Officers honored for bravery, lifesaving

Officer hit by drunk driver named ‘Officer of the Year’

SAN ANTONIO - The San Antonio Police Department honored some it's finest men and women in uniform Tuesday afternoon at their annual awards ceremony.

The department handed out awards and medals to 28 officers and three civilians who went above and beyond the call of duty.

Officer Michael Thornton got a standing ovation after being named Officer of the Year for 2011.

Thornton lost his leg in accident on Jan. 22, 2011 when a drunken driver hit him as he was trying to help a disabled motorist. He's since recovered and returned to work on the DWI patrol. In addition to be named Officer of the Year, he also received a Purple Heart award for his injuries.

"You don't come to work to win awards or get medals or anything like that," Thornton said. "Every one of us here today, we come to work just to try to help the community and make it a better place to live."

Thornton was joined by several other officers who were awarded for their bravery, including five officers who saved countless lives last August when the Summerview apartment complex went up in flames.

"Recognizing the immediate threat to human life, these officers braved fire and smoke to break windows and doors and pulled several residents to safety without regard for their own," said Assistant Chief Jose Benales.

Some officers were not able to accept their honors, including Purple Heart recipient Officer Stephanie Brown.

Brown was killed in the line of duty by a drunken wrong way driver on Interstate 35 downtown on March 11, 2011.

A sign now marks the spot on the highway where Brown lost her life. It serves as a reminder of the dangers associated with drinking and driving. 

Thornton graduated with Brown from the Police Academy and they were close friends. He said he often thinks about her accident as he patrols the streets for drunk drivers.

"Remembering her keeps me going. I know why I'm out there every day and it's for her," Thornton said.

While only a few received awards, Thornton said every officer puts their life on the line everyday without a second thought.

"There's a lot of things that officers do that go unnoticed and I see it and we all see it every day," Thornton said. "This is just a very small percentage of those officers. Everyone in the department deserves an award."


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