Denver Police Officer Rachel Eid was looking forward to chasing down a suspect after responding to the scene of a burglary in progress in the West Highland neighborhood. Chasing after bad guys on foot was kind of her thing.
“I’m excited,” Eid said in a video-recorded interview. “I’m thinking for pursuit, I’m actually, (I) usually win them.”
It all went down in February 2016. She ended up catching up to the suspect — Gerardino Cayetano Gonzalez — and engaging in gunfire before being wounded. Gonzalez would later be fatally shot by responding officers, who were able to locate him after Eid gave chase.
All four officers involved would later be cleared in the shooting incident, according to the Denver Post.
For her actions, Eid, now a detective, on Thursday became the first woman in more than 20 years to receive the department’s Medal of Honor and only the fifth female officer to receive it in the department’s history. Denver police spokesperson Jay Casillas said Officer Christine Chavez was the last female officer to receive the Medal of Honor in 1994. The award is given to officers who display “gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their lives above and beyond the call of duty.”
While she didn’t speak after receiving the award (she also received a Purple Heart), Eid recalled the incident in a video interview including four other officers who were directly involved in the incident.
Officers Kevin Burke, Michele Cooper, Robert Greaser and Michael Clark all received a Medal of Valor for their actions during the incident. They joined numerous other cops who were honored during Thursday’s ceremony, called Denver Police Heroes, at the Embassy Suites by Hilton Denver. They were presented by the Denver Police Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting DPD.
Eid was not available for comment on Thursday. She stood quietly near the stage at the hotel conference room while the video was played.
“It was so important for me, afterward, to know and realize that I was part of such an amazing team,” Eid said. “Everybody on that Impact Team, all the officers in District 1, they weren’t going to stop. They weren’t going to let this guy get away. They weren’t going to let something like this happen here, not in our community.”
Despite being wounded, Det. Eid continued engaging Gonzalez.
Eid followed him directly on-foot after receiving reports of a burglary in progress. There were initially two suspects, but one had immediately surrendered to police. The second, Gonzalez, fled on foot, prompting Eid to jump out of her cruiser and give chase. Clark also chased after Gonzalez.
Eid soon came face-to-face with the man she had chased after. He turned and looked at her, moving “purposefully” toward her. Then she saw the gun.
“Then I looked down and realized he’s got an object in his right hand and it’s coming up at me,” Eid said. “And it’s just the barrel of a gun, like, you know, big.”
The man opened fire on Eid, prompting her to return fire. The shooting left her wounded in her left ankle, though Greaser (who said he was also shot at) was able to provide her first aid. Clark also exchanged gunfire with Gonzalez, Greaser said.
He didn’t let up, carjacking a woman’s vehicle to prompt another pursuit. The incident ended when Gonzalez was fatally shot.
“Officer Cooper and Officer (Kevin) Burke stopped him, and he wasn’t able to do any more damage,” Eid said. “It was just kind of, by the grace of God, that nobody was hurt. Nobody else was hurt. Nobody was killed in a situation like this.”
Greaser said his first thought that day was ensuring Eid was OK.
“We were all very relieved and happy when she was back on her feet and back to work,” Greaser said. “She’s a very good officer. She’s very smart. She’s very aggressive, she’s very proactive — once she gets onto something she doesn’t stop until she solves what’s going on.”
Police Chief Robert White and Mayor Michael Hancock congratulated the awarded officers while acknowledging each cop’s work.
After the ceremony, Chief White said the department has officers doing the right thing who understand the importance of “service before self.”
“This is an important day for the officers, it’s an important day for our police department and it’s really a great day for the community,” White said. “What I’m probably most proud of: There are people in this community that realize that these officers are out here trying to do the right thing every single day.”
Thursday’s celebration is a reminder that cops usually do the right thing while responding to “hundreds of thousands of calls,” White said.
White said Eid is an “outstanding young lady.” He visited the scene in February 2016.
“You’re talking about somebody who goes beyond the call of duty,” White said. “Rachel was actually shot and she still was engaged in trying to bring this to some kind of closure.”
Hancock was also on hand to congratulate all the honored officers and the entire 1,500-member department. He said the public doesn’t always learn about all the things they do.
“Today we are here to honor what we know already about our men and women in uniform,” Hancock said. “Every day, they do extraordinary acts on behalf of the people of this great city and go above and beyond the call of duty.”