Montana Highway Patrol trooper receives national recognition for rescue following otter attack

Montana Highway Patrol trooper receives national recognition for rescue following otter attack

HELENA – Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Barb Armstrong received an Honorable Mention award from the National Association of Police Organizations (NAPO) at their 31st annual TOP COPS Awards in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, May 12. Held in conjunction with National Police Week, the awards honor law enforcement officers and educate the public about our nation’s heroes.

Trooper Armstrong received the award for her courageous actions on August 2, 2023, when she responded to a call on the Jefferson River near LaHood. The report stated there were three women injured by otters while floating on Madison River. Being familiar with the area, Armstrong responded and contacted the local landowner. Along with a Jefferson Valley emergency medical technician, Armstrong and the property owner carried two large medical bags down railroad tracks to where the landowner thought the injured women might be. Along the way, they encountered two of them, who said the third was stranded on the other side of the river with severe injuries.

While the EMT treated the injuries of the first two women, Armstrong and the landowner crossed the river. Because it was getting dark and the urgent need for the injured woman to receive medical care, Trooper Armstrong entered the water in full gear and proceeded to swim approximately 75 yards across carrying the medical bag. The woman had severe facial injuries and deep lacerations from the otters. She appeared to be going into shock. Shortly after, the life flight crew landed and later stated they would not have been able to find the victim’s location without Armstrong having been present.

“Trooper Armstrong’s actions that day exemplify what it means to be a Montana Highway Patrol trooper,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “Her bravery and quick-thinking prevented a bad situation from becoming even worse. I’m grateful to Trooper Armstrong and every Highway Patrol trooper across the state for their commitment to keeping Montanan’s safe.”

“Trooper Armstrong’s life-saving actions last year showed great heroism and demonstrated our core values of service, integrity, and respect,” MHP Colonel Kurt Sager said. “I’m proud to have her on the MHP team.”

Attorney General Knudsen also presented Trooper Armstrong with the Medal of Valor – the Patrol’s highest award – last year for her actions. To qualify for the award, troopers must show an act of heroism and bravery, knowingly expose themselves to obvious life-threatening peril, or react to a situation without regard for personal safety to effect aid or rescue.

Armstrong has been with the Patrol since February 2015 and is currently stationed in Butte as a member of the MHP’s Criminal Interdiction Team. She has previously earned three Hedstrom Awards, which are given to troopers for going above and beyond the call of duty in saving a life.

According to NAPO, TOP COPS are nominated by fellow officers then selected by an Awards Selection Committee which reviews hundreds of nominations from cases across the 50 states and U.S. territories. Officers from the top ten cases were selected as the 2024 TOP COPS and in each remaining state where there was a nomination a case is selected for which officers receive an Honorable Mention award.

Trooper Armstrong TOP COPS

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