Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Under Fire in the Dark, Two Police Officers Earn the Medal of Valor

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Under Fire in the Dark, Two Police Officers Earn the Medal of Valor

Article excerpt

The moment that a man shot at Velda City police Sgt. Michael McCarthy and another officer is frozen in McCarthy's mind.

They were at the Brentwood Townhomes, near the Norwood Hills Country Club, trying to find a suspect in a break-in and possible assault in the 5800 block of Eagle Valley Drive.

"Not a day has gone by that I haven't replayed that scenario over in my head," McCarthy said in a recent interview. "It was a life- changing experience."

The bullets missed McCarthy in the dark that September night in 2014. But St. Louis County police Officer Adam Baumhardt, 23, was hit in the gun belt by a shot that struck his Taser, and also grazed his right wrist. He was just nine months into his police career.

McCarthy fended off the attack by returning fire. It was the first time he had shot his weapon, except in training, in his 17 years as an officer. The suspect escaped unhurt but was arrested later.

McCarthy and Baumhardt won Medals of Valor from the Crusade Against Crime for their bravery.

But don't call McCarthy a hero. He doesn't like that.

"I did what any other policeman would have done that day," he said, adding later, "Policemen shouldn't ever do something for recognition."

Baumhardt remains grateful for McCarthy's quick reaction.

"I keep in contact with Sgt. McCarthy frequently and we have talked about the incident on multiple occasions," Baumhardt said. "I will be forever in debt to him because if it wasn't for him I don't know if I would still be here."

Sometimes, McCarthy, 40, takes younger officers to the spot where it happened, and walks them through it.

He said he had been there on many domestic disturbance calls before, but that the last thing he expected that night was to be confronted by a man with a gun.

He describes things in a tone that is careful and precise. He is proud of the stars pinned to his blue uniform shirt to signify his years of service. Another pin denotes his crisis intervention training. A single black band covers a portion of his badge, a symbol of mourning the recent deaths of officers around the country.

"When I put on this badge, I don't just represent myself," McCarthy said. …

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