Honors for the heroes of the Minkler shootout
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Three Purple Heart awards were among the honors handed out at a ceremony honoring those officers who assisted during a deadly shootout last year in Minkler.
Fresno County Sheriff's Deputy Joel Wahlenmaier and Reedley Police Officer, Javier Bejar, were killed last year during a tense gun battle with an armed suspect.
For his injuries and bravery, Fresno County Sheriff's Deputy Mark Harris received the highest honor given to a survivor Monday, a Purple Heart and Medal of Honor.
"While providing cover fire, Mark Harris was struck in the face by bullet fragments," said Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims. "Additional bullet fragments penetrated his uniform shirt but were stopped by his body armor."
Moments after he was hurt Action News captured Harris with his eye patched up before he was taken to the hospital. Harris says he felt humbled to be recognized for helping fellow deputies who needed him.
"I look back at this, there's not a day that we go by not remembering some part of it," said Mark Harris. "And it was really neat to see and hear what other people did, because the whole picture of what went on, i was only a small piece of it."
For the first time, Sheriff Mims revealed new details about the shootout. Including the key piece of equipment that was down during the incident, the Eagle One Helicopter. Under pressure, mechanic Chad Kuenzinger got it back in working order to give deputies in danger a birds eye view of the crime scene.
Sheriff Mims said, "Chad was able to put together piece by piece that helicopter that should have been a four hour job in 45 minutes and it was just extraordinary to patiently go through that but quickly and get that helicopter up in the air."
Two other Purple Heart awards were also given to the widow of Fresno County Sheriff's Deputy Joel Wahlenmaier and Reedley Police Officer Javier Bejar.
Law enforcement officers who rushed to assist that day were also given commendation awards for answering the call for help even when it meant putting themselves in serious danger.
fresno county, minkler, sheriff margaret mims, local, sontaya rose
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