Pulaski County Sheriff's Department (PCSD) deputy Rex Larson, who currently serves as the resource officer for Laquey School District, was awarded the Purple Heart from the American Police Hall of Fame at Thursday's County Commission meeting.
Larson was shot "almost point blank two times," according to current PCSD Sheriff Jimmy Bench. Bench read a letter from Richard D. Crites, an attorney who represented Larson in his workman's compensation case from the June 8, 2006 shooting incident.
The shooting occurred when Larson was responding to an alarm call at a home formerly occupied by Daniel B. Wagner. According to Daily Guide archives, Wagner had a tumultuous relationship with the female occupant of the home and was under a restraining order.
Two .20-gauge shotgun blasts caught Larson in his upper body as he and his partner were approaching the residence. Larson was wearing a bullet-proof vest, but pellets from the shots still entered his body.
Larson's partner, Chad Miller, returned fire into the house in an attempt to get Wagner away from the window so that he could pull Larson to safety.
Larson sustained injuries to his shoulder, neck, and abdomen from the shotgun blasts and was removed from the scene via ambulance.
The shooting touched off an all-night standoff with nearly 80 officers on scene at one point, according to the Daily Guide archives. Two SWAT teams were called in and eventually tear gas was deployed inside the house after being unable to make contact with Wagner inside the house.
When officers finally entered the house, Wagner was found dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The letter Crites wrote nominating Larson for the Purple Heart was provided to the Daily Guide prior to awarding Larson with his Purple Heart. In the letter, Crites said that Larson "still has approximately 200" plus "pellets in his body."
Bench said that the "officer down" call is the worst thing you can hear over the radio as he was talking about the circumstances that led to Larson earning the Purple Heart.
"It was very traumatic for everyone who was involved, that was there," Bench said with emotion as he discussed the events of the shooting.
Commissioners and Bench remarked that Larson has never complained about the pain he's been in or the multiple surgeries he has had to due to the shooting.
"He suffered severe injuries and was off of work for a very long period of time. He has had multiple surgeries to remove number 6 shotgun pellets from his body," Crites wrote.
"It gives me great pleasure to do this honor because I've known Rex all his life, from little bitty all the way up to right now, and I was there that day. I'm proud to present this award to Rex," Bench said.
Bench presented Larson with a plaque and pinned the Purple Heart medal on his chest in front of the County Commission and Larson's friends and family.
"Rex is a true hero and is very deserving of this award," Crites wrote.