Last year Fairfax County Police Officer First Class Lance T. Guckenberger, a star quarterback for the 1992 George Mason High School Mustangs in Falls Church, made a life-saving, spectacular play on the field of real life. This week was honored for his heroism as the recipient of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police’s highest honor, the Award for Valor.
The award recognizes a law enforcement officer who, in the line of duty, performs an act of extraordinary heroism while engaged with an adversary at imminent personal risk.
For his actions on the night of January 14, 2005 at a check cashing store in Bailey’s Crossroads, Guckenberger earlier received the Fairfax County Police’s Silver Medal of Valor.
Guckenberger came upon an armed robbery in progress at the Ace Cash Express Store, and with an exchange of gunfire, including eight shots fired at him, as able to obtain the safe release of the store clerk while shooting the suspect in leg, enabling his capture by police colleagues who arrived after he’d alerted them by radio.
The suspect, Roderick D. Jordan, was subsequently convicted of attempted capital murder of a police officer and sentenced to life in prison. Guckenberger and the store clerk both survived the incident unharmed.
Upon news of the award this week, Fairfax County Police Chief Col. David M. Rohrer stated, “Our department is extremely proud of Officer Guckenberger’s courage, bravery and professionalism. He is a role model for others and an example of our fine police officers.”
Guckenberger enjoyed a major role on the Fall of `92 George Mason High School football team during his senior year. He led his team in total offense with over 1,000 yards, passing for 658 and rushing for 380. He switched from quarterback to running back midway through the season due to an injury to his passing arm. He also kicked the team’s extra points and led the team in total scoring. The team finished with a record of five wins, six losses.
His younger brother, Brad, also excelled in sports at Mason High and lives in the area as a real estate broker.
According to a public information report from the Fairfax Police, the events of January 14, 2005 unfolded as follows:
“PFC Guckenberger responded to a hold up alarm at Ace Cash Express Store, located at 5624 Columbia Pike in the Bailey’s Crossroads area. Behind the locked glass door of the store was a violent suspect in the process of committing an armed robbery.
“As Officer Guckenberger approached the business, unaware that the suspect was inside the store, the suspect observed his arrival. The suspect allowed the manager to leave the store in order to tell the officer that everything was fine.
“The manager fled screaming from the story and the officer swiftly led her to safety behind his unmarked car. The suspect walked out of the store with his gun drawn and confronted the officer. PFC Guckenberger pushed the store manager underneath the trunk of his patrol car to keep her protected while maintaining his attention on the suspect.
“The suspect refused to follow any commands and fired his weapon at the officer. As PFC Guckenberger fired at the suspect, he remained calm and attempted to update the dispatcher of the dangerous situation. In addition, he was composed enough to request that the backup units needed to respond quickly.
“As he was changing firing positions, he observed the suspect attempting to sneak away from the scene by crouching behind a vehicle and slowly walking/crawling from the area. Once again, PFC Guckenberger gave the suspect a chance to surrender by giving loud and clear commands, but the suspect refused and continued his escape.
“At this point, PFC Guckenberger recognized that the suspect was trying to elude capture; that he still maintained control of his weapon; and that he was an immediate risk to public safety. PFC Guckenberger gained a tactically sound position, fired at the suspect and struck him in the leg. The suspect immediately fell to the ground with the weapon still in his hand.
“Once adequate backup arrived, the suspect was handcuffed and immediately treated for his injuries. Overall the suspect fired eight shots at PFC Guckenberger and neither he nor the store manager was injured.”