Shortly after Montgomery County Police Officer Brian Walburn received a Gold Medal for Valor at the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce Public Safety Awards Luncheon on Friday, he recalled what happened to him on March 9 of last year.
He was sitting in a car with his partner, Officer William Weill, around 1 a.m., when a call came over the radio of a report of shots fired, just a few blocks from where they were parked.
They arrived at the scene, on the border between Montgomery County and Washington, D.C., in Silver Spring. After getting out of their car, they began investigating the area, Walburn said, and noticed a man wearing a white shirt and shorts in the gloomy chill walking towards them.
When the man was a little more than a dozen feet away, the man said, “Game over.”
Walburn remembered thinking, “What do you mean, ‘Game over’?”
The man raised his arm and the officers saw the gun, pointed at them.
The two officers split up as the shooter began firing. They fired back, hustling away from the shooter, ducking behind a row of cars as they went.
A bullet grazed Walburn’s wrist, lodging in his belt, but he didn’t notice it in the moment, he said. All he could think, he said, was, “This is really happening... It’s not a scenario.”
When another officer, Douglas Miller, arrived, distracting the shooter, Weill and Walburn finally could aim more carefully. They shot and wounded the man.
Walburn, Weill and Miller were formally recognized on Friday, along with 24 other Montgomery County police officers, firefighters and sheriff’s deputies, at the MCCC awards luncheion.
The luncheon is an effort by the business community to acknowledge the work public safety officers do to create safe communities and promote the general quality of life, according to MCCC President Gigi Godwin. The awards go to members of any of the five branches of public safety agencies in Montgomery County (Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, Montgomery County Police Department, Maryland-National Capital Park Police, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, and Montgomery County’s Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation).
Honorees are recognized at four levels — honorable mention, and Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medals of Valor,
County, state, and federal officials attended on Friday, including Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) and Maryland Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D), who said the event showed how much Montgomery County values its public safety officers.
“You understand a community will thrive when it is safe,” he said to the crowd of more than 1,300 people.
Verizon received an award for its contribution to public safety, as did the Capital Area Regional Task Force of the U.S. Marshals Service.
Though awardees know when they have been nominated, they don’t learn the level of their award until the luncheon, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service Assistant Chief Scott Graham said.
The stories about the winners read like the stuff of comic books — rescue crews fishing a kayaker out of the rapids at Great Falls, charging into burning buildings without protective gear to save people inside, or, while off-duty, without radio, cuffs, or gun, locating and subduing a man believed to be behind a shooting in the Rockville Metro.
Montgomery County Firefighter Margaret Stottlemyer received a Gold Medal of Valor for helping save a man’s life after he was pinned beneath a Metro train car in the Shady Grove Metro Maintenance complex May 12, 2012.
She had to crawl beneath the washbay walkways, and straddle the third rail, powered down for the rescue. She gave the man oxygen and stanched the bleeding on his crushed leg for almost an hour while he screamed, “Don’t let me die!,” she said.
She knew it took four switches to turn the rail back on, she said, but that didn’t stop her from thinking, “Please don’t let anybody turn it back on!”
Three other firefighters and police officers also received awards for their roles in the rescue.
Stottlemyer started volunteering as an EMT with her parents, Marilyn and Pat, who have been volunteer rescue personnel for 25 years.
Montgomery County Master Firefighter Steven Wiseman received a Bronze Medal and a Silver Medal for his valor in two separate rescues.
In one of them, he arrived at a Burtonsville apartment where the roof was burning. He’d driven the ladder truck, which meant he wasn’t wearing protective gear, he said.
He and other firefighters and Daniel Hendrick, a sergeant with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, pulled eight people off the four-story building’s front balconies.
Seventeen people were rescued, all without serious injury, Wiseman said.
“The guys working in the back did just as much ... It was an incredible crew I was part of that day,” he said.