When officers responded to reports of a shooting at the DMAX factory in Moraine earlier this year, they had no idea how chaotic a scene they would be encountering.
Four of the first officers on the scene of the incident at 3100 Dryden Road in May were recognized Thursday at a council meeting “for their deliberate acts of heroism which involved extreme risk to their safety,” with each of them being awarded the Moraine Police Division’s Medal of Valor.
“It is my firm belief that the immediate, selfless, decisive actions of these responding officers saved countless lives that day,” said Moraine Police Chief Craig Richardson. “Their actions make me proud to be their chief and they are heroes.”
The Medal of Valor is Moraine Police Department’s highest honor and the first time in its history that it has been awarded, he said.
The silence of that evening, May 18, was shattered around 9 p.m. by what is the “normally calm, reassuring voice” of dispatcher Brandon Pyle, Richardson said.
“His tone over the radio, his first few words were different — hurried, excited and urgent.” the chief recounted. “911 lines could be heard ringing in the background. Before anyone knew what was wrong, they all knew something was wrong. As someone later said, ‘More wrong than usual.’”
Richardson said Pyle had received a flood of 911 calls and was attempting to piece together bits of information for an incident that was only initially described as an active shooter in one of the manufacturing facilities on Dryden Road.
“People were injured. There was a man with a gun. He dispatched the officers and they went, not knowing what the future would hold,” he said.
Sgt. Ken Lloyd and officers Tyler Dennis and Karen Arriaga-Perez were going to be the first ones on the scene, Richardson said.
“As officer Dennis crested a nearby hill in his cruiser, he could see an entire factory full of employees pouring out the doors into a loading dock area,” he said. “Running, frantic, panicked. An almost surreal chaotic scene from some Hollywood movie.”
The officers arrived and started to make their way into the secured building, commandeering employee access badges to enter through a locked gate, Richardson said.
They solicited the help of some of the workers and ensured the locked gates remained open so other law enforcement officers would be able to gain access, he said. They also were quick to gather information from employees as they ran by, including the shooter’s location and how many people had been hurt, and reassured injured people that medical help was on its way.
Without hesitation, the officers ran toward the danger, he said.
“They knew they could not afford to wait on a SWAT team or tactical equipment,” Richardson said. “They ran in with the equipment on their belts, not knowing how many shooters (there were), or where the shooter was or what horrors they would see inside. They moved together as a team, one cohesive unit, working their way through the maze of manufacturing equipment and continued their drive towards the suspect.”
The officers didn’t speak much with one another as they made their way through the chaos, “but because of their prior training, they understood their mission, their roles in locating, identifying and eliminating the deadly threat,” he said.
They tracked the suspect to the north wall of the facility and the suspect exited it using the same doors the company’s employees were fleeing out of just a few moments earlier.
The area led to another fenced-in security area. Hundreds of people were going to be trapped with a gunman who had already killed one man and injured another.
“What was already a horrible incident could have very quickly become incredibly more devastating,” Richardson said.
As Officer Paul Land arrived on the scene and was rounding the northwest corner of the building in his cruiser, the suspect could hear the sirens coming, he said.
Knowing he was trapped and that a confrontation was about to happen, the suspect unsuccessfully attempted to take his own life just seconds before the officers were able to converge, Richardson said.
“While the immediate threat was over, the scene remained chaotic for several more hours and the officers handled themselves remarkably well,” he said. “Watching the body camera video of their response would give you chills.”
Richardson on Thursday also recognized dispatchers Pyle and Cody Allen “for their hard work and service that night.’
The suspect, later identified as Frederick A. Cox, 30, of Trotwood, was indicted in August on three counts of murder and four counts of felonious assault, according to Montgomery County Common Pleas Court records.