Wildlife officer recognized for West Memphis heroics

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (AGFC) – Wildlife officer Michael K. Neal of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission was awarded the national Medal of Valor in a recent ceremony in Washington, D.C.

The medal was presented to Neal by Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Neal was recognized for his role in stopping the shootings of several law officers in 2010 in West Memphis.

In the ceremony, Neal's actions were described:

"On May 20, 2010, Officer Neal answered a call for assistance after two West Memphis police officers had been shot and killed during a traffic stop along Interstate 40, and engaged two suspects in the Walmart parking lot. The two suspects were engaged in a firefight with Sheriff Dick Busby and Chief Deputy W. A. Wren. The sheriff and deputy, armed with only handguns, were taking fire from an AK-47 assault rifle and a handgun.

"Officer Neal used his truck to ram the suspects' van to prevent the suspects from being mobile and possibly harming innocent bystanders, and to divert the suspects' attention away from the sheriff and deputy. Once Officer Neal rammed the suspects' van, the suspects opened fire on Officer Neal's truck, firing several rounds through his windshield. Officer Neal avoided being hit by the AK-47 rounds and returned fire with his issued AR-15.

"He disabled the driver and possibly the passenger before putting his truck in reverse and backing out of the line of fire so other officers could continue the firefight. Both suspects were pronounced dead at the scene.

"By putting himself in harm's way, Officer Neal's actions undoubtedly saved the lives of Sheriff Busby and Deputy Wren, both of whom were injured by the suspects. Officer Neal was only slightly injured."

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 by 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 78 medals have been presented since the first recipients were honored in 2003.

To receive the Medal of Valor, public safety officers must be nominated by the chief executive officer of their employing agencies, recommended by the bipartisan Medal of Valor Review Board, and cited by the attorney general.

More information about the award, the Medal of Valor Review Board members, and the nomination process is available at www.ojp.usdoj.gov/medalofvalor.