These officers are honored for placing themselves in mortal danger to save the lives of students and staff during a school shooting.
Shortly before noon on June 7, 2013, calls to a 911 center reported shots fired and a structure fire in a community on the eastern edge of Santa Monica. It was not immediately known that the shooter, armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, had already murdered his father and brother and set fire to the family home and was acting on a plan to cause mass death and destruction. After murdering his family members, he continued his rampage in the city streets, where he fired on approaching traffic, injuring one driver and three patrons on a city bus.
The shooter eventually carjacked a vehicle and ordered the driver to take him to Santa Monica College. Once there, he began shooting at several vehicles in the parking lot, including a moving Ford Explorer occupied by a father and daughter, instantly killing the father and mortally wounding his daughter. He then made has way across the campus, firing on Santa Monica College police officers and random targets as he checked for open doors. He mortally wounded an elderly woman standing in front of the library, then entered the library and continued firing.
Inside the library, staff and several students barricaded themselves in a separate room and locked the door. When the assailant found the locked room, he claimed to be a police officer and demanded to be let inside. Calling on the training they received on active-shooter protocols, the staff and students did not respond. Infuriated, the assailant fired several rounds through the walls and the door. Fortunately, no one was struck.
Santa Monica Police Officer Jason Salas was one of the first officers to respond. He teamed up with Santa Monica Police Officer Robert Sparks and Santa Monica College Sergeant Raymond Bottenfield, who was in plain clothes and not wearing body armor. They quickly formed a plan.
Despite the danger of being in an open area with no cover or concealment and confronting an armed assailant intent on killing, the officers entered and found themselves within several feet of the shooter, who did not see them right away. They used this split-second opportunity to demand that the assailant drop his weapon. The three officers and the assailant exchanged fire, and the officers shot and fatally wounded the man, bringing the killing spree to an end roughly 13 minutes after it began and 4 minutes after the shooter entered the campus.