Three officers from the 24th District, which includes parts of Port Richmond and Kensington, were honored at the National Liberty Museum in Old City with Awards of Valor for professional conduct under intense pressure.
But being involved in these dangerous situations doesn’t mean that they stop being regular cops, said Office James Martin of the 24th.
“We get cleared and we go back out on the streets,” Martin said.
The Seventh Annual Liberty Museum Awards of Valor ceremony was held last Thursday. Forty-five police, firefighters and correctional officers were honored for what most of them consider just doing their jobs.
Officer Martin, 30, who lives in Mayfair in the Northeast, has been an officer for almost a decade. He received the Award of Valor for a September 2011 incident in Port Richmond when he responded to a report of a large crowd gathering around the scene of a stabbing, and was forced to fire on a suspect pointing his gun at innocent bystanders.
“It’s the only time I’ve ever had to use my firearm,” Martin said. “Hopefully, I’ll never have to use it again.”
According to reports, Martin and other officers were at the scene when a Ford Explorer drove at high speed toward the crowd. A male exited the vehicle, began arguing with two civilians, and then drew a gun and pointed it at one civilian’s head. Officer Martin ordered him several times to drop the gun, but when the suspect instead turned and pointed the gun at the officers nearby, Officer Martin fired.
“I was very appreciative to receive the award,” Martin said, but pointed out that he was not alone when the incident occurred.
“I was with my partner and several other officers. They were in just as much danger as I was. It could’ve been any one of them officers that was with me.”
Martin was honored a second time, along with his partner Paul Groves and Officer Jennifer Welch for a separate incident in October 2011, when Welch chased down an armed robber who fired several shots at her from behind a parked car. Groves and Martin were nearby at the time and quickly responded to assist in the suspect’s arrest.
“Under the circumstances, I’m blessed to be alive,” said Officer Welch, 41, who lives in Fox Chase in the Northeast and has been a police officer for nine years.
After the awards ceremony last week, which was also attended by her sisters and fellow officers in the 24th, Ellen Callan and Maureen Burns, Welch was honored again at Citizens Bank Park on Saturday during the pre-game before the Phillies’ match-up with the Braves.
The incident started when she got a call about a robbery at Kensington Avenue and Hart Street. A robber had demanded the handbag of a woman in her car, and then allegedly shot her in the abdomen when she didn’t comply.
As fellow officers got the victim medical care, they broadcast a description of the suspect over the radio. Officer Welch had just started her shift when she heard the call and started surveying the area. As she pulled up to E. Cambria and D streets, she noticed a suspicious male, who fit the description of the suspect, staring at her.
“He turned and looked at me, and reached for his waistband. At that point I rolled my window down and had my gun out,” Officer Welch recalled. She followed the suspect for about five or six houses as he walked northbound on D Street until he suddenly stopped behind a parked a car.
“He kind of poked his head out, and I thought he was going to turn around and run. As I was doing that, kind of turning around, he jumped out from between the parked cars and shot at me twice, striking my vehicle’s driver side door. I returned fire, two shots.”
One shot hit the suspect in the chest, but he still ran three houses up the block. Welch gave chase before Groves and Martin ran up to assist in the arrest.
“We were right down the street when that happened,” Groves said. “We were that close to her. Me and Jimmy ran up, tackled the guy, and wrestled him til we got him in cuffs.”
Groves, 35, also of Mayfair, has been an officer for about nine years. He credited his partner with the conduct that led him to receive the Award of Valor.
“I learned everything I know from Officer Martin,” Groves said.
Reporter Sam Newhouse can be reached at email@example.com.