COPLEY, Ohio - Officer Ben Campbell of the Copley Police Department remembers August 7, 2011 as a quiet Sunday morning when he and others got a call about an active shooting rampage in a local neighborhood.
Campbell was first to arrive at the scene. Rather than wait for backup, he relied on his training and immediately went after the gunman.
"He placed himself in a high degree of danger because the suspect could seek cover behind any number of areas in that neighborhood. There were homes, outbuildings, cars, trees and the suspect could be anywhere but Officer Campbell did not enjoy that same cover because he had to walk and run down a street and through some front yards where he put himself in eyesight of the suspect wherever he might have been," recalled Copley Police Chief Michael Mier.
Along the way, the gunman, Michael Hance, 51, came out from behind a tree. Campbell ordered him to drop his weapon but instead he raised it and fired at Campbell who returned fire killing Hance and ending the nightmare.
"He put himself at great risk to bring this incident to a sudden closure so that more persons would not be hurt," said Mier.
For his heroics that day, Campbell on Monday was awarded the Law Enforcement Congressional Medal of Bravery, described by Senator Sherrod Brown as one of the most prestigious awards that can be bestowed on a civillian officer.
"What really occured to me is that it's not that police officers don't get scared sometimes, but that they just work through their fear and know in the end their job is to protect the community and to protect their fellow officers," said Brown before presenting the award to Campbell, adding, "To me that is the greatest kind of courage."
Among those gathered for the presentation was U.S. Attorney Steven Dettelbach who said many times people take police officers for granted.
"Then of course trouble hits," said Dettelbach. "Whether it's in a quiet place like Chardon, Ohio or here in Copley, and when trouble hits, that's when people stop taking the actions of the police for granted."
That's when we expect our police officers, like Officer Campbell to run toward the gunfire, to run toward the gunfire when all of the rest of us are running away, and that's what Officer Campbell did on that fateful morning in 2011," said Dettelbach, concluding "What is indisputable as we stand here today is that bravery, those actions that Officer Campbell took actually saved real lives in this community."
Campbell has not sought attention for himself since the shooting.
He prefers to think of himself as a part of a law enforcement team in which everyone played a role that tragic day.
"At that point I need to go in just like we have trained. I need to go toward the bullets, so to speak, but also communicating with dispatch letting my police army know where I am; so at some point they are going to flow to where I am and I knew I had that so I know momentarily they would be there to support me," said Campbell.
"I felt a little different and sad with everybody else and some stress after the initial incident," he added, "But you know we sign up to do this job. That's the reality that can happen and I'm just moving forward. We are all a team in Copley and I feel good to do this job and proud to wear the uniform and I want to continue serving."
Most of the victims that Sunday morning were members of the same family. Although there has been speculation about a possible motive, what set Hance off will never actually be known.
Campbell says he was just as surprised as anyone to be getting that call in his normally quiet residential community. "If there is a message for all my other first responders, it's just when you think it's not going to happen, anything can happen."