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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Tennessee

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Vice President Biden And Attorney General Holder Honor Officer Andrew Michael Keith With Medal Of Valor

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder today awarded the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor to Officer Andrew Michael Keith of the Knoxville Police Department, who exhibited exceptional courage in saving and protecting others and whose heroic actions were above and beyond the call of duty.

Officer Keith receives the award for his heroic and quick reaction on March 13, 2012 to a Tennessee Highway Patrol car on fire after a collision with a truck. The car’s driver, Sgt. Lowell Russell, was unconscious and trapped in the vehicle.

When Officer Keith reached the scene, he radioed dispatch for the fire department to respond and used his shirt to beat back the flames while trying to reach the injured trooper. When he was able to make contact, he positioned Trooper Russell to keep the flames away from his body, while two citizens assisted in cutting Trooper Russell from his seatbelt. After freeing the trooper, Officer Keith then took control of the scene and kept people away from the vehicle, which exploded from a discharge of ammunition within. Due to the diligence of Officer Keith and the concerned citizens, Sgt. Russell survived the accident and his injuries and began rehabilitation a few weeks later.

United States Attorney William C. Killian stated, “Officer Keith exhibited remarkable valor, risking his own life to save the life of Sgt. Russell, and to protect bystanders from harm. He acted in the finest tradition of law enforcement on that night, reacting quickly to serve and protect his fellow citizens.”

At the ceremony, Attorney General Holder remarked, “These are all exceptional individuals. Every one of them deserves our deepest gratitude and boundless respect. Yet even among the outstanding field of public servants who perform these critical responsibilities, day in and day out – in communities across the country – there are some who stand out. And today, with these prestigious medals, we recognize these exceptional few for extraordinary valor – above and beyond the call of duty.”

The Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor, authorized by the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor Act of 2001, is the highest national award for valor presented to a public safety officer. The medal is awarded to public safety officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect human life. Including today’s awardees, a total of 95 medals have been presented since the first recipients were honored in 2003.

The Medal of Valor is awarded by the President of the United States, or his designee, to public safety officers cited by the Attorney General. Public safety officers are nominated by the chiefs or directors of their employing agencies and recommended by the Medal of Valor Review Board. The Attorney General has designated the U.S. Department of Justice’s department’s Office of Justice Programs (OJP) to serve as the federal point of contact for the Public Safety Medal of Valor.

More information about the award, the Medal of Valor Review Board members, and the nomination process is available

Updated March 18, 2015