The Grand Forks Police Department gave out the first Purple Heart and the first two Medals of Honor in the department's history this week.
Grand Forks Police Officer Cody Holte, who was shot and killed in the line of duty on May 27, 2020, received the Purple Heart and a Medal of Honor. His widow, Mandy Holte, accepted the awards on his behalf in a private awards ceremony Tuesday evening, March 30. Cpl. Patrick Torok, who was also involved in the fatal shootout, also received a Medal of Honor.
Nine other Grand Forks police officers who were present for the events of May 27 also were awarded Medals of Valor for their actions that day.
"The thing that we struggled with a little bit is that a number of those officers didn't want awards," GFPD Lt. Derik Zimmel said. "It feels wrong, somehow. That's not the right word, but it doesn't feel right to get an award when a fellow officer lost their life, and we understand that. ... But we thought it was important as part of the healing process to say, 'you know what, yeah, this could have been anyone.' But the bottom line is, these are the officers that were there, they stepped up and they performed under extraordinary circumstances, and we're going to recognize that."
The shooting began in the afternoon last May 27, when two deputies from the Grand Forks County Sheriff's Office attempted to enforce an eviction notice against Salammah Pendleton and his mother and roommate, Lola Moore. According to police, the deputies gained entry to the apartment when Pendleton refused to open the door, and he retreated to a bedroom. When deputies opened the bedroom door, he allegedly opened fire with an AK-47.
Holte and Torok responded to the deputies' call for help. During the shooting, Holte was struck fatally in the chest. Moore was also killed, and Pendleton and one of the deputies, Cpl. Ron Nord, were injured.
Hundreds attended Holte's funeral in June, including Gov. Doug Burgum and all three of North Dakota's U.S. delegates.
Holte, 29, also a member of the North Dakota National Guard, was a three-year veteran of the Grand Forks Police Department. Torok has been a member of the Grand Forks Police Department for 30 years, including 26 years with Grand Forks SWAT.
Holte and Torok weren't the only people whose heroic actions were honored at the awards ceremony.
GFPD Officer Adam Solar received a Medal of Valor for crawling into a burning building and rescuing a man in February 2020.
Cpl. Preston Engstrom and Officer Hunter Nelson were among several officers who received Life Saving Awards: Engstrom for performing lifesaving CPR on a 4-year-old, and Nelson for saving the life of an infant with a fully obstructed airway.
Four citizens were also honored. Cousins Layton Bakke and Caleb Block were recognized for their quick action to summon help after seeing a kayak capsize. Zachary Dunrud was recognized for his intervention when he saw a gas station clerk being assaulted. And Monsignor Brian Donohue, a veteran, resigned from parish ministry to return to serve in the military.