SALEM — Oregon State Police Trooper Nic Cederberg stood in the White House on Wednesday afternoon, 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 the department's headquarters, more than 20 of his OSP colleagues, including Superintendent Travis Hampton, watched live as Cederberg received the National Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor.
The room was silent as Trump recounted Cederberg's heroism, save the squeaking of ballistic vests and equipment as officers squirmed in their chairs. Then, an exclamation. "Yeah!" Hampton cheered as Trump cited Cederberg. The room filled with applause.
Cederberg is the first Oregon recipient. Cederberg was largely off camera during the ceremony but was stoic when Trump placed the medal on him.
The department nominated him in July 2017 but assumed he didn't make the exclusive 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.
A Christmas night in 2016 changed Cederberg's his life forever. He was the lone trooper patrolling Washington County when a countywide call was put out for police 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. The chase ended down a dead end rural road. Tylka turned his car around and rammed into Cederberg's patrol car so the front ends were facing each other.
The two men opened their doors and exchanged gunfire. Cederberg was struck in the hip and knocked to the ground but kept shooting, striking Tylka several times. In all, Cederberg was hit 12 times. Tylka ran into the woods. About 15 minutes later, officers from three nearby agencies arrived and opened fire on the gunman, who shot himself.
In the next two years, Cederberg worked to physically and mentally recover from the traumatic night, said Capt. Tim Fox. 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. "I've really grown to know and love Nic more than I thought I could," Fox said.
In November, Cederberg filed a $30 million federal lawsuit against Washington County's 911 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.
Cederberg was honored with 11 other men. Two families were also honored for officers who died in the line of duty.
One officer responded to an ISIS-inspired attack, while eight members of the Irwindale and Azusa police departments in California were recognized for stopping an active shooter event on election day 2016.
The honor 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. They're 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 backdown from a challenge, never drive slow to a call."
Cederberg continues to recover from the event and remains on medical leave. It is not clear if he will return to duty, Fox said. "Twelve bullets don't just leave, so he still has some in his body and those cause quite a bit of pain."
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