Nov 7, 2016 5:00 PM
MANCHESTER - The Officer Michael Briggs Community Center was full of blue on Monday morning as the Manchester Police Department honored several of its distinguished members for their dedication and hard work during specific incidents over the last year.
During the award ceremony, nearly 50 officers were recognized with various awards. Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard said a difficult part of his job is deciding who the recipients this year would be, as he oversees many deserving officers.
"Even though we've honored this number of officers today, which is extraordinary, there are so many others that, through similar incidents and courageous acts haven't been recognized," Willard said. "It’s important to recognize those who show such dedication and courage and heroic action in the face of their life’s peril."
One incident, in particular, stood out during the ceremony, honoring more than 30 officers for their work during the officer-involved shooting back in May.
Police were searching for the suspect in an armed robbery on the West side of the city. During the manhunt, two officers suffered gunshot wounds, allegedly by the suspect, who was later apprehended.
Those officers were Ryan Hardy and Matthew O'Connor. Both received the Medal of Valor during Monday's ceremony, which is the highest honor the department recognizes.
Both have since returned to working the midnight shift, just as they had before the shooting. Though they didn't speak at the ceremony, one of their close co-workers talked about what happened that tense night.
"I wish I could tell you exactly what was going on in my mind, but I really have no idea at all," said Officer Michael McGee, who was also working that night. "It was just, my buddy was shot, so I was trying to go help him."
McGee received the Life-Saving Medal on Monday. He is credited with putting a tourniquet on O'Connors leg, as well as protecting him from a gunfire exchange with the suspect.
He recalled being in shock when he learned that his good friend Hardy had also been shot.
"To see him the way he was was awful, to have to tell him everything was gonna be okay when I didn’t know, it was hard," McGee remembered. "Then he just looked at me and said, go get the guy. So we did."
The suspect is facing attempted murder and first-degree assault charges in the incident.
Chief Willard said that night was one of the most difficult of his career.
"To get a phone call at two o'clock in the morning that two of your officers had been shot, and one of them in the face, and you have no further information, there is no more difficult phone call to take as a police chief," he said.
Willard continued praising the officers in the department, saying he's honored to lead a group of such courageous people who embody what "American policing should be all about."
"To be shot at, and knowing two of your colleagues had been shot, and then to handcuff the defendant without any malice, without any anger, with just sheer professionalism," Willard added. "I’m very, very proud of these officers."
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