Bravery Medal for retired cop who braved bullets

A SHOPPING trip that turned out to be quite eventful has resulted in a bravery medal for retired police officer Rod Howard of Narooma.

The Australian Bravery Awards were announced Monday and he is one of 21 Australians to be recognised with a Bravery Medal this year.

Howard and his business partner at the time Mark McNicol, also a retired police officer, were in a major retail store at Bonnyrigg, Sydney on the morning of August 5, 2010.

They were simply getting supplies for their business, when suddenly all hell broke loose as three men assaulted the store’s loss prevention officer, threatening him and other staff members with a pistol.

Howard and McNicol followed the men outside trying to get a number plate, when one the men fired off two rounds directly at them.

Not deterred, the two ex-coppers hopped in their car and followed the men to a nearby address where the offenders were arrested by police.

“Our police instincts kicked in and once he fired the shots off at us, we were like right, let’s get them,” Howard said.

“We were very familiar with the area and so kept back a safe distance and stayed on the line to 000.”

The incident began when the three men assaulted a loss prevention officer, threatening him and other staff members with a pistol.

When another staff member intervened to assist, the victim managed to hide elsewhere in the store.

The bravery medal notes read; “Mr Howard and a friend overheard staff members discussing the incident and along with the staff member followed the offenders outside the store.

“Mr Howard, his friend and the staff member continued to follow them in the car park where one of the offenders fired two shots in their direction.

“As the staff member prevented anyone from leaving the store for their own safety, Mr Howard and his friend called 000 and got into their vehicle.

“They followed the offenders, who were driving two trucks, until they stopped at a residence in a nearby suburb. The two men pulled over and they observed the house until the police arrived and apprehended them.

By his actions, Mr Howard displayed considerable bravery.”

The man allegedly actually shot right at the two mates with the bullets hitting a bollard next to them and the roller door behind them.

Howard, said the offender, who was actually at the time on parole for another offence, has now been tried and found guilty of attempted murder with intent to shoot.

He was nominated for the Bravery Medal by the arresting police officers in the shooting case and he and his business partner have already received a commendation from NSW Police for their actions.

Now he will head back up to Sydney to the State Parliament to receive his Bravery Medal from the Governor General in a special ceremony.

Howard had a long career with NSW Police joining up in 1975 and working with the State Protection Group dog unit for almost all that time, retiring in 2002.

“In all my police career I had never been shot at or even had the gun out of my holster except at training,” he said.

He had been coming to Narooma all his life since first meeting his wife Deborah, whose parents Kevin and Maureen Perkins had a caravan in the park on the Narooma Flat.

While always having a holiday house here, the couple a few years ago moved permanently to Narooma to enjoy their retirement.

He also has a new dog named Kurt, who he agreed to adopt after the border-collie cross failed the rigorous testing to become a prison guard dog.

Her Excellency the Honourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia approved the award of the Australian Bravery Decorations announced on Monday.

This year there are 21 Bravery Medals, 31 Commendations for Brave Conduct and 10 Group Bravery Citations.

“This year marks the 38th anniversary of the Australian honours system, which since its establishment has grown in prestige to represent the highest level of recognition that can be accorded for attainment of outstanding achievement and service in national life,” Ms Bryce said. 

“Today’s announcement of national bravery awards recognises the heroic actions of those amongst us who have placed the safety and lives of others before their own.

We are privileged to have such role models in our society, and it is an honour to be able to recognise their acts of selfless bravery and thank them publicly for their brave actions,” Ms Bryce said.

Dr Penny Flett is the chairwoman of the Australian Bravery Decorations Council, which is an independent Council that considers bravery nominations and makes recommendations to the Governor-General.

Since its inception, the Australian Bravery Decorations have recognised Australian citizens and others for acts of bravery in other than warlike situations. They are a crucial part of the Australian honours system. 

There are four levels of bravery awards to recognise the actions of individuals and a separate group award (established in 1990) to recognise acts of bravery by a number of persons working in concert.

These awards are the Cross of Valour, the Star of Courage, the Bravery Medal, the Commendation for Brave Conduct, and the Group Bravery Citation.

Since 1975, including the awards announced today, there have been five awards of the Cross of Valour; 141 awards of the Star of Courage; 1131 awards of the Bravery Medal; 1,802 Commendations for Brave Conduct and 117 awards of the Group Bravery Citation.

Anyone may nominate any other person for the award of the Australian Bravery Decoration.

Nominations are considered by the Australian Bravery Decorations Council.

For more information about Australian Bravery Awards see www.gg.gov.au or www.itsanhonour.gov.au.

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