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Two years later, Oak Creek officers honored for efforts in Sikh Temple shooting

Lt. Brian Murphy and Officer Savan Lenda receive Congressional Badge of Bravery

Aug. 12, 2014

Oak Creek — It took two years for Lt. Brian Murphy and Officer Savan "Sam" Lenda of the Oak Creek Police Department to officially receive the Congressional Badge of Bravery from the U.S. Department of Justice, but the award was worth the wait.

Murphy and Lenda received top honors last week for their heroic actions during the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin shooting Aug. 5, 2012.

The ceremony on Wednesday, Aug. 6, was attended by numerous local and state politicians including U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, U.S. Attorney James Santelle, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Oak Creek Mayor Steve Scaffidi.

The Congressional Badge of Bravery honors federal, state and local officers for exceptional acts of bravery in the line of duty. The medals are awarded annually by the U.S. Attorney General, the official website said.

Earning 'hero category'

Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards said the word "hero" is often used loosely by the media — and is a heavy burden to cast upon someone. He made an exception for Lenda and Murphy.

"Everything they did that day put them in the hero category," said Edwards to a crowd of almost 300. "You guys represent every man and woman who has ever put on that badge."

For his part, Lenda indicated during the ceremony that he wasn't comfortable with the "hero" label.

"True heroes are those who have laid down their lives at the altar of freedom. I am far, far from being a hero and will never call myself one," said Lenda.

Regardless, their actions earned them the medal and honors.

Murphy was the first responder at the Sikh Temple after Wade Michael Page had shot and killed six temple members and critically injured others. In the crossfire with Page, Murphy was shot 15 times, including a gunshot to the back of his head that stopped short of penetrating his brain, a report said.

Lenda's arrival at the scene shifted Page's attention away from Murphy and possibly saved his life. Lenda then shot and wounded Page before the gunman took his own life moments later.

The two ended the attack on the Sikh Temple in six minutes from the time of the first 911 call.

Edwards said the police work demonstrated by Murphy, Lenda and the entire department was "handled perfectly."

"You never know how people are going to respond to it until it actually happens," said Edwards.

Edwards referenced Murphy's use of combat breathing to remain calm and Lenda's "unmatched" instincts as examples of leadership to the other arriving officers.

Thanks and appreciation

During his thank-you speech on Aug. 6, Murphy recalled Lenda's timely arrival at the temple.

"If it wasn't for (Lenda) showing up when he actually did, I don't know how much more I could have actually taken at that point," said Murphy. "I've been fortunate enough to be able to turn this moment of tragedy in my life into something good."

Murphy also thanked his wife, Ann, for sticking by his side "through thick and thin."

In their individual speeches, both officers also thanked to the Sikh community.

"I've learned a lot of things over the last two years — how to be optimistic, how to accept things, give up control," said Murphy. "For all those things the Sikhs have showed me, I am forever grateful."

The active Sikh temple presidents in Oak Creek and Brookfield attended the badging ceremony, as well as Amardeep Kaleka, son of Satwant Kaleka, the former Sikh Temple president who was killed in the shooting.

"I'm here to say from all of the families affected by this tragedy, you might not think you deserve it, but you do," Kaleka said.

Murphy joined the Oak Creek Police Department in 1991 and was promoted to lieutenant in April 2007. He is currently retired. Lenda is the most senior officer at the police department, which he joined in 1980.

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