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Honors and memories

Funeral begin as Legislature hails officer as heroes in tragedy

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The Legislature put its regular duties on hold Friday to honor the five police officers who helped put an end to the bloodshed Monday at Trolley Square.

In the Senate, the officers were called "hometown heroes."

Ogden police officer Ken Hammond was singled out first by the Senate for his efforts while off duty and out for an early Valentine's Day dinner with his wife, Sarita, at the time of the shooting.

Senate clerk Leslie McLean read an official citation from the Legislature. The document recounts the events at Trolley Square that ended with 18-year-old Sulejman Talovic shot and killed by police. In the matter of a few minutes, however, Talovic had already taken the lives of five people and wounded many others, four seriously.

Hammond was the first officer to engage Talovic in gunfire, a move that is credited with slowing down the gunman until Salt Lake City police arrived.

"Officer Hammond performed these selfless acts, knowing that he was putting his life in imminent danger," Mclean read aloud. "He acted quickly and did not hesitate to move into action. His courageous deeds are clearly distinguished and are a credit to himself, his profession and the Ogden City Police Department. He is a true hero."

The citation points out that during Hammond's career, he has received 20 "Excellent Work" awards and has been employee of the month.

A second citation was presented to Salt Lake City police officers Andrew Oblad, Joshua Scharman, Dustin Marshall and Brett Olsen.

"They performed their duties professionally and with the utmost care and concern for all impacted by the evening's events," an emotional Mclean read from the citation. Many people's lives, she read, will never be the same.

Senate President John Valentine, R-Orem, read aloud the names of each shooting victim.

"Thank you, officers, that not more people were involved in this tragic event," Valentine said.

Ogden's police chief, Sen. Jon Greiner, R-Ogden, presented Hammond a Medal of Honor for his "courageous acts of Monday night." Hammond received a standing ovation from a packed Senate floor and gallery.

"Over the last few days things have happened to me that I would never expect in a million years," Hammond said into a microphone. "I don't have the right words to say. All I can say is, thank you very much for the support that I've been given by the Salt Lake City Police Department.

"I just want to express my heartfelt condolences to the victims of that tragic event the other night," he added. "I feel bad that I didn't react sooner and prevent more loss of lives."

Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank took an opportunity to tell the lawmakers, "What officer Hammond did by taking his own personal safety and setting it aside and responding to citizens in need is exactly what we expect of our police officers."

Referring to his own officers who have been recognized for their service at Trolley Square, Burbank added, "All of our officers would have done exactly the same thing and put themselves in harm's way, just as these officers did."

After Burbank's comments, Valentine presented him with a unit citation.

While watching televised news of the Trolley Square shooting, Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said his wife told him about the officers, "'I don't know what you're paying these people, but it's not enough.' I think that's the feeling of all of us."

Several senators heaped praise upon the officers before they headed over to the House for more recognition.

Rep. Brad Dee, R-Ogden, represented the House in thanking the officers for their "heroic deeds" and bravery.

"On a night when Utah saw some of the worst of human nature, Utah also witnessed some of the best of human nature," Dee said.

House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, called for a moment of silence for the victims in the mall shooting.

Earlier Friday morning, the five officers learned from Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert that Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. had declared Friday as Ken Hammond Appreciation Day and Trolley Square Heroes Day of Appreciation. Huntsman, who was unable to attend the presentation of the declarations, had already signed each document.

The declaration in Hammond's honor calls him "an enduring symbol of Utah's great police force who do their duty to 'Serve and Protect' every day."

After a morning at the Capitol, Scharman, who brought along his wife and children, said, "It's completely overwhelming, and it's quite a lot to take in."

Carly Christensen, a close friend of Hammond's, looked on at all of the events with a sense of pride. "He's a fantastic man and a wonderful cop," she said.

Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche, Shawn Mansell

E-mail: sspeckman@desnews.com