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Parson awards 2020 Missouri Public Safety Medals

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Gov. Mike Parson and the Department of Public Safety (DPS) awarded first responders and civilians public safety awards for their heroic actions in 2020.

Awards were handed out to 15 first responders and seven civilians during Wednesday morning’s ceremony. Parson applauded the recipients for their willingness to help their fellow Missourians despite the danger they found themselves in. 

“This ceremony is an annual reminder of our heroic first responders who bravely serve the citizens of Missouri at great risk to themselves each day,” Parson said. “They acted selflessly, putting the safety of others and protecting the public good above concern for their own wellbeing. We appreciate and honor these first responders and civilians for their courageous actions that ended threats and saved lives during extremely challenging emergencies.”

Parson DPS awards
Gov. Mike Parson handed out 22 Missouri Public Safety Awards during a ceremony in Jefferson City on Sept. 1, 2021. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/CAMERON GERBER)

The Missouri Medal of Valor went to 10 first responders this year. The highest recognition available for public safety officers in the state, the award is given to officers who respond to dire situations quickly — regardless of the threat to their wellbeing.  

Sergeant Michael Ottolini and Officer Lee Alex Clawson of the Jefferson City Police Department were recognized for pursuing a suspect who refused a routine traffic stop in April 2020. Clawson was shot twice, and Ottolini shot the suspect to prevent further harm. Clawson has since been promoted to detective. 

Sergeant Heather Anderson with the Springfield Police Department was honored for apprehending a driver who pinned another officer with his vehicle at the department’s headquarters in June 2020.

Corporal Jason Ashby with Missouri State Highway Patrol rescued a couple and their daughter during a boating accident in July 2020. Ashby was injured during the rescue but performed CPR on the daughter until medical assistance arrived. The family survived, and Ashby recovered from his injuries. 

Sergeant Jason Weggemann and Deputy Sheriff Ronald Burgess of the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office were recognized for responding to a gunman who opened fire in a local convenience store in March 2020. 

Officer John Gresco II with the St. Charles County Police Department was honored for saving a civilian during severe flooding that struck the county in August 2020. 

Officers Ryan Broeker, Devin Kitrel, and Andrew Mattaline with the Chesterfield Police Department were recognized for responding to an early-morning fire that occurred in September 2020. 

The Governor’s Medal, given to public safety personnel for their collective action during a critical situation, was awarded to Darion Meeks with the Kinloch Fire Department; Chad  Hembree of the Woodson Terrace Police Department; and Mitchell Griffin, Dustin Hitchcock, and Michael Mertz with the St. John Police Department. The group responded to a gunman who opened fire at the St. John Applebee’s in June 2020, preserving evidence after the gunman fled and administering medical assistance to those injured. 

Finally, the Public Safety Civilian Partnership Award was presented to seven individuals who provided assistance to safety personnel during emergencies last year. 

Jayden Groves, who rescued his little brother from drowning at a campground in August 2020 at the age of 11, is the youngest recipient of the award in its history, said DPS Director Sandy Karsten. Groves pulled his brother from the water and ran to the St. Louis Fire Department for assistance while family members administered CPR. His brother attended Wednesday’s ceremony. 

Kurtis Brown was recognized for assisting a driver and passenger after an armored truck crashed in Camden County in May 2020. Miles Spandle, an emergency room trauma nurse, was recognized for treating victims after a car caught fire in Lee’s Summit in August 2020. Brody van Brethorst, a student at Missouri Valley College, was given the award for jumping into a lake in August 2020 to rescue a teenager. 

Lendon Blanchard, Evan Clements, and Christopher Runion were recognized for coming to the aid of an injured police officer after an August 2020 shooting in Lamar.