Sep 14, 2011 7:50 PM by Andy Koen

For heroism and courage

It's a moment of appreciation for the men and women who put themselves in danger to protect us. The Colorado Springs Police Department held its 26th Annual Medal of Valor Luncheon on Wednesday.

The award recognized officers who display courage and heroism in the line of duty. Phillip Mawaka is one of six officers given the Distinguished Service Award this year.

Back in 2009, he was the first to arrive at the armed robbery at a lingerie store on South Academy. As he and Officer Lakiska John chased the vehicle, the suspects began shooting at them.

"I couldn't understand that what was going through their minds other than just being criminals because what were they expecting that we would stop pursuing them just because they fire," Mawaka said. "It only elevates the situation at that point."

Officer Troy Puga was awarded the department's top honor, the Medal of Valor. In December 2009, he stopped a gunman who was firing at a crowd outside of the 13 Pure night club downtown.

"I gave him verbal commands and he wasn't obeying the verbal commands and at that point he was a threat to others and us as well," Puga said.

He fired three times, disabling the shooter who was wearing a bullet proof vest.

"It's not an easy choice," Puga said. "Everybody says they can do it, but I think until you're put in that situation you really don't know."

While they appreciated the recognition, the officers say they're happy just to serve.

"It's very nice to be recognized and I appreciate the community's support," Mawaka said. "But it's really not about the awards, it's about the professionalism in the department the service to the community and just a dedication that we have to each other on the street."

The medals were presented by police chief Richard Myers.  Joining Mawaka and John in receiving the Distinguished Service Award were officers Brad Birch, Kenneth Gatewood, Jeffrey Clippinger and John Surma.

Brandon Ridenour, a security guard at the Penrose Library was presented wtih the Civilian Medal of Distinction for helping to capture a wanted fugitive whom he spotted using the library computer lab.

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