Two Pennsylvania state police troopers who were shot, one fatally, while rescuing a kidnapped boy from his father nearly four years ago received the nation’s highest award for first responders Wednesday.
Vice President Joe Biden awarded the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor to Trooper Robert Lombardo and to the family of slain Trooper Joshua Miller. The lawmen were among 18 emergency responders honored at an emotional ceremony in Washington.
The troopers were hailed for their courage under fire on June 7, 2009, when “Miller gave his life and Trooper Lombardo risked his life to rescue the 9-year-old boy,” the White House said.
The kidnapper, Daniel Autenrieth, had argued with his estranged wife at her Nazareth home before snatching their son at gunpoint and leading police on a 40-mile chase into the Pocono Mountains, where Miller forced Autenrieth’s car into a guard rail.
As troopers rushed the car and smashed the driver’s side window with their batons, Autenrieth opened fire, hitting Miller and Lombardo. They managed to return fire, striking Autenrieth eight times as two other police officers snatched the boy from the car.
“Despite knowing Trooper Miller was wounded and his own left arm was now paralyzed, Trooper Lombardo did not seek cover,” the White House said. “Trooper Lombardo chose to continue to engage the assailant with one arm. Only after the threat was neutralized did Trooper Lombardo seek treatment for his wounds.”
Miller, who was shot in the neck and thigh, died at an Allentown hospital. Lombardo was treated for a gunshot wound to the shoulder. He recently returned to duty.
The boy escaped injury.
Miller, a 34-year-old Marine veteran and married father of three, and Lombardo also received the Medal of Honor, the highest award for Pennsylvania state police. The post office in Pittston, Miller’s hometown, was named in his honor.