Police Officer of the Year’s Heroics Caught on Dashcam
(NEW YORK) -- A Pennsylvania State Trooper has received one of the highest awards in law enforcement for the actions he took to stop a man who launched a deadly rampage last December, and ABC News has exclusively obtained the unedited footage from the dash-cam that was installed in the trooper's police cruiser.
It's a rare glimpse into the moments when police engage an active shooter, and put their own lives on the line to potentially save others.
On the morning of Dec. 21, 2012, an unemployed, former trucker allegedly walked into a church in Frankstown Township, Pa., and opened fire on a woman decorating the building's walls for a children's Christmas party. The man, Jeffrey Lee Michael, then allegedly killed two others away from the church.
As Trooper Timothy Strohmeyer and Trooper David Navaruk each sped to the scene, they passed Michael in his pick-up truck heading the opposite direction. He fired shots into both police cruisers, and broken glass flew into Navaruk's face, according to the Pennsylvania State Police.
Still, Strohmeyer and Navaruk turned their cruisers around and gave chase, hoping to catch up with the fleeing suspect.
Meanwhile, Trooper Kevin Campbell was approaching Michael from the opposite direction. Upon seeing Campbell, Michael "accelerated his truck and intentionally rammed Corporal Campbell's patrol car head-on," trapping Campbell inside his own cruiser, according to the state police.
Campbell was a sitting duck, while Strohmeyer's cruiser can be seen on video approaching the collided cars. Hoping to divert attention away from his trapped colleague, Strohmeyer rammed his own cruiser into the back of Michael's truck, state police said.
Strohmeyer's plan worked. Michael can be seen on video charging Strohmeyer's cruiser with his gun drawn and firing. Eight bullets ripped through Strohmeyer's windshield, as shown in a photograph obtained by ABC News. Strohmeyer was hit several times in the chest and left wrist.
Strohmeyer was wearing a bulletproof vest and survived. Michael was killed by the troopers' returning gunfire.
Exactly 10 months later, at its annual conference in Philadelphia, the International Association of Chiefs of Police bestowed its highest honor on Strohmeyer, naming him International Police Officer of the Year.
"His courageous actions in the line of fire last December -- when he placed his own life at great risk in order to save the lives of those around him -- exemplified the very best of what it means to be a public servant," Attorney General Eric Holder said at the conference, congratulating Strohmeyer for winning the award. "He is a hero in the truest sense of the word. And it's an honor to join the IACP in celebrating such a prestigious and well-deserved [honor]."
Holder noted that since 2009, the annual average of shooting incidents has nearly tripled.
"The reality is that police don't always have the luxury of time to get their most highly-trained, best-equipped officers on the scene," Holder said. "To save lives, the first officers to arrive must sometimes be the ones to directly engage an active shooter."
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