WASHINGTON — D.C. police officers were honored in an annual awards ceremony that took on added meaning this year, following September’s shooting rampage at the Navy Yard.
“We responded in… and I happened to be in the neighborhood,” says Officer Dorian Desantis, a 24 year veteran of the force. Desantis was in “the neighborhood” of gunman Aaron Alexis, who shot Desantis in the chest. Desantis returned fire and brought down Alexis. Desantis only realized he himself had been shot days later. “The vest had absorbed the round,” he says.
Desantis was honored as Officer of the Year at the 9th Annual Law Enforcement Awards at Arena Stage.
The Washington, DC Police Foundation says if not for the heroic actions of officers, especially Desantis, more lives would have been lost.
“We were thrilled to gather business and civic leaders today to honor the men and women of the Metropolitan Police Department for their service and valor. Today’s award recipients represent the best our city has to offer,” said Joseph Persichini Jr., the foundation’s executive director.
Also honored as part of Desantis’ unit were Officers Scott Williams and Emmanuel Smith.
Williams was shot in the legs during the attack and was carried to safety by Smith.
“We walked down a long corridor.. at that point we heard gunshots, and I looked over and I saw that Officer Williams was hit,” Smith says. “Luckily [I] got him up out of there and was able to get him into a vehicle and get him to the hospital.”
Police Chief Cathy Lanier praised all of the officers who responded. There were “eight seperate gun battles inside that building, and 117 officers, and they were able to isolate him, and stop that threat in an hour and nine minutes. It’s simply amazing,” she said, adding that Alexis could have hidden in the building for “days” because of its complex layout.
D.C. officers also heaped praise on their colleagues at other agencies, including the Navy and U.S. Park Police, who responded as well.
The rampage last September killed 12 people.