COPLEY TWP.: While everyone was running away from the gunfire, Ben Campbell ran alone toward it.
That’s just what a cop does. That’s how Campbell’s remembered.
The events of Aug. 7, 2011 — the day seven people were shot and killed by a deranged gunman — are forever part of Copley Township history. So are the names of the lives lost.
Gudrun Johnson, 64, and Russell Johnson, 67, were killed outside their Goodenough Drive home. Their granddaughter, Autumn Johnson, 16, and her friend, Amelia Shambaugh, 16, were shot inside a parked minivan.
Craig Dieter, 51, was killed in the driveway. Bryan Johnson, 44, made it a few hundred yards before he was shot and killed. Scott Dieter, 11, ran and hid inside a neighbor’s home. He was found by the gunman and shot to death.
Campbell’s name comes last. It was Campbell who stopped the killing.
He was the first officer on the scene and the first to find the gunman. Campbell shot and killed the shooter, who had refused to surrender.
Since then, Campbell, 43, has been honored from here to Washington, D.C., for his bravery. On Monday, he won perhaps the most prestigious of all law enforcement honors: the Congressional Medal of Bravery.
The award was presented by U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, who was joined by a contingent of local legislators and law enforcement leaders.
The Medal of Bravery honors “exceptional acts of bravery that law enforcement officers engage in while in the line of duty.” It is the civilian equivalent of the military’s highest award, the Medal of Honor.
“Officer Ben Campbell is a hero whose bravery saved lives in the wake of tragedy.” said Brown.
While Campbell held his young son, Sebastian, the officer’s wife, Jeni, put the medal around her husband’s neck.
Afterward, as he has since the shooting and as he has done with every award he’s received, Campbell credited his fellow officers and his training for the actions he took that morning.
“My name’s on a lot of these awards, but my department, everybody in the community, had a role to play. I was only one small part of it,” he told reporters. “At Copley PD, we’re all a team.”
Steven Dettelbach, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, was one of several to salute Campbell. He recalled how Campbell, without waiting for backup, walked alone through the Copley neighborhood on a solo hunt for the gunman.
“When trouble hits, that’s when people stop taking the actions of police for granted,” Dettelbach said. “That’s when we expect police officers like Officer Campbell to run toward the gunfire when all the rest of us are running away. And that’s what Officer Campbell did that morning.”
“... it is that bravery, those actions that Officer Campbell took, that actually saved real lives in this community. We don’t know how many, there’s no way to calculate it, but for years to come, generations to come, people will contribute to our community, be members of our community, who would not have if Ben Campbell had not taken the action he did that day.”
Police Chief Michael Mier said Campbell’s actions went above and beyond the call of duty and the awards are well-deserved. Campbell’s awards included a Valor Award by the Ohio Attorney General and a “Top Cop” award from the National Association of Police Organizations.
Mier said Campbell knew he was vulnerable, but forged ahead, risking his own life, in an effort to track down the gunman, 51-year-old Michael Hance.
“I’m very happy that others have recognized what he went through that day and how he placed himself at risk to help the community,” Mier said.