Hundreds of police officers filled the ballroom at UMass Boston's Campus Center Tuesday morning to honor dozens of their own for exceptional valor with the Trooper George L. Hanna Jr. Memorial Awards.
“Today is about giving our full gratitude to those who put themselves in harm’s way on behalf of their fellow citizens," Chancellor J. Keith Motley told the crowd, which included Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray and Gov. Deval Patrick, who called the officers "an example of service and sacrifice that is inspiring to me."
Among the many awards, Woburn police officers Mark Gibbons and Robert DeNapoli received the Medal of Honor and Medal of Valor, respectively, for their service on Sept. 6, 2011.
On that day, both men had responded to Musto Jewelers on Cambridge Street for reports of a robbery by heavily armed men who were using zipties and duct tape to retain employees.
DeNapoli saw the men leave the store as one of them opened fire on him, shooting off his index finger and hitting him in the legs several times. Without his finger, DeNapoli dropped his gun. The suspect then climbed on DeNapoli's cruiser and continued firing before fleeing. Gibbons spotted the shooter on Lexington Street and opened fire, hitting him. The suspect was transported to a nearby hospital and survived.
At the ceremony Tuesday, Gibbons told reporters that he never expected to get a Hanna award, much less the Medal of Honor named for an officer who gave his life in the line of duty.
"All I was thinking about was staying alive, making myself into the smallest target I could be."
DeNapoli, who is still recovering from his wounds and not yet back on duty, called his Medal of Valor an honor and added that it's "a privilege to serve the people of Woburn."