State organization honors Olathe East SRO for valor during school shooting
OLATHE, Kan. (KCTV) - A local school resource officer is looking at a host of honors for his response to an active shooter this spring.
School Resource Officer Erik Clark accepted an award for valor Tuesday night from a group close to his heart.
On March 4, parents rushed to Olathe East High School in a panic to pick up their kids. No one knows if the teen student accused of firing the first shots would have continued beyond the office had School Resource Officer Erik Clark not intervened.
Tuesday night’s Award for Valor came from the Kansas Juvenile Officers Association, which includes SROs and DARE officers. It’s not an annual award like some organizations have.
“This is actually the first time that we’ve given this award,” said Officer Anthony Garcia, a Blue Valley School District SRO who is the organization’s vice president. “But, these acts of bravery by Officer Clark just couldn’t go unrecognized. So, we felt that we needed to put something together for him.”
Clark had already been honored at the United States Capitol and received the National Award of Valor from the National Association of School Resource Officers. Yet, Olathe Police Department Public Information Officer Sgt. Joel Yeldell said Tuesday’s award may be even more meaningful.
“This one is especially special because these are his peers. These are fellow SROs from Kansas who are recognizing that work. So, I think that really hits home for him,” Yeldell said.
Yeldell spoke on Clark’s behalf because the shooting is part of an ongoing criminal case and he’s been asked not to speak about it publicly.
Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe charged the student, Jaylon Elmore, with attempted capital murder. He was 18 at the time. That case is still working its way through court.
In a document, in which Howe ruled Clark’s use of force justified, Howe wrote that Assistant Principal Dr. Kaleb Stoppel had received information that Elmore had a gun in his backpack. So, he went to the teen’s classroom and asked him to come to the office. Once in the office, Howe wrote, Elmore was asked to empty his backpack. He refused, then pulled out the gun and fired it, hitting Clark. Howe wrote that Stoppel then tackled Elmore and Clark returned fire.
Clark, Stoppel and Elmore were all hit by gunfire and have all since been released from the hospital.
Clark returned to Olathe East this fall to continue with what he’s been doing for the past seven years at the school. Yeldell said Clark was eager to return and the entire department was happy to see him back in uniform.
“That’s a tight knit group over there,” said Yeldell. “I think any time people go through something traumatic that they get even closer, so that’s a very special family there at Olathe East.”
Both Stoppel and Clark were honored in Washington, D.C. earlier this year when a Kansas congressional delegation from the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives introduced resolutions recognizing them for their actions. The delegation included U.S. Senators Jerry Moran and Roger Marshall, along with Representatives Sharice Davids, Tracey Mann and Jake LaTurner.
Yeldell called fall and winter “awards season” for many local, state and national police organizations. He said he would not be surprised if Clark receives more awards.
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