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Officer’s family accepts Medal of Valor

FBI rite honors policemen in 1988 and ’99 shootouts

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Twelve years ago, Ann House warned her husband not to go to the Singer farm in Marion, Summit County.

A 13-day standoff was brewing between law enforcement officers and a group of polygamists who'd bombed an LDS chapel. As a dog handler for the Department of Corrections, Fred House was called out to help bring a peaceful resolution to the standoff.

A peaceful end never came.

On Jan. 28, 1988, Fred House was killed by a gunshot fired by a wheelchair-bound Timothy Singer while House was entering the house with his dog.

Ann House spent a sleepless night wondering what would happen to her husband, and the next morning she heard on the news that an officer had been shot.

"I just knew," she said. "Deep down, you just know."

On Wednesday, Ann House and other family members accepted the FBI Medal of Valor at a modest awards ceremony in the corrections academy named after Fred House. FBI agent William Thiede and corrections Lt. Larry Benzon also received the FBI Shield of Bravery for their involvement in a gunfight during a 1999 stakeout.

"We proudly tell our citizens and the criminal element of society that, even in the presence of danger, we'll do our job," said Don Johnson, special agent in charge of the FBI Salt Lake City Division, before handing out the awards.

Ann House's youngest daughter, Christy, who was 2 years old when her father was killed, broke into tears as a medal and inscription were presented to the family.

"It's hard to accept there are people that would do this kind of a thing," Ann House said.

On March 8, 1999, Benzon heard gunfire coming from behind his vehicle during surveillance of a home where an indicted bank robber was thought to be staying.

"I thought that the guy we were after had broken the containment in the rear and snuck around the back and ambushed us," Benzon said.

It wasn't until the next day in the hospital that Benzon learned the gunman was actually shooting from a drug-trafficking house. Benzon was parked in front of the house. The occupants thought Benzon and Thiede were watching their house and began firing.

After exiting the driver's side and taking cover behind the engine compartment, Benzon fired at the gunman, which allowed Thiede to leave the exposed passenger side of the car and take cover next to Benzon.

As he left the car, Benzon just happened to grab a helmet. He put it on shortly before a bullet struck his head. Benzon was also struck once in the chest, but a bulletproof vest kept the bullet from killing him. Benzon suffered a cracked rib and several bruises from the force of the bullet, which knocked him to the ground from his kneeling position.

Thiede later helped a dazed Benzon take cover behind a Dumpster. Two suspects from the house were arrested along with the bank robber. Police also seized two kilograms of cocaine and $60,000 in cash.

"They both demonstrated extreme courage under fire and a willingness to place their own safety second to that of their partner," said David Tubbs, retired special agent in charge.

Benzon spent just one day in the hospital and returned to duty roughly one week after the shooting.

"I have a guardian angel," Benzon said.

E-MAIL: djensen@desnews.com