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12 police officers honored with George L. Hanna Memorial Award for Bravery

“These awards recognize police officers who exhibited remarkable heroism in the face of extreme danger.”

Gov. Charlie Baker bestows the Medal of Valor to Massachusetts State Trooper Peter R. Towle. David L Ryan/Globe Staff

Twelve law enforcement officers were awarded the 37th and 38th George L. Hanna Memorial Award for Bravery on Thursday in Worcester.

The award, which honors the memory of Massachusetts State Police Trooper George Hanna, who was killed in the line of duty 1983, is the highest honor for law enforcement officers in the Commonwealth, according to officials.

Governor Charlie Baker, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, and Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrence Reidy presented the awards to the officers during the ceremony.

“These awards recognize police officers who exhibited remarkable heroism in the face of extreme danger,” Baker said in a statement. “Their quick-thinking and decisive actions showed extraordinary courage and a deep commitment to helping others no matter the risk to themselves. Today’s recipients carry on the legacy of Trooper George Hanna, demonstrating exceptional police work grounded in the value of selfless service.”

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Hanna was killed on Feb. 26, 1983, while conducting a vehicle stop in Auburn. The trooper pulled over a car carrying three men and two women, and when he directed the passengers to get out of the vehicle for questioning, he was shot six times. Hanna died later that evening in a Worcester hospital. 

Officers nominated for the awards in Hanna’s memory can either be given the Medal of Valor or the Medal of Honor. The Medal of Valor is given to those “whose valor in a single incident goes above and beyond the call of duty, and who demonstrate selfless bravery despite the potential for danger to themselves,” according to the state. Meanwhile, the Medal of Honor, which is the highest award, is given to “those who demonstrate extraordinary bravery and courage in the face of extreme risk and certain and imminent danger to life or limb.”

The Hanna awards have been given to 142 officers since 1983.

The ceremony on Thursday included officers who were awarded the medal in both 2019 and 2020, due to the COVID-19 limitations on gatherings last year.  

Below, the recipients of the 2019 and 2020 awards: 

2019 Medal of Valor

Trooper Peter R. Towle, Massachusetts State Police

Trooper Peter R. Towle was on patrol in Brockton on April 20, 2019, when he observed a reckless driver in a SUV, according to the state. When Towle turned on his blue lights, the driver tried to escape, parking his SUV and running toward the back of an apartment complex. Towle ran after the suspect and was ambushed when the man pulled out a gun. Officials said Towle drew his firearm and fired two shots at the man, who dropped his gun and fell to the ground. The officer provided aid to the wounded suspect until an ambulance arrived. 

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Sgt. Jonathan Kalagher, Westborough Police Department

Sgt. Jonathan Kalagher responded to a domestic violence incident on Nov. 15, 2019, where the victim was stabbed in the chest by her husband, according to officials. The woman ran away from her husband by escaping to her neighbors house and later out onto the streets. Kalagher arrived at the scene just as the she was running down the street while being chased by the husband, who was carrying a knife. Kalagher ordered the man to drop the knife. When he did not comply, the officer fired multiple shots, killing him, according to the state. Kalagher called for an ambulance and tended to the wounded woman.

2019 Medal of Honor

Trooper Stephen M. Torosian, Massachusetts State Police

Officials said Trooper Stephen M. Torosian was sitting in his cruiser, protecting a construction crew on Route 495 south in Amesbury on Dec. 12, 2019, when he was approached by a man. Without warning the individual opened the door of the cruiser and stabbed Torosian multiple times in the left arm with a knife. Torosian fired one gunshot, which hit the man in the chest, making him fall down on the breakdown lane. According to the state, Torosian broadcasted the incident over the radio and another trooper arrived on the scene, taking the wounded suspect into custody and providing first aid to the injured officer and his attacker.

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Officer William Hull and Officer Mark Whalen, Boston Police Department

Officers William Hull and Mark Whalen were on patrol on Feb. 22, 2019, near Southampton Street in Boston when they observed a man who was slumped on the steering wheel of a minivan. After approaching him to check his well-being and ask for identification, they found that he had a criminal history, including a recent conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm, according to the state. Hull and Whalen asked the driver to show both hands, and when he did not comply, asked him to step out of the vehicle. Officials said the driver pulled out a gun from his pocket and fired it, hitting Whalen in the right hand and forearm, before driving off. Hull tended to Whalen’s injuries and broadcasted the description of the suspect and vehicle. Responding officers located the minivan, which had crashed, several blocks away. According to the state, the driver was found unresponsive behind the wheel and later declared dead.

2020 Medal of Valor

Trooper Michael W. Palmer, Massachusetts State Police

According to the state, Trooper Michael W. Palmer was on duty on New Year’s Eve in 2020 when Springfield police were alerted to gunshots being fired in the area of Stafford Street. Palmer and Springfield Police Officer William Soto, who were both in the area, went to investigate, and when they turned onto Nursery Street, they saw a shirtless man in the middle of the street, officials said. Upon spotting the police, the man suddenly fired a gun, hitting Palmer in the left leg. Palmer was transported to a hospital and the man was later located and arrested by police.

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Trooper John J. Lennon, Massachusetts State Police

Trooper John J. Lennon stopped a vehicle on Nov. 20, 2020 in Hyannis after observing a defective license plate light, officials said. When he approached the car, which was occupied by two men, the driver fired a gun out of the window, hitting Lennon in the right hand. After being shot, Lennon was able to call for assistance and provide a description and registration of the vehicle, which had fled the scene, according to the state. The driver was identified by investigators as having two arrest warrants in Massachusetts and Wyoming and as a suspect in two shootings in Washington and California. Officials said Lennon suffered serious injuries from the shooting and had been in rehabilitation since. The man was added to the state’s most wanted list. On Dec. 4, officers traveled to New York City to arrest the suspect. According to the state, he began shooting at the officers and he was killed when they returned fire.

Sgt. Nick L. Parker and Officer Justin D. Zink, Pepperell Police Department

Officials said Sgt. Nick L. Parker and Officer Justin D. Zink were serving a warrant to a man at his residence on June 25, 2020, when he suddenly charged at Parker, who was between a door and a wall, with a large knife. Parker defended himself by grabbing the suspect’s hand, and Zink, who was able to move away from the doorway, discharged his gun once when he realized Parker’s life was in danger, according to the state. The suspect was shot in the abdomen and given medical attention by Zink, who is also an EMT, until an ambulance arrived. 

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Sgt. Christopher H. Baker, Officer David J. Schepis, and Officer Stephen T. Wallace Jr., The Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council

Sgt. Christopher H. Baker, Officer David J. Schepis, and Officer Stephen T. Wallace Jr. of the Metropolitan Law Enforcement Council were sent to the scene of a domestic assault under hostage rescue protocols on Jan. 25, 2020, after Hingham police called for support, according to the state. The team used a fire truck tower bucket to reach the third floor of the building, where the victim was being held. Officials said while evacuating the victim to safety using the fire truck, the suspect fired three shots at the officers, who took cover. Upon arrest, police found that the suspect was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was armed with a firearm and dynamite during the psychotic episode, according to the state.

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