Ernesto “Brandon” Bucillo risked his life to save a student shot in the head during a campus armed robbery. He wasn’t a hero. He said he was “messing with his guy”.
And on Thursday, Bucillo accepted a military commendation that recognised the heroic act with an encomium for the “act of bravery, determination and exemplary patriotism” as the “law enforcement community in Arizona and beyond” took the ceremonial salute.
President Donald Trump presented the decoration to the veteran at the White House after he and 18 other servicemen and women were honoured for contributions that ranged from rescuing women and children from hurricanes to hunting for militant caves in war-torn Yemen.
We had no idea this man was a member of the Alamo Army!The military recognises and bestows this award.You are Arizona’s hero, Mr Bucillo!
– Robert L Battles, Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office
“You have my personal congratulations and my personal thanks for everything you did,” Trump said as Bucillo’s mother, Martha, clasped the president’s hand and nodded vigorously.
Bucillo told CNN that his “best buddy” shot the armed student in the head during the November attack at Northern Arizona University and that Bucillo “went straight to cover the bullet wound, but the bullet was going to hit another kid.
“I think the only thing I did is I started messing with his guy.”
Bucillo said he was “keenly aware” of the fact that he might be shot and received medical treatment.
“If I get shot, I’m going to the person that shot him and tell them I had nothing to do with it,” Bucillo said, explaining why he decided to play a role in the crime.
The suspect, 21-year-old Esteban Santiago, was charged with shooting the student in the head as he lay on the ground at the university’s main campus, northwest of Phoenix. He also faces an unrelated case involving a gun stolen from a federal employee.
The student survived but became a media sensation after a bystander posted video of the attack.
And three months later, Bucillo was honoured for his actions.
“We had no idea this man was a member of the Alamo Army!” Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Robert L Battles said.
“The military recognises and bestows this award. You are Arizona’s hero, Mr Bucillo!”