It was a moment for Coloradans to beam with pride, but it was bittersweet, as well. When President Joe Biden placed a Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor around the neck of Littleton police Cpl. Jeff Farmer at the White House last week, it was for actions so heroic they could have been scripted for the big screen. At the same time, it was a reminder of the pain, trauma and, too often, the ultimate sacrifice that are all part of the job in law enforcement.
The White House annually recognizes first responders who have shown extraordinary valor in saving another person’s life. As The Gazette reported last Wednesday amid National Police Week — May 15-21 — Farmer was one of nine such personnel nationwide to receive the 2021-2022 Medal of Valor. The honorees included two New York City police who were ambushed and killed responding to a 911 call; a Houston cop who subdued an armed man with his hands, and an Ohio first responder who jumped into a lake to save a woman who had driven into it.
Farmer was recognized for “courage, poise and uncommon loyalty” in pulling a wounded and severely bleeding colleague to safety — while exchanging gunfire with a criminal suspect — in September 2021. Farmer and Officer David Snook had responded to a 911 call of shots fired in northeast Littleton. When Farmer and Snook questioned a man and woman they saw walking near the reported location, they realized the male was the suspect they were looking for.
The suspect fled to his apartment, where he and Snook traded gunfire. Snook was shot eight times, including once in the neck. He lay at the base of a stairwell until Farmer pulled him away — while returning fire at the suspect. Farmer couldn’t call for backup, either, because he had lost his radio as he scrambled during the shootout.
Doctors credited Farmer’s quick decision not to wait for an ambulance with saving Snook, who would have bled to death. Snook survived only after several operations. He was a 13-year veteran and is the father of three; he has since retired from active-duty police work and serves as a support services coordinator for Littleton police.
It’s a drama that plays out often enough, at times ending in tragedy for valiant law officers and their grieving loved ones and comrades. As we noted here the other day in observance of National Police Week and National Peace Officers Memorial Day on May 15, the toll on Colorado’s corps of local and state peace officers continues to climb. Colorado lost Fountain police Officer Julian Becerra after he was killed pursuing an auto theft suspect. Arvada police Officer Dillon Michael Vakoff was killed last September just outside Denver, responding to a large disturbance. Law enforcement responded to a shooting report in the Security-Widefield area south of Colorado Springs last August — and ran into an ambush. SWAT officer Andrew Peery lost his life. Boulder police officer Eric Talley, was killed responding to the mass shooting at the Table Mesa King Soopers. The list goes on, of course, of officers who have laid down their lives for their communities.
It has become fashionable in some circles — even among some in elected office — to express disdain and even open hostility toward law enforcement over the actions of a relative few rogue cops. The overwhelming majority of those sworn to protect and to serve the rest of us are highly competent, unflinchingly fair, relentlessly dedicated and, as Farmer’s actions remind us, compassionate and courageous public servants. We all owe them a debt of gratitude.