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Van Buren officer named Officer of the Year

On September 13, 2011, James Palmer entered the Crawford County Courthouse and started shooting inside a judge's office. Surveillance video shows employees darting out of their offices and fearing for their lives. Police rush to the scene, including Van Buren Corporal David Passen.
LITTLE ROCK, AR -- On September 13, 2011, James Palmer entered the Crawford County Courthouse and started shooting inside a judge's office.

Surveillance video shows employees darting out of their offices and fearing for their lives.

Police rush to the scene, including Van Buren Corporal David Passen.

"I just got a call for a fight and then it changed as I was en route to a shooting, and we didn't know where he was," Passen said.

Corporal Passen and the suspect got in a shoot out. Bullets fly hitting Passen's cruiser.

"I know you probably thought, 'This could be the end of my life today,'" I said.

"Oh yeah, but all I was thinking was 'I gotta stop this guy before he hurts somebody else,'" Passen said.

And that's the reason for today's honor.  Passen is the state's law enforcement officer of the year.

"To be shot at the way he was shot at and to have the calmness and the sense of what you need to do to survive was amazing," said Kenneth Bell, chief of the Van Buren Police Department.

But Corporal Passen credits his fellow officers for coming to his rescue.  The suspect died in a hail of gunfire.

"If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be here. That's how it is at our department and most everywhere else," Passen said. 

A year after the shooting, it's still hard for Passen to accept an award like this.

"I didn't tell him I nominated him until I found out he won. After I found out he won, I had to tell him," Bell said.

The trait of a hero.

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