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State trooper is first Oregonian to receive Medal of Valor from President Trump after surviving a harrowing Christmas Day 2016 shootout

SUBMITTED PHOTO
 - Nic and Hayley Cederberg display the National Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor and certificate he received from President Donald Trump during a ceremony May 22 at the White House.

By Aubrey Wieber

Oregon Capital Bureau reporter

Oregon State Police Trooper Nic Cederberg, a Newberg resident, stood in the White House on May 22 as President Donald Trump adorned his neck with the nation's highest honor for his profession.

On the other side of the country at state police headquarters, more than 20 of his colleagues and Superintendent Travis Hampton watched a live feed as Cederberg received the National Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor.

The room was silent as Trump read a citation recounting Cederberg's heroism, save for the squeaking of ballistic vests and equipment as officers squirmed in their chairs. Then, a group exclamation of "Yeah!" as the room filled with applause.

Cederberg, the first Oregon recipient of the award and a seven-year veteran of the OSP, remained largely off camera during the ceremony, but was stoic when Trump placed the medal around his neck.

The department nominated him in July 2017, but assumed he hadn't made the cut when the agency didn't hear back. Last week, word came that he indeed would be honored.

"I was amazed, extremely honored for him," Hampton said of finding out.

Suicidal suspect

Christmas night 2016 changed Cederberg's life forever. He was the lone trooper patrolling Washington County when a call came for law enforcement to be on the lookout for a white Mitsubishi. The car's driver, James Tylka, had shot and killed his wife in front of his parents' King City home 20 minutes earlier.

Cederberg spotted the car, turned on his police lights and gave chase as the Mitsubishi drove away at high speeds. The chase ended on a dead-end road in rural Sherwood. Tylka turned his car around and rammed into Cederberg's patrol car head on.

The two men opened their doors and exchanged gunfire. Cederberg was struck in the hip and knocked to the ground but kept shooting, despite being hit a dozen times.

A wounded Tylka ran into the woods. About 15 minutes later, officers from three nearby agencies arrived and opened fire on the gunman, who shot himself.

Over the next two years Cederberg worked to physically and mentally recover from the traumatic night, OSP Capt. Tim Fox said.

Fox started to get to know Cederberg shortly before the shooting, but the two have become close friends since. He teared up as Cederberg was recognized, saying "I've really grown to know and love Nic more than I thought I could."

In November, Cederberg filed a $30 million federal lawsuit against Washington County's 9-1-1 system. According to the lawsuit, when dispatch put out a call to all law enforcement, dispatchers didn't share on all channels information that Tylka was armed and suicidal. They also didn't tell officers that Tylka had just killed his wife.

In his lawsuit, Cederberg said he wouldn't have pursued Tylka if he had that information.

'Quite a bit of pain'

Although Cederberg was honored with 11 other men, two posthumously, the award is rare. Since its creation in 2001, generally only a handful of officers are given the Medal of Valor each year. Since 2001, public safety officials have been honored for responding to 84 events.

"It's not necessarily even the events that happened that night, it's the grit, the determination and the resilience he's shown since then," Fox said "His attitude and his desire to strive, or thrive, it's amazing. So that's really where I believe he deserves this medal."

Fox said Cederberg was always an enthusiastic and aggressive trooper, traits he looks to quell a bit in young officers, but in this situation that mentality worked to Cederberg's benefit.

"Our job is to keep people safe and stand watch for the wolves at our door," Fox said. "Nic was one who took that challenge with the utmost respect. He took that and he did it. He was never one to back down from a challenge, never drive slow to a call."

Cederberg spent 48 days in the hospital and continues to recover from the event. He remains on medical leave from the OSP. It is not clear if he will return to duty, Fox said.

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