For his actions to protect others at a busy shopping mall while off duty with his family, Special Agent Paul Buta of the United States Secret Service was named Officer of the Month for September 2007 by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF).
Great deals, summer blockbuster movies, and socializing are all reasons people head to their local shopping mall on a Saturday night. The food court is typically the busiest spot within the mall, as mall-goers eat, rest, or gather before seeing a movie. Yet no one expected the food court of the Westfield Annapolis Mall, located in normally quiet Annapolis, Md., to turn from a friendly hangout to a scene of sheer terror.
On the evening of Saturday, November 18, 2006, Special Agent Paul Buta was shopping with his wife and two daughters at the Westfield Annapolis Mall. Buta was preparing for a Secret Service assignment to South America. Shortly after the Buta family entered the mall, they were passed on both sides by a group of young men. The individuals were dressed in a similar style of clothing with hoods pulled over their heads.
As Buta and his family entered the mall's food court, they observed the group begin to violently attack an individual. Buta realized that this altercation had quickly escalated into a life-threatening situation. He instructed his wife to take his daughters to safety as he knew what had to be done.
Without regard for his own safety, Buta went to the aid of the victim. He identified himself as a police officer as he approached the group in hopes of resolving the situation. He continued to give verbal commands and began to stop the offenders from continuing their attack.
It was at that time that Buta observed one of the attackers make a furtive movement, followed by two gunshots. The agent felt an intense burning from his left hip and realized that he had been shot. Buta drew his service weapon and fired at the armed assailant, striking him with two rounds. He continued to give verbal commands, controlled the offender, assessed his wound, and requested that someone call 911 to report that a law enforcement officer had been shot.
Although seriously wounded, Buta remained in control of the situation until he was relieved by two off-duty Maryland State Troopers and officers from the Anne Arundel County (Md.) Police Department. Buta's wife and children, along with hundreds of terrified shoppers, had watched the entire event unfold.
Buta received medical assistance at the scene and was then transported to the University of Maryland Shock Trauma Center, where he underwent four hours of surgery to repair a broken femur. Due to the position of the bullet in relation to the bone, the bullet was left in place, and two metal rods were inserted for support. Buta was up and walking the following day, and doctors credit his excellent physical conditioning for his rapid improvement. Since that time, he has made a full recovery and is currently assigned to the Secret Service's Special Operations Division.
For his heroic actions, Special Agent Paul Buta was awarded the Valor Award from the United States Secret Service. He has also received the Silver Star and the Purple Heart from the Anne Arundel County Police Department. Buta is the first special agent from the United States Secret Service to be honored as Officer of the Month by the NLEOMF.
For more information visit www.NLEOMF.org.