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Officer Nicholas Koahou

San Bernardino Police Department, CA

On December 2, 2015, the Inland Regional Center in the city of San Bernardino, CA, was attacked by two assailants armed with assault rifles, resulting in the deaths of 14 and the wounding of 22 others. After the attack, the assailants fled the scene. Over the next several hours the investigation led officers to the neighboring city, where the assailants were located leaving their residence. As they drove away from the location, officers conducted a rolling surveillance. Officer Nicholas Koahou was assigned as an undercover narcotics officer for the San Bernardino Police Department and was a member of the surveillance team.

Eventually, the suspects returned to San Bernardino, at which point a marked police vehicle joined the other officers who were surveilling the suspects. Almost immediately the back window of the suspect’s vehicle shattered as the surveilling officers came under rifle fire. The suspects continued to drive for a short distance further and then abruptly stopped their vehicle. The officers positioned behind the suspects stopped their vehicles a distance away to create space and take cover to return fire. Unwittingly, a sheriff deputy drove past the unmarked vehicles and stopped his vehicle in the “kill zone” between the suspects and officers. This immediately caused the suspects to focus the majority of their fire on the deputy.

Officer Koahou recognized that the deputy was pinned down and needed rescue. As Officer Koahou formalized a plan to assist, he saw one of the suspects leave their vehicle and flank the deputy. This allowed the suspects to open fire on the deputy from two angles, taking away any possible escape route.

Officer Koahou immediately left his position of cover, moved forward, and engaged the suspect in order to rescue the deputy, who by this time was pinned down under heavy fire from both suspects. With disregard for his personal safety, Officer Koahou left his cover and closed to within 20 yards of the deputy, where he took a prone position and began firing at the suspect. The suspect went down, and the immediate threat of the deputy being outflanked and exposed was removed. However, the second suspect began to focus her fire on the pinned-down deputy. Officer Koahou rose to his feet and began closing the remaining distance to the deputy. At this point, Officer Koahou was shot in his left leg by the second suspect.

After being wounded, Officer Koahou continued to return fire at the second suspect as medical aid was applied to his wound in the form of a pressure bandage. After being treated for his injuries, Koahou refused to be medically evacuated and remained to assist in the rescue of the pinned-down deputy. By this time additional officers had brought a vehicle up to Officer Koahou’s position. Koahou was able to rise to his feet, and he continued on to the pinned-down deputy using the vehicle as “moving cover.” Once at the deputy’s position they were able to evacuate him to safety. Both suspects were ultimately killed during the exchange of gunfire.

The actions of Officer Koahou demonstrate extraordinary bravery and a willingness to save the lives of others, without regard to his own personal safety.