Missouri Capitol police officer Charles Gerhart on Monday was one of 10 public safety officers from around the state to be honored with the Missouri Medal of Valor.
The Medal of Valor was first awarded in 2008 and is given annually based on recommendations by the Medal of Valor Review Board. They are awarded "to a public safety officer who has exhibited exceptional courage, extraordinary decisiveness and presence of mind, and unusual swiftness of action, regardless of his or her own personal safety, in an attempt to protect human life."
At ceremonies in the Governor's Office at the Capitol, Gov. Jay Nixon said: "Each of these officers ignored extraordinary dangers to themselves and instead thought of the lives of others — people they never met, but who they have a solemn duty to protect."
Gerhart, who previously was recognized as State Employee of the Month for February, was nominated for the medal for his actions during an incident that occurred in July 2015.
While off duty and traveling with his family on Westbound I-70, Gerhart noticed a vehicle traveling eastbound at a high speed when it collided into another vehicle, causing a three-vehicle accident.
Gerhart got out of his vehicle and rushed to one of the vehicles, which was on fire.
He had to cross the cable barrier in the median to get to the crash scene, and when he got there, he forced open the driver's door. Gerhart pulled the driver out, and another bystander assisted Gerhart in getting the driver away from the burning vehicle. The driver was suffering from a broken pelvis, broken hip, multiple broken ribs and vertebrae. He would spend three months in the hospital and skilled nursing care recovering from his injuries.
Gerhart's commanding officer never learned of Gerhart's heroic actions until three months later. The son of the driver contacted Capitol Police and said that Gerhart saved his father's life, and he wouldn't be alive without Gerhart's actions.
In his nomination document, it was noted Gerhart "took time away from his family and put someone else's needs before his. Gerhart could have easily kept his distance with his family and just called in the accident, but didn't. He did what he was trained to do, and that is to protect and serve."
Gerhart has been working for the state since Nov. 4, 2013, and has been with the Department of Public Safety since Oct. 1, 2014.