The highest honors bestowed by the Minneapolis Police Department were presented Tuesday to a militarily trained security guard who fended off a knife-wielding attacker and saved the victim’s life in the process and to two uniformed officers who dodged bullets in a bustling downtown scene and arrested the gunmen.
Minneapolis Police Chief Janeé Harteau said during a City Hall ceremony that the awards are only a “small snapshot” of the heroics she sees everyday. The chief stressed the theme of officers and civilians alike putting others’ safety ahead of their own.
Army veteran Harrison Hamilton received the highest of honors for the danger he confronted on the morning of July 11 outside an apartment building near 12th and Fremont Avenues N.
As the 26-year-old Hamilton monitored security cameras, he heard a woman screaming in a parking lot. Baton drawn, he went to the scene and saw a man straddling, punching and stabbing a woman who was on her back.
Hamilton drew his gun, and the man dropped the knife. Hamilton pushed the man backward, threw the out of reach and saw the woman had bleeding badly from stab wounds in her torso and chest.
The security guard cuffed the suspect and used a jacket to apply pressure to the woman’s wounds. He called 911 and put the phone in his pocket so the dispatcher could hear what was going on as he focused on the victim.
An officer arrived and took over giving aid to the woman, allowing Hamilton to turn his sole attention to the suspect.
Paramedics rushed the 39-year-old woman to Hennepin County Medical Center. She survived the attack.
Hamilton said Tuesday that his time stationed in Afghanistan was crucial to how he responded that summer morning.
“There was a lot going on there; the wounds I would see to the chest,” he said. “I knew how to handle that. I attribute that to my time in the Army.”
He also took a matching 12-inch butcher knife from the suspect’s waistband.
“He said that she cheated on him and that he was going to kill her, and then he was going to kill the other guy,” Hamilton said.
Life is a bit less risky for Hamilton now. He’s done with his $12.50 an hour security guard job, with 911 as his only backup. He’s currently a firearms instructor at the Gander Mountain store in Lakeville.
He added, “I’m also pursuing a law enforcement career.”
Bars close, bullets fly
Two members of the police force were acknowledged twice in the City Hall ceremony that recognized 39 officers and 12 civilians in all. One of the double recipients, Steve Lecy, earned the Medal of Valor and an award for excellence in investigation.
The double honor was a positive turn for Lecy, who was involved in one of three prostitution cases that were thrown out last year by Hennepin County judges and the city attorney. They said undercover police investigators went too far when interacting physically with suspects.
In Lecy’s case, a 36-minute audio recording captured the encounter between Lecy and a woman working at a massage parlor. She handled his genitals before he signaled for backup officers to enter the room.
In his dismissal order, Judge William Fisher said probable cause for a crime could have been established well before the sexual activity began. Police officials have since ended using undercover officers to investigate suspected prostitution in massage parlors.
Lecy and his partner Sean McTaggert received the excellence in investigation award for street-level prostitution, an honor that was not connected to Lecy’s actions in the massage parlor.
Deputy Police Chief Travis Glampe attended the ceremony and defended the honors received by Lecy, saying, “We look at each case in a vacuum, to what each officer did in the case at hand.”
For Lecy’s Medal of Valor, the chief detailed his actions with fellow Medal of Valor recipient Mark Lanasa in nabbing two shooters downtown on Sept. 12.
“Thanks to extensive security footage, I was able to see their heroism firsthand,” Harteau said. “Two men in uniform [were] keeping others from getting hurt.”
As the streets filled with people after bars closed, shots were fired amid hundreds of people and dozens of officers in the area. One gunman fired in a sweeping motion at Lanasa. The officer chased the suspect down an alley and caught him.
Meanwhile, Lecy was on his bicycle riding into the gunfire and chasing the second suspect, who was still armed. Lecy pedaled quickly enough to make the arrest.
“We don’t go looking for awards,” Lecy said Tuesday. “We know we have to take the risk, and that’s what I did.”
Zoe Peterson is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.