A former Kula resident enjoyed some basketball trash talk with President Barack Obama on Saturday at the White House.
Baldwin High School alumnus and Los Angeles Police Department Detective Craig Marquez, who was being honored in Washington, D.C., with other officers for their heroism, boasted about his Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers while Obama defended his Chicago Bulls, a favorite basketball team of Obama, a former U.S. senator from Illinois.
"We went back and forth over basketball," Marquez said Monday. "It was pretty civil. It was a nice trashing session with President Obama about basketball."
Marquez and 33 other police officers from around the country were honored as TOP COPS by the National Association of Police Organizations in the nation's capital over the weekend. Events honoring police officers are being held across the country, including one on Maui, with National Police Week this week. A Police Memorial Service at the Wailuku Police Station was held Monday to honor Maui police officers killed in the line of duty.
Gov. Neil Abercrombie ordered flags at state offices, agencies and the Hawaii National Guard to be flown at half-staff today in observance of Peace Officers Memorial Day.
The TOP COPS met Obama and Vice President Joe Biden at a ceremony in the Rose Garden on Saturday morning. They also met with U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano.
Later, the officers were presented awards at the Mayflower Renaissance Washington Hotel, where the presidential inaugural ball is held. The awards were for officers who showed valor in tense standoffs, shootings, rescues and other life-and-death situations.
Marquez, 38, was commended for his actions during a shooting rampage Dec. 9 in Hollywood. The detective responded to the shooting near the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street. Motorists and pedestrians sought cover as a 26-year-old man fired a .40-caliber handgun in the air and at passing motorists. Bullets struck the driver of a Mercedes-Benz, music industry executive John Atterberry, who died from wounds to his neck and face.
Marquez was the first officer on the scene. He and motorcycle officer Kevin Cotter put their lives on the line moving from car to car on the street to locate the suspect. Marquez confronted the suspect and ordered him to drop his knife and to submit to arrest. The suspect had a gun in his waistband.
The suspect refused to comply with the commands and ran toward Marquez. Marquez fired his service weapon, striking the suspect and causing him to fall to the ground.
Marquez said that Cotter also fired on the man, but neither officer knows who fired the fatal shot.
In the Rose Garden ceremony, Obama said of all the officers in attendance: "They are representative of the sacrifices and that quiet courage that exists among law enforcement officers all across the country and their families."
On Thursday, Marquez and Cotter received the department's Medal of Valor in Los Angeles. Cotter also received the TOP COPS award.
Marquez has been accepting accolades, which have not gone to this head. He, like the other officers, remains humbled by the experience and the award.
"It's kind of . . . we understand the stardom. Eventually things go back to normal. There is a part of you that wants everything to go back to normal as soon as possible, because we were just doing our jobs," he said via cellphone from Washington, D.C.
He said that he didn't want to be perceived as "special"; there are 9,000 other officers in Los Angeles who "do this exact same thing," he said.
"We don't want to be looked at as special."
Still, there are perks that come with the award. When Obama, who was born and raised in Hawaii, learned that Marquez grew up on Maui, the president told him "howzit" in a local-style greeting.
Marquez hopes that he can offer some inspiration to Maui youngsters, proving to them that anything is possible.
"It's overwhelming when you come from our (Maui) background. One day you are sitting there, you're in the White House. You know you've come far," he said.
* The Associated Press contributed to this report. Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.