Three Iowa police officers were presented with Awards of Valor Wednesday by Governor Culver. Todd Smith of Charles and Steve Klemas of Mason City were honored for their work in ending a standoff with an armed man in June.
After several hours of negotiation with Steve Decker of Dows, the two officers stormed toward Decker’s front door, with Smith holding a ballistic shield.
“As I made entry into the residence, I was fired upon,” Smith said, “he shot my shield twice in the viewport. The first would have hit me directly in the right eye if I wouldn’t have had the ballistic shield.” Officer Klemas stood directly behind Smith as they entered the home. Klemas recalled that “time kind of stood still” during the shootout, but gave credit to Smith for holding the shield so he could fire back at the suspect.
Smith admits it’s difficult to charge at a man who is firing a weapon, but says it was necessary.”That’s why we go through hours and hours of specialized training…not to take a knee or turn around and run,” Smith says, “my job is to take the brunt force of the bullets coming at us and protect my officers, the brothers that are with me.” Klemas says he believes Decker is still recovering in a mental hospital.
Another Award of Valor was presented to Humboldt Police Officer Tom Nielsen. On June 10th of this year, Nielsen rescued a woman who was attempting suicide by going over a dam on a lake. Nielsen risked his own life in the process.
“I wasn’t thinking that when I went in,” Nielsen said, “it was when I finally got out and realized where I was that a little bit of shock set in, because I didn’t realize we were as close to the dam as we were.” Nielsen has been in law enforcement for 22 years, including 17 in Humboldt. Smith and Klemas have been law officers for 18 and 12 years, respectively.