Washington, DC – President Barack Obama on Saturday at the White House recognized law enforcement officers who had gone above and beyond the call of duty, including Lt. Brian Murphy of the Oak Creek Police department. Murphy was shot repeatedly while responding to the Sikh temple massacre last August, though Sikh representation at the event was visibly absent.
Pointing out Lt. Murphy standing behind him, President Obama told the group that he had featured Murphy’s story of heroism in his State of the Union address.
Obama, wearing a dark suit and a blue tie, described the harrowing events in Oak Creek last summer, saying, “When a gunman opened fire on a temple in Wisconsin and Brian was the first to arrive, he did not consider his own safety. He fought back until help arrived and ordered his fellow officers, who are here today, to protect the safety of the Americans worshiping inside, even though he was lying there bleeding from 12 bullet wounds.”
The president borrowed Officer Murphy’s words to describe the dedication of America’s law enforcement officers. “When he was asked how he did it, he said, ‘That’s just the way we’re made,’” noted Obama.
President Obama continued, “That’s what you’ve got to do. That’s what you’ve got to be made of to take down homicide suspects in Los Angeles or Vegas, or shooters in Miami or Indiana or Chicago or Iowa, saving untold numbers of lives.”
“Yes, this is their job. But it’s not just about the uniform that they wear. It’s about who they are, what they’re made of,” emphasized the president.
Murphy, 51, was struck by at least 12 bullets as he responded to the scene, and has been hailed as a hero for his courage under fire throughout the US and across the globe by Sikhs.
Wisconsin police officers honored for their role in the Oak Creek tragedy were John H. Finco, Julie M. Grauberger, Dean Kleinhans, Sam Lenda, Michael Schultz, Derick Slamka and Kelly Romel.
Sikhs and Indian Americans were conspicuously absent in the audience at the ceremony to honor top law enforcement officers. A White House official told India America Today, “The invites were extended by NAPO (National Association of Police Organizations) to the families of the honorees.”
Sikhs across the US offered their congratulations to the Oak Creek officers while thanking President Obama for recognizing their actions.
“We thank the President for continuing to lift up the heroism and courage of Lt. Brian Murphy,” said Valarie Kaur, founding director of Groundswell, a multi-faith social action initiative at Auburn Seminary.
Kaur, who covered the Oak Creek tragedy extensively as a writer, filmmaker and organizer, told India America Today, “I join many Sikh Americans in honoring Lt. Brian Murphy’s service and sacrifice as what makes this nation great.”
“I feel inspired that President Obama has honored the top cops who risk their lives everyday to protect all Americans. We are equally thrilled that Brian Murphy is being recognized, whose heroic act outside the Sikh Gurdwara in Wisconsin moved the nation,” said Rajwant Singh, chairman of the Sikh Council on Religion and Education.
“He took 12 bullets and yet he was worried about the Sikh women and children trapped inside the Sikh Gurdwara. He is an American hero and we as a community will always be indebted to him. May God bless him and his family,” added Singh from Washington, DC.
Since the National Association of Police organizations (NAPO) launched the awards program in 1994, the TOP COPS Awards have paid tribute to outstanding law enforcement officers across the country for actions above and beyond the call of duty. TOP COPS’ awardees are nominated by their fellow officers for outstanding service during the preceding calendar year.