Lieutenant Paul Nichols

(National Security Agency/Central Security Service, MD)

On March 30, 2015, National Security Agency Sergeant Paul Nichols was assigned to duty with several other officers at a high-traffic, publicly accessible vehicle entry point on NSA’s compound at Fort George G. Meade, MD. During his shift, a vehicle with two occupants approached the entry point. The occupants of the vehicle claimed to be lost. When directed by NSA officers to move the vehicle to an adjoining security inspection area, the driver immediately accelerated at high speed onto the NSA compound, nearly striking officers in the area. In response, these officers initiated the unauthorized vehicle entry countermeasures, including a mobile pursuit of the vehicle.

Approaching an activated vehicle barrier in the roadway, the suspect vehicle performed a high-speed U-turn, colliding with a pursuing police vehicle. The suspect vehicle continued at high speed back into the egress lane of the vehicle entry point toward Sergeant Nichols, where it crashed through two heavy metal swing gates. Shrapnel from these gates hurtled toward Sergeant Nichols as he focused on the oncoming high-speed threat.

With remarkable composure, Sergeant Nichols assumed a defensive position with gun drawn and, seconds before impact, fired five rounds, mortally wounding the vehicle’s operator and causing the vehicle to swerve to his right side. As it passed him, the vehicle struck and broke Sergeant Nichols' right hand. Despite his serious injury, and at considerable risk to himself, Sergeant Nichols immediately ran toward the suspect vehicle in order to assess the ongoing threat.

The operator of the vehicle succumbed to his wounds and the passenger was taken into custody. It was later determined that this incident was a random criminal act perpetrated in a stolen vehicle, and not an act of terrorism.

The actions of Sergeant Nichols demonstrate extraordinary bravery and a willingness to save the lives of others, without regard to his own personal safety.

Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger presented Lieutenant Paul Nichols, National Security Agency (NSA), with the Federal Law Enforcement Congressional Badge of Bravery; and Detective Thomas Young, Baltimore Police Department (BPD), with the State and Local Congressional Badge of Bravery, in a semi private ceremony on April 25, 2017. Also in attendance were: Steven Hess, U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Maryland; Chief L. Kemp Ensor, Deputy Chief Bernie Hayes and Lieutenant Colonel Lawrence Stoots (NSA); and Sergeant Jeffrey Becherer and Detective Duane Weston (BPD); and family members of both recipients.