Obama honors 13 police officers with Medals of Valor

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Obama recognizes police officers for valor

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- President Barack Obama on Monday awarded the United States' top honor for law enforcement to 13 police officers who protected citizens while putting themselves in danger, including one killed in the line of duty.

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In a White House ceremony, Obama said the officers honored with the Public Safety Medal of Valor had helped to save countless lives.

"The public safety officers we recognize today with the Medal of Valor found courage not in search of recognition, they did it instinctively."

The 13 honorees included Philadelphia Police Sergeant Robert Wilson III, who was killed last year at a video store where he had stopped to buy his son a gift.

Two armed robbers entered the store and were confronted by Wilson, who stepped away from employees and customers to be sure they were out of the line of fire. Wilson died in the shootout.

See more from the ceremony in the gallery below:

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2016 Medals of Valor awarded
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Obama honors 13 police officers with Medals of Valor
U.S. President Barack Obama (L) listens to Attorney General Loretta Lynch (R) before the awards ceremony for the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor in the White House East Room in Washington, U.S., May 16, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: Medal of Valor award recipients look on as Attorney General Loretta Lynch speaks during the Medal of Valor ceremony in the East Room of the White House, May 16, 2016, in Washington, DC. Established by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and officially recognized by Congress in 2001, the Medal of Valor is the nation's highest honor for law enforcement. 13 police officers are receiving the honor this year. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama awards Omaha Police Department Officer Coral Walker with the 2013-2014 Public Safety Office Medal of Valor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House May 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. According to the White House, 'After exchanging gunfire, Officer Walker single-handedly incapacitated a man who had killed and injured multiple victims on a shooting spree. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama awards Garland Police Officer Gregory Stevens with the 2014-2015 Public Safety Office Medal of Valor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House May 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. According to the White House, 'Officer Stevens exchanged gunfire at close range and subdued two heavily-armed assailants preventing a mass shooting.�� (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: Constance Wilson accepts the he 2014-2015 Public Safety Office Medal of Valor from U.S. President Barack Obama on behalf of her late grandson, Philadelphia Police Department Sergeant Robert Wilson III, during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House May 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. According to the White House, 'Sergeant Wilson put himself in harm's way during an armed robbery, drawing fire from the assailants and suffering a mortal wound as he kept store employees and customers safe. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama awards North Miami Police Department Officer Niel Johnson with the 2014-2015 Public Safety Office Medal of Valor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House May 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. According to the White House, 'Officer Johnson pursued a man who had shot a Miami police officer and two other innocent bystanders, withstanding fire from an assault weapon, and apprehended the assailant. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama awards Niagara County County Sheriff's Office Deputy Joey Tortorella��with the 2014-2015 Public Safety Office Medal of Valor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House May 16, 2016 in Washington, DC. According to the White House, 'Deputy Tortorella confronted and subdued a volatile gunman who had shot and wounded his parents inside their home and by doing so prevented the gunman from threatening the safety of students at a nearby elementary school.' (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama presents North Miami Police Dept. Officer Niel Johnson the Medal of Valor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, May 16, 2016, in Washington, DC. Established by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and officially recognized by Congress in 2001, the Medal of Valor is the nation's highest honor for law enforcement. 13 police officers are receiving the honor this year. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama presents Niagra County Sheriff's Office Deputy Joey Tortorella the Medal of Valor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, May 16, 2016, in Washington, DC. Established by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and officially recognized by Congress in 2001, the Medal of Valor is the nation's highest honor for law enforcement. 13 police officers are receiving the honor this year. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama presents Garland Police Officer Gregory Stevens the Medal of Valor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, May 16, 2016, in Washington, DC. Established by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and officially recognized by Congress in 2001, the Medal of Valor is the nation's highest honor for law enforcement. 13 police officers are receiving the honor this year. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama presents Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Tyler Call the Medal of Valor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, May 16, 2016, in Washington, DC. Established by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and officially recognized by Congress in 2001, the Medal of Valor is the nation's highest honor for law enforcement. 13 police officers are receiving the honor this year. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama presents Midwest City Police Department Major David Huff the Medal of Valor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, May 16, 2016, in Washington, DC. Established by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and officially recognized by Congress in 2001, the Medal of Valor is the nation's highest honor for law enforcement. 13 police officers are receiving the honor this year. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama presents Los Angeles Police Officer Donald Thompson the Medal of Valor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, May 16, 2016, in Washington, DC. Established by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and officially recognized by Congress in 2001, the Medal of Valor is the nation's highest honor for law enforcement. 13 police officers are receiving the honor this year. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: U.S. President Barack Obama presents Santa Monica College Police Department Captain Raymond Bottenfield the Medal of Valor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House, May 16, 2016, in Washington, DC. At right are Santa Monica Police Dept. Officers Robert Sparks and Jason Salas. Established by President Bill Clinton in 2000 and officially recognized by Congress in 2001, the Medal of Valor is the nation's highest honor for law enforcement. 13 police officers are receiving the honor this year. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Valor to Los Angeles Police Department Officer Donald Thompson during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, May 16, 2016. The Medal of Valor is awarded to public safety officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect others from harm.(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
President Barack Obama stands with Los Angeles Police Department Officer Donald Thompson, left, before presenting him with the Medal of Valor during a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Monday, May 16, 2016. The Medal of Valor is awarded to public safety officers who have exhibited exceptional courage, regardless of personal safety, in the attempt to save or protect others from harm. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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Another officer, Los Angeles Police Officer Donald Thompson, suffered first-degree burns while pulling an unconscious man from a car on a freeway just before it burst into flames, Obama said.

The Public Safety Medal of Valor recognizes police, firefighters and other first responders for exceptional courage.

More than 35 law enforcement officers have died in the line of duty this year, Obama said. He told the audience he had just signed into law a package of bills to honor and protect law enforcement officers, including one that helps state and local departments buy body armor.

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