Honors for Aurora officers but also others, like records clerk and calm telecom operator

  • Aurora held a "Celebration of Courage" ceremony Monday to honor police officers and other employees involved in the response to the Feb. 15 shootings at the Henry Pratt Co.

      Aurora held a "Celebration of Courage" ceremony Monday to honor police officers and other employees involved in the response to the Feb. 15 shootings at the Henry Pratt Co. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, left, honors five police officers -- John Cebulski, Reynaldo Rivera, Adam Miller, Marco Gomez and James Zegar -- who were wounded in the Feb. 15 shootings at the Henry Pratt Co. Irvin drew smiles when he told the officers that going forward, the city will officially recognize each of their birthdays.

      Aurora Mayor Richard Irvin, left, honors five police officers -- John Cebulski, Reynaldo Rivera, Adam Miller, Marco Gomez and James Zegar -- who were wounded in the Feb. 15 shootings at the Henry Pratt Co. Irvin drew smiles when he told the officers that going forward, the city will officially recognize each of their birthdays. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman, left, hugs telecom operator Stephanie Shaffer, who received a Medal of Merit for her work during the Feb. 15 shootings at Henry Pratt.

      Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman, left, hugs telecom operator Stephanie Shaffer, who received a Medal of Merit for her work during the Feb. 15 shootings at Henry Pratt. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Aurora honored police and police department workers involved in the Feb. 15 shooting at Henry Pratt Co. The ceremony was Monday at the Paramount Theatre.

      Aurora honored police and police department workers involved in the Feb. 15 shooting at Henry Pratt Co. The ceremony was Monday at the Paramount Theatre. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

  • Deputy Chief Keefe Jackson, left, congratulates officer Danny Rios, who received a Medal of Valor on Monday for his work at the Feb. 15 shooting at the Henry Pratt Co. Rios supplied cover fire for other officers to approach the building and break in with an armored vehicle.

      Deputy Chief Keefe Jackson, left, congratulates officer Danny Rios, who received a Medal of Valor on Monday for his work at the Feb. 15 shooting at the Henry Pratt Co. Rios supplied cover fire for other officers to approach the building and break in with an armored vehicle. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 4/29/2019 7:03 PM

The five Aurora police officers who were wounded in the Feb. 15 shooting at the Henry Pratt Co. received the department's highest honor Monday: the Blue Star Award.

But one of the recipients, officer Marco Gomez, made it clear the honor should be shared with everyone involved that day.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"This is not mine. This is yours," he told the dozens of officers honored at the "Celebration of Courage" event at the Paramount Theater. "We go out every day. It could be anybody any day, and we still go out. We go out for each other. This is not for me."

All five wounded officers -- Gomez, John Cebulski, Adam Miller, Reynaldo Rivera and James Zegar -- attended the ceremony, with Cebulski using crutches and wearing a brace on his right leg.

"I'm so glad you are all here today," Chief Kristen Ziman said, before placing the medals around the officers' necks and hugging them -- and drawing laughter when she jokingly jumped up while trying to bestow one on much taller officer Adam Miller.

"Thank you for standing up, when you had the right to sit down," Mayor Richard Irvin told the officers.

The five officers were among the first to respond Feb. 15, when a man who was being fired shot and killed five Pratt Co. employees, in a building on Archer Avenue.

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In all, 26 officers received Medals of Valor, given for showing "exceptional courage" at the risk of their own safety while trying to save a life during the Pratt shootings.

In addition, two telecommunications operators received Medals of Merit. Five officers and a records clerk received departmental commendations, for exemplary work or work done outside their normal duties. One telecom supervisor and five operators received divisional commendations, and one director, five operators and a trainee received unit merit awards.

Presenters noted what each person or team had done, whether it was entering the building to find the shooter, rescuing fellow officers, aiding a wounded truck driver or providing cover as other officers prepared to break into the building with an armored vehicle.

"Without their lifesaving efforts on that day, I might not be here," Zegar said of the other officers who rescued him from the building.

Some members of the department were honored for behind-the-scenes work, such as records clerk Marina Shields. When relatives of police officers started showing up at the station, Shields took care of them, collecting and relaying information.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Marina was the perfect person for the job, knowing her husband, officer Brian Shields, was on the scene," Deputy Chief Keefe Jackson said.

Sgt. Thomas Hinterlong, off for the day, saw the stream of police vehicles on Route 25, figured something was up and headed into work. He ended up supervising all non-Pratt patrol operations that day.

Police officers jumped to their feet to give one of the first, quickest and most raucous standing ovations to telecom operator Stephanie Shaffer, whose calm handling of simultaneous tasks during the chaotic call, including maintaining a "mental picture" of where each officer was, amazed them. She gave them confidence, Cmdr. Michael Doerzaph said.

"Your composure in your voice became a tether to officers that they tightly clinged to," Doerzaph said.

Scott Hall, president and chief executive officer of Mueller Water Products, the company that owns Pratt, also thanked the five injured officers, giving them symbolic gifts that included a clock -- because of their timely, rapid response.

"Nobody goes to work expecting to be injured," he said. "Nobody goes to work expecting bodies in the workplace, except maybe you. It is time for us and our society to recognize the sacrifice you make."

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