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WASHINGTON - Vice President Joe Biden and United States Attorney General Eric Holder today awarded the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor to Retired Lieutenant Brian Murphy and Officer Sam Lenda of the Oak Creek Police Department, both outstanding law enforcement officers who, along with others locally and nationally, exhibited exceptional courage in protecting others, saving lives, and promoting the safety and the security of our communities—all above and beyond the call of duty.
Lieutenant Murphy and Officer Lenda received this important award for their valiant and selfless efforts during the hate crimes-prompted shootings at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on Sunday, August 5, 2012. Responding to numerous calls about a violent disturbance at the Gurdwara, Lieutenant Murphy first saw two fatally injured victims and the suspect running out of the place of worship. When Lieutenant Murphy drew his weapon, the suspect fired at him, hitting him in his throat, his hand, and his legs. Shortly thereafter, when Officer Lenda arrived on the scene, he began shooting at, striking, and partially disabling the shooter, who then crawled out of sight and took his own life.
Unaware of whether there were additional people perpetrating the violence, Officer Lenda then drove to the location of the shot and determined that the shooter was dead. He then sent other, responding officers of the Oak Creek Police Department to the location of Lieutenant Murphy, who, though seriously wounded, waved them off and directed them to assist and support members of the congregations in and around the Gurdwara.
After the initial shooting, the investigation of it, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and supported by many other law enforcement agencies, units, and offices, revealed that the shooter had entered the Temple and fired at least six rounds in the kitchen-pantry area, where many women and children were hiding. He then fled the building and into the adjacent parking lot, as Lieutenant Murphy was arriving on the scene. Approximately six minutes passed from the time of the first call until Officer Lenda incapacitated the shooter. Six revered members of the congregation died in this tragic event, and several others were injured. The courageous actions of both Lieutenant Murphy and Officer Lenda unmistakably prevented further injury and helped to save many lives.
In making the announcement of today’s special recognition, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin James L. Santelle commented: “In early August of 2014, on the second anniversary of the hate crimes violence at the Sikh Gurdwara in Oak Creek, our community gathered to recognize the supreme heroism and stellar law enforcement professionalism of Lieutenant Brian Murphy and Officer Savan “Sam” Lenda, both of the Oak Creek Police Department, by conferring on them the Attorney General’s Law Enforcement Congressional Badges of Bravery. In the 30 months since their selfless actions saved lives among the Sikh Congregation and confirmed for the world the commitment of all law enforcement to peace, understanding, engagement, and diversity, we continue to benefit from their service and its legacy—along with the critically important involvement of many other local, state, and federal officers who promote daily our safety and security. All of us in the Eastern District of Wisconsin join the Vice President and the Attorney General in again commending Brian and Sam and all of their colleagues for their valor.
Santelle continued: “In the wake of the most serious, life-sacrificing civil rights-related hate crime since the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church Bombing of September of 1963, we acknowledge today and always the abiding life, spirit, vision, and mission of our Sikh colleagues here in Eastern Wisconsin and across our nation. In the midst of this tragedy and in the 900 days that have passed since then, our Sikh colleagues have been steadfast in their courage, their industry, their service, and their partnership with people of all faiths and heritages in promoting the very best of what America is and always will be.”
In specific reference to the Medal of Valor recipients, Attorney General Holder added: “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 United States Department of Justice’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 at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/medalofvalor.