Police honor officers for valor

About 3 dozen are recognized by Baltimore department

March 30, 2006|By GUS G. SENTEMENTES | GUS G. SENTEMENTES,SUN REPORTER

One city police officer stood 11 feet from an armed robber who shot at him -- and missed -- with a powerful handgun that could pierce bullet-resistant vests. Another officer rushed to an armed robbery at a McDonald's in North Baltimore and tackled a suspect.

And, in a tragic case, Officer Brian D. Winder was fatally shot while investigating a report of a domestic dispute in Southwest Baltimore.

Stories of bravery and sacrifice were recounted yesterday at the Baltimore Police Department's annual awards ceremony. Police commanders gave out two Medals of Honor, nine Silver Stars, 24 Bronze Stars and two certificates of recognition.

"These were ordinary men and women placed in extraordinary situations," Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm told the award recipients and their families. "And they rose to the occasion."

The ceremony at the downtown police headquarters building came as the department is besieged by criticism and negative publicity over allegations of corruption, questions about the accuracy of crime statistics and instances of well-publicized friction between police and prosecutors. Two officers are on trial in federal court, charged with dealing drugs while on duty.

Hamm did not shy from addressing the tough issues. He said "there is no rift" with city State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, who also attended the ceremony.

"This Police Department is focused on making the city safe, and we're not going to deviate from that," Hamm said.

Most of the officers who received awards worked as uniformed police in the department's patrol division, a sizable but often unheralded part of a large agency. Also honored were a federal Drug Enforcement Administration agent, two Baltimore County officers, two Harford County Sheriff's deputies and two city prosecutors for their help in dismantling a drug-distribution network that operated in the city.

The ceremony began with the recounting of the events that led to Winder's death July 3, 2004. He had walked into a liquor store to help with a domestic dispute when he encountered two men, one of whom shot him several times. Winder staggered outside and collapsed near his cruiser. Officer Edwin Lane responded to the scene, fired at one of the suspects and then began to help Winder, who later died from his wounds.

Another officer, Yoo Kim, caught one of the suspects and helped find a handgun. The other suspect, Charles Bennett, whom police blamed for Winder's death, committed suicide four days after the attack as police closed in on him at a Northwest Baltimore motel.

"He was not only an exemplary police officer, but someone who cared deeply for his neighbors," Mayor Martin O'Malley said of Winder. "We are very, very grateful for his courage."

Lane was given a Medal of Honor, and Kim received a Bronze Star.

Winder's widow, Lorrie Winder, their son, Brandon, and other members of his family accepted the posthumous award.

"It's an honor," Lorrie Winder said, adding that the award is something Brandon will "always remember and pass down to his children."

gus.sentementes@baltsun.com

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