A little more than a year after a Prince William County police officer was killed and two others wounded during a Woodbridge domestic, the county’s business community came together to applaud the efforts of first responders during one of the department’s darkest days in years.
The Prince William Chamber of Commerce saluted the memory of fallen Officer Ashley Guindon during its 31st annual “Valor Awards” on March 23, posthumously honoring her with a “Gold Medal for Valor” after her she died in the line of duty in February 2016. The group also presented Jesse Hempen and David McKeown, the other officers injured in the shooting, with gold medals — the chamber awarded just 20 other such medals in the entire history of the event.
The group also handed out 18 silver medals to the other police personnel that responded to the scene of the shooting and helped shepherd Hempen and McKeown to safety. The crowd of hundreds at the Hylton Performing Arts Center honored the officers with a lengthy standing ovation. Stephanie Guindon, Ashley’s aunt, accepted the award on her niece’s behalf.
“These members of the Prince William County Police Department demonstrated every attribute of a hero that day,” said Aaron Gilchrist, an anchor with NBC4 and the event master of ceremonies.
The chamber also handed out the “Hillary Robinette Award” to seven members of the county’s police department for excellence in investigative work: Det. David Cho, Det. Brandon Couch, Det. Brandon Hunt, Det. Jeremy Johnson, Det. Josh Lane, Det. Michelle McAllister and 1st. Sgt. Michael Sullivan.
After two women were sexually assaulted at a Manassas hotel, those investigators managed to set up a sting operation at the establishment to catch the perpetrator in the act. That creativity and perseverance on a difficult case involving victims that didn’t even live in the country earned the group the award, Gilchrist said.
The chamber also presented the “Valorous Unit” award to 32 members of the county’s fire and rescue department after they helped save a man who fell into a water tower in Haymarket. Lt.Tom Klimtzak and Technician II Adam Mowry also earned a “Bronze Medal for Valor” for ultimately removing the man from the tower.
“This rescue was a complex operation requiring coordination of multiple teams,” Gilchrist said. “Thanks to the professionalism of all involved, a man’s life was saved and no time was wasted.”