Sheriff awarded Medal of Honor

Pacific County Sheriff Scott Johnson received the Law Enforcement Medal of Honor last Friday in Olympia. Pictured from left: Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste, Sheriff Johnson, Gov. Chris Gregoire and Attorney General Rob McKenna.

OLYMPIA — Washington State Attorney General McKenna honored Pacific County Sheriff Scott Johnson and three other law-enforcement officers last Friday for “incredible sacrifices in the line of duty.”

Appearing at the Law Enforcement Medal of Honor ceremony along with Gov. Chris Gregoire and Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste, McKenna described the history of the badge, molded in the shape of a shield and serving as “a symbol of peace and protection for 1,300 years.”

McKenna lauded former Washington State Trooper and current Pacific County Sheriff Scott Johnson. In February 2010, Johnson was shot in the head at close range while impounding a vehicle. Johnson — with a bullet lodged in his head — was able to return fire.

“At the Attorney General’s Office, we viewed this offense not only as an assault against Trooper Johnson, but an assault against every peace officer, and every peaceful, law abiding citizen of our great state,” McKenna said.

The Washington State Attorney General’s Office prosecuted Johnson’s attacker, Martin Jones, at the request of the Pacific County Prosecutor’s Office. Jones was found guilty on Feb. 3 and sentenced to 50 years in prison.

McKenna also spoke of the on-the-job heroics of Sgt. Troy Brightbill, of the Cowlitz County Sheriff’s Office. On Dec. 3, 2010, Brightbill saved a senior citizen being attacked by a man with a samurai sword. Brightbill simultaneously pushed the senior to safety while using his Taser on the attacker.

“It was a split-second decision to sacrifice his own safety to save the life of an elderly mother that led to a moment of valor,” McKenna said. “With so little time to react, and realizing he would have to choose between his own safety or hers, Sgt. Brightbill chose to save her life.”

Also honored were two law enforcement officers who paid the ultimate price for protecting the public. Federal Way Officer Brian Walsh, who died while guarding a perimeter at a shots fired call, and Corrections Officer Jayme Biendl, who was killed by an inmate at the Washington state prison in Monroe, were both recognized for their “line of duty deaths” and their names etched into the wall of Washington’s Law Enforcement Memorial.

“Today we remember and honor these heroes,” McKenna said. “Both carried forth the great tradition of law enforcement in our state. Both wore the shield. Both lost their lives in the line of duty.”

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