MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Minneapolis Police Department awarded Tuesday the highest honors to officers and community members who made a difference this past year.

The awards ceremony held at City Hall honored 39 police officers and 12 civilians.

Police Chief Janee Harteau gave out Awards of Merit, Lifesaving Awards, Excellence in Investigation Awards, and Medals of Valor.

“I would say it was a team effort,” said Officer Elliot Wong after receiving a Lifesaving Award.

Wong, along with officers Matthew Vana and Laura Turner, pulled a man to safety last August after he was about to jump over the 3rd Avenue Bridge.

“We weren’t really thinking about it at the time,” Vana said. “We were concerned about the man’s health and welfare, just doing our job.”

Braylon Wheat, 17, was given a Citizen’s Award of Merit for his response to a serious crash on Olson Memorial Highway, where he pulled two victims out of their vehicle.

“He didn’t know if the car would explode or start on fire,” Harteau said. “What he did know was they needed help.”

“My mom and dad are proud right now,” Wheat said. “Whenever I make them proud that’s good for me.”

All of the award recipients shared one thing in common — a desire to do good.

“In my 20 years of doing this, that’s my main goal,” Vana said. “Whether it’s a little thing or big thing, [my goal] is to make citizens happy.”

One officer, William Gregory, received two awards.

He was given a Medal of Valor for chasing an armed suspect on foot leading to his arrest. He also received a Lifesaving Award for aiding a man who was bleeding while Gregory was off duty.

Kate Raddatz

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