Florida's best and bravest law enforcement honored at capitol

Published: Feb. 20, 2019 at 5:35 PM EST
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By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service

February 20, 2019

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Florida’s top law enforcement officers were honored Wednesday morning for their bravery and courage. Nine officers from eight agencies were recognized.

Nominees for the 2018 Florida Law Enforcement Officer of the Year broke major cases, took down mass shooters, were shot and one was even killed in the line of duty.

“It's important for us as a community, as a state, to remember how dangerous this job is," said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody.

The top award went to Miami Deputy Manuel Gonzalez, who was shot six times during an encounter with a dangerous criminal, but still managed to apprehend his attacker.

“Overall with my recovery process, I feel great. It's been a little over a year already since my incident and I'm happy to be here," said Gonzalez.

Among seven other nominees was Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Nicholas Dolan who, in February of 2017, stopped a potential mass shooter in Citrus County. The encounter was captured on dash cam.

Deputy Jesus Madrigal, who arrested the Fort Lauderdale airport shooter with a lightning fast response, was recognized.

“It was a total of only 86 seconds," said Moody.

Nominee Lieutenant Debra Clayton was killed in the line of duty. Her son and husband accepted the award on her behalf.

“You know, when they walk out the door you never know if they're going to come back or not. So, you know, you just gotta stay prayed up and keep your faith," said Debra's husband, Seth Clayton.

Lt. Clayton is one of nearly 1,600 law enforcement officers who’ve died in the line of duty nationwide in the past decade.

A moment of silence was held at the ceremony in honor of 11 Florida law enforcement officers who lost their lives in the line of duty in 2018. Nationwide, 150 officers lost their lives last year.