As shouts of "officer down" echoed over the radio, First Precinct units converged on a Wyandanch neighborhood. Moments later, gunshots were being exchanged between officers and a man barricaded inside a Mount Avenue house.
When Sgt. Anthony Pierri finally returned home the night of April 6, 1971, he was covered in snow and blood.
That's how his daughter, Lynn Pierri of Dix Hills, remembers it. But over the years, he wouldn't talk much about what had happened.
"My father was a very humble person," she said. "He would have told you he was just doing his job."
More than four decades later, Pierri, who died in 2011, and retired Det. Dennis Delaney, 68, were awarded the Medal of Honor Tuesday at the Suffolk County Police Department awards ceremony at Stony Brook University's Staller Center.
The officers were honored for courage "above and beyond the call of duty" in risking their lives to rescue a critically wounded officer. Before Tuesday night, only two officers had received the department's highest honor.
"They are finally receiving long-overdue recognition for their actions that night," Police Commissioner Edward Webber said.
That night in 1971, George Frees became the first Suffolk officer to be killed in the line of duty. He and Officer Robert Staab had responded to a domestic case in which a man had shot a woman and was armed with a high-powered rifle.
When they arrived at the house, Frees, in the driver's seat, was fatally shot. Staab was shot in the stomach as he stepped out of the patrol car.
Pierri and Delaney arrived moments later and ran to the officers' aid, deliberately drawing the sniper's attention. Delaney and Pierri worked together to provide cover for Staab, whom they lifted into the patrol car's trunk for his protection.
The officers managed to get the bullet-riddled car out of harm's way. At Good Samaritan Hospital in West Islip, Frees was pronounced dead; Staab would survive.
Suffolk Police Chief of Department James Burke said Tuesday that he asked the awards committee to revisit the case after someone told him that Delaney and Pierri's heroism hadn't been properly recognized.
Delaney said the medal really means "George Frees and Robert Staab will be remembered for all time. . . . Every time I look at this I will think of them."
In other awards Tuesday night, Officer Mark Collins, who was shot twice in March during a foot chase in Huntington Station, was awarded a Purple Heart medal and a Combat Gold medal. Det. Nicholas Guerrero, who was hit by a car in September, was awarded a Purple Heart medal.