D.C. Police officer Michael Wells said he remembered the day vividly - it could have been his last.
On April 24, 1977, a Sunday, Wells lay on his side on the sidewalk in the 1500 block of A Street NE, bleeding from a gunshot wound in his back, the result of an exchange of fire with a man inside a house. Fellow Officer James E. Washington endangered his life by resculing Wells that after noon from te line of fire - then took him to the hospital, saving Wells' life.
Yesterday afternoon, Wells was one of the first people from the audience to leap upon the dais at a luncheon at the Washington Hilton to congratulate Washington and 13 other members of the D.C. police and fire departments who were honored for acts of valor and heroism during 1977.
"I could feel the blood running down my back," Wells remembered yesterday. "I told (Washington) I was shot and I was bleeding to death. He grabbed me around my chest, dragged me to his scout car and rushed me to the hospital.
"I have the greatest admiration in the world for that man," Wells said.
"He saved my life and he put his own in jeopardy to do it."
Washington and D.C. fireman John M. Bruton who, disregarding his personal safety, rescued an 80-year-old woman trapped inside a burning house, both received the Gold Medal Award. The award is bestowed annually to one police officer and one fireman for acts of bravery and self sacrifice beyond the call of duty.
Seven firefighters and five members of the police department, including one woman, received the silver medal for heroism at the ceremonies, sponsored each year by the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade.
"Let their acts of valor be a vivid reminder of the thousands who risk their lives in the protection of lives and property in the District of Columbia," Mayor Walter E. Washington said at the luncheon.
The silver medalists are Police Officers Samuel H. Newman, Carl A. Occhipinti, Robert H. McCants, Delores Massey and Gerald A. Smith.Firefighters (Acting Sgt.) Charles C. Diggs Jr. Raymond G. Kinder, Robert F. Harrington, Gary Firmani, Robert N. Green and William Gross and Capt. Bernard C. Johnson were honored as well.