Two Tulsa police officers were among the first recipients of state-level awards for heroism.
Gov. Kevin Stitt awarded Oklahoma Purple Hearts to Ofc. Aurash Zarkeshan and Sgt. Craig Johnson in a ceremony at the capitol Tuesday afternoon.
Zarkeshan and Johnson were shot during a traffic stop last June. Johnson died of his injuries the day after the shooting. His widow, Kristi Johnson, accepted his medal from Stitt.
"I recognize that receiving this award today can’t begin to fill the void in your hearts, but my hope is that this award will yet be another sign of the eternal gratitude the people of our state have for your ultimate sacrifice. He will never be forgotten," Stitt said.
Zarkeshan, who went through months of intensive rehabilitation after being shot in the head, accepted his medal in person but did not make any remarks.
Stitt gave a third Oklahoma Purple Heart to Oklahoma City Police Ofc. Zachary Barby, who was shot during a November pursuit. Oklahoma National Guard Sgt. Pedro Gonzales III was given the Oklahoma Medal of Valor for saving his neighbor from a man with a knife.
"I’m so proud to live in a state that honors and supports our heroes like we do in the state of Oklahoma," Stitt said during the ceremony.
The awards were created by legislation in 2017, along with a nine-member committee to identify recipients.