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February 2, 2011
By Misha Ray
Commander Eric James of the University of Nevada, Reno Police Services received the prestigious Medal of Valor on Jan. 20, 2011 for his display of bravery and heroism during a Sun Valley standoff that occurred on Nov. 9, 2008.
According to Washoe County Sheriff Michael Haley, after being served with a felony arrest warrant, a man wielding an assault rifle opened fire on uniformed Sheriff personnel and refused to communicate with negotiators while barricaded in his home.
As a University police officer, Commander James was a member of the Washoe County Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team that responded to Sun Valley in 2008. Commander James was part of the team responsible for approaching the house to remove curtains from a broken window. The man opened fire on the team, and Commander James, “without regard to his personal safety, remained in a position where he could engage the suspect while his team was able to tactically retreat,” according to Haley.
At the time of the incident, the University had two police officers on the Washoe County SWAT team. Both officers went through a rigorous training before becoming members of the team. According to James, the SWAT team also assists the University police with large-scale events, like presidential visits.
Though the incident took place in 2008, James received his medal in January of this year. The delay, James said, is partially a legality precaution in case there were still issues with the case. Two years is typically the rule-of-thumb for these cases, he said.
As a former Marine, James felt the skills he learned from the military assisted his actions the day the standoff took place. James is no longer a member of the SWAT team due to his promotion to Commander and increased responsibilities for University police.