OKLAHOMA CITY — Gov. Kevin Stitt is presenting three police officers, including two Tulsa officers, with the Oklahoma Purple Heart and the Oklahoma Medal of Valor to an Oklahoma Army National Guardsman in a ceremony Tuesday.
These are the first state-level awards for heroism given through the Oklahoma State Awards Program.
The three police officers to be honored are:
- Tulsa Police Officer Aurash Zarkeshan
- Tulsa Police Sergeant Craig Johnson
- Oklahoma City Police Officer Zachary Barby
All three officers earned the Oklahoma Purple Heart for their bravery and personal sacrifice in the line of duty. Johnson’s award is being presented posthumously to his family.
The Oklahoma Purple Heart award is given annually by the governor on behalf of the state. The award is presented exclusively to first responders, living or deceased, who are seriously injured in the course of their assigned duties.
Officer Aurash Zarkeshan and Sgt. Craig Johnson are being recognized for bravery during a traffic stop in Tulsa. Officer Zarkeshan stopped a vehicle and called for backup. A few minutes later, Sgt. Craig Johnson arrived on the scene and the officers instructed the driver to exit his vehicle, but he refused.
The officers attempted to remove the driver with no success. After a few moments of struggling with the officers, the driver shot both officers at close range. Johnson fell to the ground and the driver shot Zarkeshan a second time, hitting him in the head and rendering him unconscious. The driver left the scene, but Zarkeshan provided information to responding officers that led to the apprehension of the suspect.
Johnson died from his injuries.
Zarkeshan returned to the Tulsa Police Department on a modified assignment in early November 2020, after completing nearly five months of physical therapy and taking some time to heal.
Officer Zachary Barby is receiving the award for his actions when several Oklahoma City police officers attempted to apprehend an individual suspected of two murders and kidnapping, which involved a police pursuit and shooting. Police shot and killed the suspect. Officer Barby went to the hospital for severe bruising to his upper right abdomen.
Oklahoma Army National Guard Sgt. Pedro Gonzales, III, is receiving the Oklahoma Medal of Valor for his actions saving the life of his elderly neighbor.
The Oklahoma Medal of Valor is awarded annually by the governor on behalf of the state to any person, living or deceased, in recognition of extraordinary acts of valor by public safety members and other citizens whose actions display great moral strength and personal courage in the face of fear, danger or difficulty while actively engaged in public service activities.
Gonzales stepped between his elderly female neighbor and a man attacking her with a knife. Gonzales held off the attacker long enough for his girlfriend and his neighbor to escape and call 911. Gonzales got multiple stab wounds to the face and neck. Gonzales made a full recovery. He returned to duty as a soldier in the Oklahoma Army National Guard.
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