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October 23, 2014

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Metro honors brave officers

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Nicky Fuchs / Special to the Home News

Sheriff Doug Gilespie, right, presents Officer Blake Penny with a Metro Police Metal of Honor. Penny was shot in the leg by an assailant following a high-speed chase. He was also awarded Metro’s Purple Heart.

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Metro Police Medals of Honor, Medals of Valor and Purple Hearts rest on a table before a commendation ceremony at the West Charleston Library.

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Sheriff Doug Gilespie, right, presents Detective Ethan Grimes with his medal for going above and beyond the call of duty.

Officer Blake Penny vividly remembers the events that occurred on the morning of June 5 as he was engaged in a high-speed pursuit with a black SUV.

The suspect, Dominic Nieto of Las Vegas, was fleeing from Metro Police after firing nine rounds from a handgun at patrons of the Penthouse topless dancing club.

Nieto lost control of his Hummer near the intersection of Russell Road and Rainbow Boulevard and the vehicle rolled over in a violent crash.

As Penny neared the vehicle, Nieto appeared from the wreckage and immediately began to fire rounds at him.

One round struck Penny in the lower right leg, resulting in a compound fracture to his tibia and fibula.

"Everything was in slow motion," Penny said. "After I got shot, I fell down to the ground and I had to keep firing at him."

Nieto went back inside his overturned vehicle as Penny pulled himself back to his patrol car.

"My sergeant was there within seconds and a third officer shortly after that," Penny said. "They put me in a car and took me to the hospital."

Nieto died inside his vehicle as a result of multiple gunshot wounds.

Penny — who received both the Medal of Honor and a Purple Heart — was one of 20 Metro officers and detectives who were honored at a commendation ceremony on Nov. 19 at the West Charleston Library.

A total of 22 awards were given, including 11 Medals of Honor, six Medals of Valor and five Purple Hearts.

Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said the ceremony made him proud to be a member of law enforcement.

"These men and women here today did acts that rise to a level where a handshake doesn't suffice," Gillespie said. "Neither does a pat on the back, an e-mail or a letter from a superior. Special recognition is needed."

On the morning of July 16, near the intersection of Jones Boulevard and the 215 Beltway, Detetective Ethan Grimes was driving an unmarked police vehicle when a Toyota SUV hit him from behind.

Grimes notified dispatch of the accident and exited his vehicle to help the other driver, whose car had overturned.

When the individual began running toward him brandishing a screwdriver, Grimes recognized him as Donald Mason — a man whom he had arrested before.

Now realizing the collision was not an accident, Grimes drew his pistol, but several citizens had exited their vehicles and were standing in harm's way behind Mason.

Grimes decided to engage Mason with his hands, and in the ensuing struggle Mason attempted to grab the detective's pistol and stab him with the screwdriver.

A passing motorist, Mitchell Sanders, came to Grimes' aid and helped him subdue Mason and take him into custody.

Grimes was awarded the Medal of Honor and Sanders was given a certificate of appreciation — the first time in Metro's history that a civilian has been so honored.

Gillespie called the actions of both men "brave and selfless."

Mason was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on a charge of attempted murder of a police offer and was found dead in his cell July 28 in an apparent suicide.

Despite undergoing multiple surgeries and still having to use crutches, Penny said he is eager to return to the force.

"I've been told that I can return to light duty in January or February, but I won't be able to return to full duty until this summer," he said.

Jeff O’Brien can be reached at 990-8957 or [email protected].

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