Seven officers were awarded the Medal of Valor Thursday evening for their heroic acts during a June 22nd officer involved shooting. The incident started out as a routine traffic stop just before two in the morning and quickly turned into a high-speed pursuit on Interstate 90.
"I was just about to get off my shift," says Officer Nate Petersen recalling when he heard the call come across his radio. He joined in the chase which ended near milepost five in Post Falls. Petersen tells KHQ the suspect, identified by police as 24-year-old Marcus Rael pulled over and opened fire on the officers.
"I thought 'this is real,'" says Petersen. "This is happening right now, and I just wanted to get out of my car."
Petersen left his car and took cover behind another. Shots continued to ring out and then stopped. Petersen and others tried to talk the suspect down.
"About five minutes went by before the real gunfire unleashed."
Officers say Rael had multiple weapons including several semi-automatic machine guns. One weapon the lead investigating agency, Bonner County Sheriff's Office, called a "cop killer".
"That was really intense and that's when it got really scary," says Petersen.
June 22nd was a night of first for Officer Petersen. It was the first time he'd been shot at and the first time he'd returned fire.
"I didn't have to think about then if this was going to be easy or not," says Petersen. "At that point in time it was self preservation for myself and then trying to help my other officers."
Rael was wounded during the shootout and arrested. He is currently being held in the Kootenai County Jail.