Trooper, officer awarded for heroic actions in 2018 stabbing incident

  • Mass. State Police Trooper Mark Whitcomb, center, and Erving police Officer James Loynd, right, stand with Gov. Charlie Baker, left, after being honored with the George L. Hanna Medal of Honor in Boston. COURTESY PHOTO/ERVING POLICE DEPARTMENT

  • Erving Police Officer James Loynd, left, and Massachusetts State Police Trooper Mark Whitcomb, right, are flanked by fellow law enforcement officers and state Rep. Susannah Whipps, I-Athol, far left, after being honored with the George L. Hanna Medal of Honor in Boston. COURTESY PHOTO/ERVING POLICE DEPARTMENT

Staff Writer
Published: 10/22/2019 11:11:12 PM

BOSTON — “The first person each of them thought about was the other. It was nothing short of heroic.”

Those were words of Judge Richard Carey at Franklin County Superior Court last month, when he commended the actions taken by of Massachusetts State Police Trooper Mark Whitcomb and Erving Police Officer James Loynd during a 2018 high-speed chase and stabbing.

Both law enforcement officers were praised for their selfless acts that likely prevented the deaths of each other, as well as nearby civilians.

Last week, they were honored at the Massachusetts State House, where Gov. Charlie Baker presented them each with the George L. Hanna Medal of Honor.

“Presented annually since 1983, the Hanna Award, the highest honor bestowed on a police officer, is a symbol of prestige, within both the law enforcement community and the commonwealth as a whole,” said the Erving Police Department in a statement.

On Oct. 19, 2018, a New Hampshire man, Nghia Le, led police on a high-speed chase that ended in New Salem.

Le had fled south from New Hampshire in a stolen vehicle, reaching speeds of 110 mph, according to the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office.

The damaged Toyota Camry Le was driving finally came to a stop on Route 202 in New Salem, and Whitcomb, pursuing Le, positioned his vehicle strategically nose-to-nose with the Camry. Just as he was exiting his cruiser, Whitcomb was attacked by Le, who stabbed Whitcomb repeatedly.

Loynd arrived at the scene during the attack, and Whitcomb — a father, U.S. Army veteran and a State Police veteran of roughly 12 years at the time of the attack — was able to call out and warn Loynd about Le having a knife, despite being critically injured.

Loynd fired four shots at an approaching and armed Le, hitting him in the torso before ultimately subduing him. In that process, Loynd was able to toss his medical pack to a fallen Whitcomb. The medical pack contained a tourniquet for Whitcomb’s arm, which was bleeding severely.

With Le subdued and others arriving to treat Whitcomb, Whitcomb’s thoughts were still on a mother and her children, who were nearby and able to hide from a manic Le during the attack.

Both Whitcomb and Le were airlifted to the UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester with severe injuries.

Last month, Le was sentenced to 10 to 12 years in jail for his crimes.

At the sentencing, both Whitcomb and Loynd were praised by Judge Carey for acting with the safety of others first in mind — Whitcomb for warning Loynd during his confrontation with Le, and Loynd for getting his medical pack to Whitcomb during the frenzy.

Hanna Award

The George L. Hanna Medal of Honor is presented each year to officers “for acts of bravery and quick, sound decision-making in the face of life-threatening circumstances,” according to the Erving Police Department.

Considered the highest honor for police officers in the state, the award is named after Trooper George L. Hanna, who served nearly 10 years with State Police before losing his life in the line of duty.

Hanna was conducting a traffic stop on Feb. 26, 1983 in Auburn. Three men and two women were in the car, and when Hanna removed them from the vehicle for questioning, he was “instantaneously shot six times” by one of the men, according to the state’s description of the incident.

Hanna died that evening at a hospital in Worcester, leaving behind a wife and three children. His assailants are serving life sentences.

The George L. Hanna Medal of Honor has since become a “symbol of prestige.”

“It’s an opportunity to publicly recognize the bravery of members of the law enforcement community who put their lives on the line by dedicating themselves to safety throughout Massachusetts,” reads the state’s description of the award.

Last Friday, Gov. Baker presided over the award ceremony, where more than 100 officers received medals. Two officers received the award posthumously, Sgt. Sean Gannon of the Yarmouth Police Department and Sgt. Michael Chesna of the Weymouth Police Department. Their widows accepted their awards.

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.


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