, during the Colorado Springs Police Department's 29th annual Medal of Valor Luncheon at The Broadmoor hotel, Detwiler became the first woman - and only the ninth person - to be presented the Medal of Honor award, established in 1975.
It's the highest award to be bestowed upon a Colorado Springs police officer.
She and 10 other officers were honored at the ceremony, which recognizes those who risk their lives to protect the community.
Six months ago, Detwiler found herself crouching behind a police cruiser as a man with a handgun fired several shots at her and two other police officers.
In less than an hour, what started as a welfare check at a northeast Colorado Springs home turned into a full-blown shootout.
For several minutes, Detwiler was the only officer at the scene. As the shooter ducked between his front door and an open garage, two other officers raced to the house in the 6700 block of Holt Drive to help.
The 21/2 minutes it took for officer Kerry Duran to get to the scene felt like two hours, he said. He arrived to find Detwiler at the corner of the property, with no cover but standing her ground, he said. He drove his car to the side of the house, and he and Detwiler took cover behind it.
Sgt. Steven Biscaro arrived as the suspect fired two more shots. Detwiler got up to get a better sight on the shooter, using a pine tree for cover. She fired one shot, hitting the man, later identified by police as Chester Dean, in the hip. Dean surrendered, and officers later used his pants to help stem the flow of blood.
Detwiler said the situation is the kind that "changes your perspective on life."
"Knowing that you have to do it to save everyone else .that hits you afterward," she said tearfully, after getting the award. She said she was thankful that everyone involved got to go home that day.
"The reward is small in comparison to that," she said in a video shown to hundreds of attendees at the ceremony.
Biscaro and Duran also received Medal of Valor awards for their actions that day.
Officer Adam Wheeler, a former Olympic wrestler, and Alan Van't Land, an Air Force Academy graduate and former Marine, took home two awards each for their roles in two 2012 car pursuits.
In July 2013, officer Joseph Prendez was involved in a shootout at Goose Gossage Park. The shooter had reportedly been trespassing near a business and had fired several shots. Prendez came upon two men in the park, and one of them fired several shots before escaping via an embankment near a creek bed. The shooter was later arrested in Manitou Springs. Prendez received the Medal of Valor for his actions.
Officer Marvin Forbes had cornered two robbery suspects after a vehicle pursuit near The Citadel mall and was getting out of his car when he heard several shots. Police later found 11 9 mm shell casings in a nearby parking lot. Forbes received the Distinguished Service Award for his actions in July 2013.
In May, officer Vijay Seenath was in front of a home when a man, reportedly homicidal and suicidal, walked out and pointed a gun at officers. Seenath fired one shot, hitting the man in the arm. "It looked like if he pulled that trigger, he wasn't going to miss," said Seenath, who received the Medal of Valor. Officer Ryan Blank, positioned next to Seenath, was speaking with the man on the phone when he pointed the gun at officers. Blank received the Distinguished Service Award.
Officer Kristopher Fish received the Medal of Valor for his role in a December 2012 car chase. A man who police said repeatedly reached for his belt, refusing to comply with officers' demands and threatening to kill officers, was shot twice. He later died in a hospital. Officers Alan Van't Land and Adam Wheeler assisted with the call.
In October 2012, officer Alan Marks was pursuing a stolen truck when a suspect fired several shots at him. Officer Alan Van't Land rammed the truck to get the driver to stop, and in the process, the police car became stuck on top of a concrete culvert. Officer Adam Wheeler saw that Van't Land was stuck, and possibly in the line of fire, so he rammed into the side of the truck, causing the suspect's pistol to fall from his hands.