Seven Skagit County police officers on Friday received the state’s highest honor for law enforcement officers for their actions during a December shooting in which Mount Vernon police officer Mike “Mick” McClaughry was shot in the head.
Six officers from Mount Vernon and one from Burlington were chosen by the state Office of the Attorney General to receive a state Law Enforcement Medal of Honor.
“It’s to honor those who we’ve lost in the line of duty – the ones who’ve made the biggest sacrifice – and the officers who have gone above and beyond in their duties to serve and honor and protect,” said Shannon Sessions, director of Safety Sessions, which helped organize this year’s event.
McClaughry, who was shot in the head Dec. 15 while responding to a report of a gunshot, also was honored for receiving a serious injury in the line of duty.
Mount Vernon police Sgts. Mike Don and Pete Lindberg, officers Ben Green, Wayne Jones and Liz Paul, and Burlington police officer Preston Payne were honored for meritorious conduct for their actions related to that night’s shooting and their efforts to save McClaughry’s life.
“The exceptional courage that was demonstrated by our staff while saving Mick was pretty overwhelming,” Mount Vernon Police Chief Jerry Dodd said. “These officers risked their lives. Sometimes I think officers are very humble and they say, ‘No we’re just doing our jobs,' but truly it’s risking their lives to save others. And that’s really beyond the call.”
Payne was one of the first on the scene and helped pull McClaughry to safety, Dodd said.
It’s basically either a fallen officer or it’s extraordinary-type heroism. Of course, that meant our folks.
Mount Vernon Police Chief Jerry Dodd
“The Burlington Police Department is very proud of officer Payne and his courageous actions on the evening of Dec. 15, 2016,” Burlington Assistant Chief Tom Moser said. “It is very fitting that he, along with the others that stepped in harm’s way on that night to protect the community and aid a critically injured officer, are recognized with this exceptional honor.”
This is the first time in Dodd’s 38 years with the department that a Mount Vernon officer has received the award, he said.
“I’m very proud of watching our officers receive the award,” Dodd said. “It is so meaningful to look at the officers who have done that. It’s on the top of my list and I’ve been here for 38 years.”
While normally about a half dozen officers a year are honored, 22 from six law enforcement agencies were honored in this year’s ceremony, Sessions said.
In order to receive the award, officers must be nominated by their commanding officers – in this case Dodd and former Burlington Police Chief Bill Van Wieringen – and must then be vetted by the Office of the Attorney General.
“It’s basically either a fallen officer or it’s extraordinary-type heroism,” Dodd said. “Of course, that meant our folks.”
While the event, held at the state Peace Officers Memorial in Olympia, can be bittersweet, Dodd looked at it as a celebration.
“From my perspective, it was really a celebration of Mick,” he said. “He’s such a courageous, strong and determined person. He’s truly a community hero and role model.”