The Queen of England awarded the George Medal to three individuals who confronted armed terrorists to protect others in London. Charles Guenigault and Wayne Marques, both police officers and Ignacio Echeverria, a civilian were awarded the George Medal. The George Medal was created to reward civilians for acts of bravery by King George VI in 1940 during the Blitz of London.
On June 3, 2017, three terrorists targeted pedestrians on the London Bridge ramming them with a rented Renault van. After driving off the bridge the terrorists crashed into a metal railing next to the Barrowboy and Banker pub. The three terrorists armed with ceramic knives and wearing fake suicide explosive belts passed Southwark Cathedral then moved into the Borough Market area stabbing people. Police Officer Charles Guenigault was off-duty and out with friends. Armed only with courage he charged in and tackled the terrorists. He was stabbed numerous times in the abdomen, back, head and leg. British Transport Officer Wayne Marques was armed only with a baton and yet took on all three terrorists. Marques was stabbed in the head, hand and leg. Both of the police officers were severely wounded. One of the terrorists then began to attack a woman.
Ignacio Echeverria was on his bicycle that evening pedaling with friends towards the White Chapel area when he observed the attacks. Echeverria stopped and took his skateboard from his back and struck the terrorist with the skateboard surprising him. This gave several people time to flee. Two of the other terrorists then stabbed Ignacio Echeverria, a Spanish citizen who worked in London for HSBC. They then moved on to attack others before being killed outside the Wheatsheaf pub when armed police arrived.
Ignacio Echeverria didn’t have to come to the woman’s assistance, but he did. He didn’t have a baton, a pistol or other weapon so he used his skateboard. Echeverria wasn’t trained to handle terrorists attacking people. How many people would intervene with what appeared to be terrorists with suicide bomber belts and knives attacking people? Yet several unarmed police officers and a civilian did just that. Ignacio Echeverria ended up losing his life when the two other terrorists stabbed him. Echeverria’s parents accepted the George Medal for their son from the Queen.
After this terrorist attack occurred, and the three terrorists were identified one name was readily known even to me. In 2016, Khuram Butt had appeared in a documentary entitled “The Jihadis Next Door.” As part of Abu Haleema’s extremist group that Director Jamie Roberts followed around London filming it should have been apparent to anyone that watched Roberts’ documentary that this group of individuals needed to be under extended close surveillance. But the reality is that surveillance resources can’t stay on a target forever. After a period when the targets don’t engage in overt acts of crime or terrorism are often pulled off a target in lieu of higher priorities. At one point in the documentary the “Jihadis Next Door” were in Regent’s Park in London praying with the Black flag of ISIS. Abu Haleema, a radical cleric, and Butt were associated with Anjem Choudary. One year later Khuram was seeking to rent a larger truck to be able to kill more people but his payment was declined so Butt was forced to rent the smaller van. Besides Khuram Butt, the other two London Bridge terrorists were Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba.
In 1829, Sir Robert Peel created the London Metropolitan Police. Peel would have been proud of his modern-day London Police Officers and a member of the London community. Peel said that “The police are the public and the public are the police; the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.” Peel’s words ring true even today. The acts of bravery by these three courageous men and others that day bring out the best of what Peel thought of citizens and police in London.