88 NYPD officers honored at annual Medal Day ceremony

LOWER MANHATTAN, New York City (WABC) -- Dozens of members of the New York City Police Department were honored Tuesday at the 2019 Medal Day Ceremony.

The annual event honors both uniformed and civilian members of the NYPD who have performed significant acts of heroism.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O'Neill presented the awards during the ceremony at One Police Plaza.

Eighty-eight members of the NYPD were honored, some of whom made the ultimate sacrifice by laying down their lives in the course of upholding of their oaths as police officers.

Three officers were presented with the Medal of Honor, the department's highest honor.

Lieutenant Emmanuel Kwo, Sergeant Arvid Flores and Police Officer Elwin Martinez were recognized for their valor during a 2016 confrontation in which a fourth officer, Sergeant Paul Tuozzolo, lost his life.

Kwo's 1-year-old daughter Willow, with her radiant smile, can live and laugh today because of Tuozzolo's sacrifice.

"Because of him, you know, little Willow is here," Kwo said.

He may not have been alive to father a child if it wasn't for the actions his mentor took that day three years ago. During the gun battle in the Bronx, Tuozzolo warned him of danger.

Kwo was shot in his leg but lived. Tuozzolo did not.

Now, when Kwo sees his Willow, he also sees Tuozzolo.

"Tell her about how kind he was, about how gentle he was and how much he helped me become the supervisor I am today," Kwo said. "And I wouldn't be the person that I am today without who he was."

The four officers were pursuing a suspect who fled after he had been holding his estranged wife, another woman, and two children at gunpoint. The officers boxed him in.

"When the suspect opened fire, Lieutenant Kwo was wounded in the exchange," de Blasio said. "Fellow officers returned fire and stopped the gunman, stopped the danger. But we all know a horrible price was paid that day."

Sergeant Flores couldn't come up with the words to say thank you to Tuozzolo, but his gratitude was obvious.

"In an instant, what had been a normal day, can become that day," O'Neill said.

Kwo's wife Sherry is forever grateful.

"Thank him everyday for keeping him safe and getting him home to me that day," she said.

Gone, but never forgotten.

"We talk about Paul everyday," Tuozzolo's wife Lisa said. "We talk about the fun times and the memories and all the joy that we shared with Paul together."

Also among those honored were 47 members of the NYPD who have succumbed to 9/11-related illness.

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