It’s not every day that U.S. Attorney David Freed looks out his 3rd and Locust street office to see a Harrisburg police officer involved in open fire.
But, 17 months ago, that’s exactly what happened.
On Dec. 22, 2017, Harrisburg Officer Chad McGowan responded to a call for assistance after a Capitol police officer was shot at.
McGowan had a county probation officer and three officers in training in his vehicle with him. Approaching the suspect’s car, the gunman began firing at McGowan. The officer quickly took cover beside his vehicle and shot back at the suspect, while his passengers left the vehicle. The man charged McGowan and the PA state trooper that came to his assistance. However, they were able to fatally wound the man and end the assault.
Yesterday, Officer McGowan received the 2017 Congressional Badge of Bravery. In a ceremony hosted by U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey and the Harrisburg Police Bureau, McGowan was recognized for his courage and service in a dangerous shootout.
“Officer Chad McGowan is an American hero,” Toomey said simply.
“Chad McGowan went toward the danger and stayed until the job was done,” Freed added.
For his act of courage, McGowan was awarded one of the 18 badges given by the U.S. attorney general to U.S. police officers each year.
In 2008, Congress passed the Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery Act to honor “exceptional acts of bravery in the line of duty by federal, state and local law enforcement officers,” according to the Office of Justice Programs. To be awarded the badge, officers must have sustained or faced risk of serious injury or death.
“Every day across Pennsylvania, about 25,000 men and women put on the uniform,” Toomey said. “They put on the badge, and they answer the call of anybody who needs help. While the rest of us have the luxury to run away from trouble, they run toward it, to protect and defend all of us.”
Toomey presented McGowan with the badge as resounding applause and a standing ovation followed.
“I am so humbled by this experience,” McGowan said. “I’m so proud to wear this badge on my shoulder.”
McGowan held his head high, freshly adorned with his red, white, blue and gold badge.
He then recalled his humble beginnings as an officer, lying tired and out of breath on the Police Academy floor, with Harrisburg Police Commissioner Thomas Carter towering over him and yelling, “Get off your face!”
Carter had walked in, a moment McGowan would never forget, and made the trainees do pushups.
“That’s when I knew I wanted to work for Harrisburg city,” McGowan said.
Nearing 1½ years after confronting the gunman, McGowan still desires to serve Harrisburg through his work, even when it is life-threatening.
“Today is truly a great honor to the city,” said Mayor Eric Papenfuse, during the ceremony. “It’s a great honor to the Harrisburg Police Department and the region.”