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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Two South Florida police officers received the nation’s highest safety honor at a ceremony Monday at the White House.
Miami-Dade police officer Mario Gutierrez and North Miami officer Niel Johnson were two of the thirteen police officers awarded the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor by President Barack Obama.
Officer Gutierrez sustained multiple stab wounds while subduing a knife-wielding assailant who attempted to set off an explosion at a gas station. He was honored for his bravery and his composure during the violent attack.
“He tried to kill me. He was trying to take my life and I had to do everything in my power to defend myself,” he said following the ceremony.
Gutierrez says he never expected standing in the White House getting the award and downplayed his role in preventing an explosion that could have taken many lives.
“I just did my job and to me this is like wow because this is unexpected,” said Gutierrez. “I got a call very quickly saying hey you’re going to the White House. I’m like ‘what.’ I mean I couldn’t believe it.”
He’s still on the job and has been back to the gas station where he nearly died. It was a long road to recovery but this husband and father of three says his determination to see his family again saved his life.
“Thank God I am alive and that I am with my family because he was trying to take me from my family,” said Gutierrez. “That to me is everything.”
As for Officer Johnson, he pursued and caught a man who had shot a Miami police officer and two innocent bystanders, withstanding fire from an assault weapon. He was honored for his swift and valorous action to end a violent crime spree.
The Medal of Valor is awarded to public safety officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect others from harm.