Officers who saved Dallas firefighter-paramedic's life earn Medals of Valor

Police officers used a squad car as a makeshift ambulance earlier this year to rush a wounded firefighter-paramedic to the hospital

By Naheed Rajwani
The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS — Police officers used a Dallas squad car as a makeshift ambulance earlier this year to rush a wounded paramedic to the hospital.

It was a bold, and probably lifesaving, move.

A shooter had killed his godfather before wounding his neighbor and firefighter-paramedic William An, who had come to their aid.

The first officers to arrive at the scene determined the neighbor would be OK. But An, who wasn't conscious, was in dire need of help. Officers dragged him into the back of a squad car and sped toward Baylor University Medical Center, risking their own lives to help save his.

Nine officers were awarded Medals of Valor from the Friends of Dallas Police on Monday night for the rescue. But six months later, they insist they were just doing their duty.

"I was doing my job, and the other officers that were with me, I know they would say the same thing," Sgt. Robert Watson, who led the response, said in an interview on Monday.

Organizers say the Friends of Dallas Police's annual banquet is like the Oscars for the city's officers, many of whom swap their police uniforms for suits and dresses for the evening.

This year's banquet, which was Chief U. Renee Hall's first Friends of Dallas Police banquet as chief, recognized 115 officers and civilians for their work.

"Law enforcement is extremely tough today," the chief said in a speech at the start of the ceremony. "It's tougher than it was when we began. Beyond the challenges, these officers that we are honoring today, each one of these individuals has set aside those challenges."

Watson works in the Dallas Police Department's crisis response team and is often called to active shooter calls that turn out to be a false alarm. He didn't know An personally before May, but he considered it his duty to help a fellow first responder.

An said Monday that he was touched by the support he's gotten from police and his fellow paramedics since he was shot.

"We're kind of like two sides of the same coin, you know?" An said.

Watson and An met again during Monday's awards ceremony. This time, they had their families with them — the Watsons and their children, ages 9, 11 and 12, and the An family and their children, ages 4 and 3 weeks.

The 3-week-old is named Watson, which An's wife had picked out before the shooting. The couple realized later that it was the lifesaving sergeant's last name, too.

"Purely coincidental," An said, "but some people say there's no such thing as coincidences."

He still isn't sure how long his recovery will take, but he hopes to return to firefighting someday.

"My dream was to be a firefighter, not to be an admin or logistics," he said. "I want to be in the field, for sure."

Copyright 2017 Dallas Morning News

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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