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Nashville police who responded to Covenant School shooting honored in Steve Penley portrait

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Five police officers from the Metro Nashville Police Department were honored for saving others during a school shooting and immortalized in a portrait by American painter Steve Penley at the 2023 FOX Nation Patriot Awards.

Det. Michael Collazo, Officer Rex Engelbert, Det. Sgt. Jeff Mathes, Det. Ryan Cagle and Det. Zachary Plese were awarded the first-ever T2T Stephen Siller Award for their heroic response to the school shooting in Nashville earlier this year.

“FOX & Friends” co-hosts Steve Doocy, Ainsley Earhardt, Brian Kilmeade and Lawrence Jones were joined by Frank Siller to present the award, named in honor of firefighter Stephen Siller, who died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


Frank was joined by his nephew, Stephen Siller, Jr., in presenting the award to the Nashville police. Stephen was only a baby when his father rushed to the scene at the Twin Towers 22 years ago. 

“Tonight we are here not to dwell on tragedy, but to honor the men and women who turned towards danger to safeguard others, embodying the spirit of my father, Stephen, and the soul of the Tunnel to Towers Foundation,” said Stephen Siller, Jr.

On March 27, 2023, police responded after Audrey Elizabeth Hale began shooting at students and teachers at the Covenant School. The killer gunned down three 9-year-olds and three adults and left a community reeling in the aftermath of the massacre. 

“That decision was — it wasn’t a decision. It was what was going to happen,” Det. Sgt. Jeff Mathes said on behalf of the other officers.

Law enforcement saved countless lives after rushing into the line of fire, and before 10:30 a.m. had fatally shot Hale on the second floor of the school building.

“I’ve been thinking about what the term or the word patriot means since I found out about this, and the only thing — I can’t think of a definition — but I can think of people from times all the way across our history as a nation,” Mathes continued.


“On behalf of the Metro Nashville Police Department, there are patriots that I’ll accept this for, but patriots like our friend and detective on our team — Eric Wegner — he ran outside and was the stimulus of getting shot. He got shot at, and that’s what we needed to find what we needed and the work that we needed to do. So being a patriot is going for others, respecting each other, respecting your country and most importantly, putting your God first.”

The five Nashville police officers were further honored and presented with a portrait by Steve Penley

“I’ve made a career out of painting American icons and heroes, and you guys fit right into that story, so I’m proud to be here and honored to be a part of it,” Penley said.

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FOX News’ Paul Steinhauser and Michael Rutz contributed to this report.

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