WASHINGTON – Niagara County Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Tortorella on Monday won the ultimate recognition for his life-saving heroics outside a Wheatfield school 13 months ago: the Presidential Medal of Valor.
With his family looking on at a White House ceremony, Tortorella stood before President Obama as the commander in chief draped the medal around the deputy’s neck.
Tortorella was one of 13 law enforcement officers that Obama said he honored for “rising up beyond the call of duty, saving the lives of people they didn’t know.”
The Medal of Valor, the nation’s top award for law enforcement officers, recognizes officers who exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in an attempt to protect human life.
“If it had not been for their bravery, it’s likely we would have lost a lot of people,” Obama said.
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Tortorella also has received numerous local and state awards, including the New York State Deputy Sheriff of the Year award, for his actions on April 17, 2015, when he decided to stand between an active shooter and Errick Road Elementary School in Wheatfield.
First Tortorella ordered that the school – which his children attended – be locked down. Then he confronted the shooter, 25-year-old Duane Bores Jr., who had just shot his parents, Duane and Cynthia Bores, in their home.
The shooter responded with a bullet that struck Tortorella in the chest, but the shot was deflected by his bulletproof vest. By the time the shooting was over, the two had exchanged 15 rounds, the gunman was dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, and Tortorella was credited with saving three lives, and maybe more.
After the ceremony, Tortorella said of his award: “It’s good that something positive came out of a negative situation.”
Noting that three other officers also responded to the active-shooter situation, he added: “Maybe they can get a team award. They deserve it as well.”