Three Santa Monica police officers will be recognized by the President Barack Obama next week for exhibiting “exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect others from harm” when responding to the 2013 shooting at Santa Monica College.

Santa Monica Police Officers Jason Salas and Robert Sparks, and Captain Raymond Bottenfield of the Santa Monica College Police Department, will receive the Medal of Valor from President Obama on Monday, May 16 during a ceremony at the White House.

According to the White House, the award recognizes the officers’ courage and composure in ending a deadly rampage.

“Officer Salas, Officer Sparks, and Captain Bottenfield placed themselves in mortal danger to save the lives of students and staff during a school shooting on the busy campus of Santa Monica College,” said the announcement.

According to officials, the medal is the highest national award for valor presented to a public safety officer.

To be eligible for the award, officers are nominated by the chiefs or directors of their employing agencies and recommended by the Medal of Valor Review Board.

The three officers were part of a team that responded to the shooting on June 7, 2013. The trio confronted 23-year old John Zawahri in the SMC Library. Zawahri shot and killed his father and brother, set his house on fire and went on a shooting spree that left five innocent victims dead. He was attempting to breach a room where several people had barricaded themselves to safety when the officers confronted him. Zawari, armed with an assault weapon was shot after he fired at the officers.

The men have previously been recognized at the city, regional and state level for their actions.

Also receiving the Presidential medal will be Los Angeles Police Officer Donald Thompson for his courageous action to save an accident victim. While off duty, Officer Thompson traversed two freeway dividers and endured first- and second-degree burns while pulling an unconscious man to safety from a car moments before it became engulfed in flames.



Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...