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Hillsborough Deputy Malachi McCoy wins Medal of Heroism

TAMPA — Six months ago on a Saturday morning, Hillsborough sheriff's Deputy Malachi McCoy's bullet ended one man's murderous rampage.

Today, Gov. Charlie Crist will honor McCoy along with 10 other recipients of the Medal of Heroism — an award presented to first responders who knowingly risk their lives in the line of duty.

"It's definitely an honor, getting an award from the governor," said McCoy, 29, as he drove Tuesday to Tallahassee with members of his family.

On June 7, McCoy shot and killed murder suspect Jorge Bello Garcia, 54, as Garcia struggled to wrestle the gun away from a wounded deputy.

Deputies surrounded Garcia's truck at Linebaugh Avenue and Henderson Road after being warned that he had just killed three people.

Garcia shot and injured Deputies Ray Wilson and Arthur "Art" Lence before McCoy fired the fatal shot.

In September, McCoy received the Sheriff's Office Medal of Honor from Sheriff David Gee for his actions. Deputies Lence and Wilson each received the Silver Cross.

At the time, all three deputies said that, while they appreciated the recognition, they could not lose sight of the fact that three others died that day: Gina Marie Lamantia-Bello, 44, Garcia's estranged wife and a mother of two; and two of her friends — Hillsborough Fire Rescue Capt. Chris Artigas, 45, and Regina Ann Coffaro, 44.

Since the Medal of Heroism was created four years ago, 13 people have received it — all in 2006 under then-Gov. Jeb Bush.

One of them was Hillsborough sheriff's Deputy David Arthur, who, in 2004, pulled an injured man from his motorcycle moments before it exploded.

Today's 11 a.m. ceremony at the Capitol will mark the first time Crist has bestowed the honor.

McCoy was nominated by his agency, and chosen from among dozens of nominations statewide, according to the Florida State Fraternal Order of Police.

Rebecca Catalanello can be reached at rcatalanello@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3383.

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Well within his right

Florida Statutes Chapter 14.33 gives the governor the right to award a Medal of Heroism to a law enforcement or correctional officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician or paramedic who "distinguished himself or herself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity … risked his or her life deliberately above and beyond the call of duty while performing duty in his or her respective position, and … engaged in hazardous or perilous activities to preserve lives with the knowledge that such activities might result in great personal harm."

Hillsborough Deputy Malachi McCoy wins Medal of Heroism 12/02/08 [Last modified: Thursday, December 4, 2008 12:22pm]
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