Eleven officers from the Federal Way Police Department (FWPD) were awarded a Medal of Valor on Tuesday night during the Federal Way City Council meeting, for their response to the deadly shootings at the Pinewood Apartments last year. The officers awarded the medal were: Lieutenant Kurt Schwan, and officers Kyle Buchanan, John Buster, Shaun Daniels, Kris Durell, Daniel Graf, Joseph Mehline, Scott Orta, Keith Schmidt, Carl VanDyke and Nicholas Wong. FWPD Chief Andy Hwang recounted their actions on that deadly night, saying they responded with bravery and that they likely saved additional lives.
“On April 21, 2013, about 9:35 pm., officers from the Federal Way Police Department were dispatched to the Pinewood Apartment complex. Numerous 911 callers reported hearing gunfire and seeing people wounded in the parking lot,” Hwang said. “During the 911 calls, the ValleyCom call receivers reported hearing gun fire in the background, as they were speaking to the reporting parties. This was an active shooter incident.”
Hwang said that Buchanan, Wong, Schmidt and Durell were the first four officers on scene, and confronted “an assailant emerging from the stairwell of one of the apartment buildings armed with a 12-gauge shotgun.” When confronted by police, the suspect, later identified as Dennis Clark III, “refused to comply with commands to drop the firearm and began to turn the shotgun in the direction of the officers, requiring the officers to fire their weapons.”
Clark was wounded by the first barrage of police gunfire, and “stumbled into the parking lot, but continued to move around,” Hwang said.
The first four officers were then joined by the remaining seven officers, at which time they all began moving towards Clark to begin the process of detaining him. Clark continued to move around and refuse officer commands, and was ultimately killed by police when he did not cease in his attempts to reach for a handgun that was near him in the parking lot.
“He refused to comply with the commands, and lunged towards the gun,” Hwang recalled. “Officers were forced to fire on the suspect again, ending the threat.”
“Without hesitation, these officers performed as they had been trained. Their actions involved extreme risk to their own lives while confronting the shooter, stopping the murderous rampage and undoubtedly saved the lives of other innocent citizens the suspects would have encountered, had he not been stopped. We are grateful that these officers are still with us today and that no additional citizen lives were lost during that horrific evening. It is my honor and privilege to present the Medal of Valor to these officers,” Hwang concluded to a round of standing applause.
The 11 officers were also recognized by the FBI, with Special Agent in Charge of the Seattle office, Carlos Mojica, taking a few moments to share his thoughts on their actions during the incredibly dangerous and fluid situation that occurred on April 21, 2013.
“I thought it’d be most appropriate for us to provide these officers with a letter that’s very rarely given, it’s signed by our FBI Director (James B. Comey). It’s my pleasure to hand these gentlemen a certificate from the FBI and hand them a letter as well, thanking them again for their community service, and again for their heroic acts that took place on that night,” Mojica said.
Clark’s rampage is believed to have been a domestic violence situation that turned horrifically violent. His first victim was his 24-year-old girlfriend, Justine Baez. Clark then proceeded to kill 23-year-old Ceasar Valdovinos and 47-year-old Bradley Fischer, along with 62-year-old Roland Scobee. Police believe Clark killed the three men in an attempt to eliminate witnesses to the death of Baez. The incident still ranks as one of the most violent in Federal Way’s history.