The situation seemed dire in the early morning darkness of Nov. 4. Police already had received reports of two armed robberies in Mid-City, including one in which a ski mask-wearing man fired 14 rounds from an assault rifle at a pursuing gas station clerk.
Suddenly, another call came in reporting a suspicious person at the Banks Meat Market on South Broad Street. As Officers Lawrence Jones, Ernest C. Alex and Nicholas M. Kozlowski arrived at the store just before 4 a.m., they found a gunman in the middle of a robbery.
Jones didn’t hesitate, according to an account of the incident that was given Wednesday. After the officers ordered the man to drop his gun, Jones ran up and began struggling with him. The man, later identified as Judah Mason, finally dropped his weapon.
The tense situation ended with no injuries and Mason’s arrest. On Wednesday, the Police Department awarded Jones and his two fellow officers a medal of commendation.
Police Superintendent Michael Harrison was all smiles as he handed out that award and others before a packed room at the NOPD’s temporary Training Academy headquarters on the campus of the University of New Orleans.
Many of the dozens of medals, commendations and citations awarded went to officers who embodied an instinct Harrison often touts — the readiness to run toward the sound of danger.
“Many of these things were close calls. These officers could have been hurt, killed or injured,” Harrison said.
One of the awards marked one of the darker days in the force’s recent history: the June 19, 2015, killing of Officer Daryle Holloway. After Holloway was shot, allegedly by a suspect in a domestic violence case, a massive, 24-hour manhunt for his killer ensued.
But it wasn’t SWAT teams or federal agents who found the suspect, police said. It was Officer Stephen McGee and a rookie officer fresh out of training, Dylan Warter. Police said the two men spotted suspect Travis Boys near a Lower 9th Ward po’boy shop, then leaped over fences to arrest him.
Both men received a Medal of Commendation on Wednesday.
Among other awards, the Police Department gave Medals of Merit to Detective Timothy Bender, who shot and killed a man who went on a rampage with a pickup truck in the Lower 9th Ward in July 2015, as well as Officers Devin Ashmore and Matthew Bencik, who shot and killed a suspect after he fired a round in Central City in January 2015.
Officer Jacob Lundy, who shot a suspect in the buttocks after taking fire during a call about a suspicious person in October, also received a Medal of Merit, as did Officer James Doaty for the same incident.
Kenneth Gill, a quality-of-life officer who raced toward a shooting scene near the former St. Bernard housing development and was then forced to dodge an assault rifle’s rounds in September, received a Medal of Merit.
Some of the awards went to officers who simply helped civilians in need, such as Officer Quanneccia Booker. Police said that when Booker went to the aid of a motorist stopped in a traffic lane, she quickly realized the woman was suffering from hypoglycemia.
Booker first bought the woman a candy bar and soda, then took her to an urgent care facility nearby when paramedics didn’t arrive fast enough. The woman survived.