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Tucson police award Medal of Honor to slain officer Hite

Citizen Staff Writer



The Tucson Police Department awarded slain Officer Erik Hite its highest honor Thursday, the police Medal of Honor for extreme gallantry..

Hite’s widow, Nohemy Hite, their 20-month-old daughter clutched in her arms, accepted the award.

The award was one of 195 presented at a 9 a.m. ceremony at the Tucson Convention Center before more than 500 people. The awards included seven Medals of Valor and two Scarlet Shields for injuries sustained in the line of duty.

On June 1, Erik Hite was shot and killed on North Tomahawk Trail, near East Tanque Verde Road, as he tried to stop a man authorities said had shot at numerous sheriff’s deputies and police officers.

David Nickolas Delich, then 25, shot at neighbors’ homes on the Northwest Side, then led law officers on a crosstown chase as he shot at them, officers said. Two deputies were wounded during the chase.

Hite was shot in the head in his patrol car as he pursued Delich. Hite died the next day.

Delich was arrested the day of the shootings and later indicted on a charge of first-degree murder and numerous charges of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated assault and conducting drive-by shootings. He is in the Pima County Jail while he awaits trial.

After the ceremony, Nohemy Hite said, “I’m just proud of my husband and thankful to the department for doing this.

“I think it’s a very beautiful thing that he got (the award) and I’m overwhelmed with emotions.”

Asked how she was dealing with her husband’s death, Nohemy Hite said, “It doesn’t get easier. It’s been eight and a half months, every day missing him, and I want to see him one very last time.”

The department also awarded employees, volunteers and retired employees the Chief of Police Citation of Excellence, the Unit Medal, the Medal of Merit and the Medal of Distinguished Service.

Medals of Valor awarded to Sgt. Jennifer Turner, Officer Hector Reyes and Officer Michael Thiffault were in connection with the Delich chase.

The three continued pursuing Delich even though they were taking gunfire from him. Turner was injured by glass fragments after her windshield was hit by gunfire, according to award citations.

After Hite was shot, Turner, Reyes and Thiffault left what cover they had and went to Hite’s aide, even though they did not know where the suspect was or if they were moving into his line of fire.

Also awarded the Medal of Valor were officers Ed Boyen and Dawn Paglinawan for their actions May 11 in rescuing a 14-month-old girl from her father after he holed up in a midtown home and fired at police officers. At one point the suspect struggled with Boyen, and stabbed him with a knife in the head, face and chest, a citation says. The suspect also fired at Officer Yoel Friedman, hitting him in the leg as he helped surround the shooting scene.

During the struggle Paglinawan fired at the man, hitting him in the chest. Then she scooped up the child and rushed her to safety.

Boyen and Friedman also were awarded the Scarlet Shield Medal for the wounds they received.

Sgt. Michael Humphries and Officer Steven Wilson each were awarded a Medal of Valor for risking their lives July 19 to save a man who drove into the heavily flooded Stone Avenue underpass downtown with his female passenger. They were at risk of drowning as the pickup sank but neither driver nor passenger made an effort to get out of the pickup truck.

The Officer of the Year award was given to homicide Detective William Hanson, whose investigations have been featured on “The First 48, ” an A&E cable network reality crime show.

Civilian Employee of the Year is Lynn Jung.

The Boy Scouts of America Explorer Scout of the Year award went to Kyle Wilson and the Volunteer of the Year to Sue Thornton.

On Friday, the Tucson Police Foundation will present Hite’s widow with a check for $35,000 raised by the nonprofit to enable her and members of Hite’s squad to attend the National Peace Officers Memorial Service in Washington, D.C., in May.

At the service, Hite will be memorialized along with other officers around the country killed in the line of duty in 2008.

The event, during National Peace Officer’s Week, includes a Blue Mass, a candlelight vigil and a memorial service in front of the Capitol.

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