- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 13, 2000

Two Maryland troopers and one Prince George's County police officer received Maryland's highest award for valor yesterday after rescuing five persons from a burning 7-Eleven earlier this week.

Trooper Anthony Jones, Trooper 1st Class Damon McFarlane and Officer Malika Deen were presented with Governor's Citations at the state police barracks in College Park during a ceremony recognizing them for bravery.

"It is with great pride and privilege that I recognize these three heroes," said state police Col. David B. Mitchell during a speech at the awards ceremony. "They are being honored for their bravery and determination in saving the lives of people who were in great danger."

The award stems from the trio's reaction to a fire Monday at a 7-Eleven store in the 4900 block of Englewood Road in College Park. A GMC sport utility vehicle, loaded with acetylene tanks, caught fire and exploded near the front of the store. The fire quickly spread to the store.

Trooper Jones arrived first on the scene, noticing that there were four adults and a 7-year-old child trapped inside the burning building. Trooper McFarlane and Officer Deen arrived as backup soon after. Trooper McFarlane searched the back of the store and found no alternate exit.

The three then used blankets to enter the smoke and flames and remove the five victims, none of whom suffered injuries.

This was the first instance Col. Mitchell could recall in which a Prince George's County police officer had received the honor.

"In a time when the state police department is constantly under a microscope," said John Bartlett, president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Prince George's County, "these three heroes came out and said: 'This is who I am. This is what I do. I come out and save lives every day.' "

Trooper Jones, who at first thought he had encountered a routine vehicle fire, said it's all in a day's work. The accolades are flattering, he said, but a little bit over the cuff.

"This ceremony was a lot more than I think we deserved for what we did," he said. "I'm very honored to have received this citation, but I was just doing my job. I don't think what we did was anything out of the ordinary."

Packed like sardines into the Q Barracks of the Maryland State Police, more than 15 officers honored the three heroes. Trooper Jones, Trooper McFarlane and Officer Deen each were presented with a certificate to commemorate the citation, a medal of honor and a plaque from the Prince George's County Fire Department.

Mike Grimley, one of the men rescued, said the three got a ceremony they deserved.

"They didn't hesitate at all," Mr. Grimley said. "They really deserve all of this recognition. I don't know what would have happened if they hadn't been there. It was very intense."

Trooper McFarlane said he was "slightly embarrassed" of the recognition after the ceremony's conclusion. The blushing trooper explained that there was no other course of action to take, the officers simply did what they had been trained to do.

"I just reacted," he said. "I didn't think about how dangerous it could have been or anything else I didn't have time to. I just did my job like I'm supposed to do it."

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