A Philadelphia Police officer who chased down a gunman after being shot during an ambush attack earlier this year was honored by law enforcement officials from around the world Wednesday night.
Officer Jesse Hartnett received the “Man of the Year” award during the annual National Police Defense Foundation (NPDF) Awards Dinner in Howard Beach, New York. Hartnett spoke to NBC10 about the honor during his first on-camera interview since the shooting.
“It’s a big deal and it’s nice to be recognized,” Hartnett told NBC10’s Aundrea Cline-Thomas in an exclusive interview. “Especially after something tragic like that.”
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On January 7, Hartnett, 33, was shot by a gunman in an ambush attack while he was sitting inside his patrol car. Despite being struck in the arm and bleeding heavily, he chased after the suspect and returned fire. The gunman, whom police identified as 30-year-old Edward Archer, was captured a few blocks away.
During Wednesday’s award ceremony, attendees praised Hartnett for his heroic actions that night.
“In 40 years of police work this is the first time I’ve ever seen such an incident that turned out good,” said Joseph Occhipinti, of the National Police Defense Fund.
Hartnett couldn’t discuss the details of the shooting while speaking with NBC10 due to the pending court case. He did say, however, that his military and police academy training ultimately saved his life.
“I’m sitting here speaking to you,” he said. “So did it keep me alive? I would say, yes. It definitely kept me alive.”
Hartnett also addressed what he believed to be the unfair depiction of police officers involved in shootings.
“A lot of the media coverage you see a lot of bad, negativity of police when you see different shootings and different cases,” he said. “Everything is obviously a different scenario but you have split seconds to react to something where lawyers can just attack it for months, sometimes years.”
Archer faces multiple charges in connection with the shooting. He allegedly told police after his arrest that he was acting in the name of Islam, though Archer's defense attorney has said he may have mental problems.
Hartnett suffered extensive nerve damage and has limited use of his left arm after undergoing eight surgeries. He just started physical therapy and continues to recover.
“I really look forward to getting my hand back,” Hartnett said. “It’s difficult. You don’t really realize what you have. It’s a real eye-opener when you lose something. But I’m working with really good people at Penn Hospital and everything is going really well.”
Hartnett says he’s spoken to police recruits about his experience and plans to do more volunteering in the future.
“I think it helps to focus their minds and let them realize what they’re getting into,” he said. “It’s not just you, it’s your family involved, so many other people and yourself. It’s a huge decision that they’re making. I think it’s an eye-opener, me sharing my story.”
Watch the full interview in the video embedded above.