U.S. Border Patrol agent Jonathan Morales tells NBC 7 he is humbled by being named the 2019 Police Officer of the Year. He is the first border patrol agent to receive the honor. Morales was selected because of what he did at the Chabad of Poway.
"It's been more than I expected. You know all of these awards and speeches and recognitions, I never knew it would reach all these levels," Morales said.
Morales' life changed on April 27. He was off-duty and attending services at Chabad of Poway on the last day of Passover when he heard gunshots.
In the lobby of the synagogue, a man with an assault rifle killed parishioner Lori Gilbert-Kaye. Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein was shot in the hand, 34-year-old Almog Peretz, and 8-year-old Noya Dahan were also hurt. As the shooting was happening, Morales ran to help.
"It was my duty to protect everyone there and minimize the injuries and casualties," Morales said.
Morales ran towards the shooter with a revolver. As the suspect ran towards his getaway car and sped off, Morales kept firing and hit the car.
"Everything happened really fast, so I didn't have time to think, 'What should I do?'" Morales said.
The shooter was not hit, but was arrested a short time later. Over the past several months, Morales says he still thinks about the shooting every day.
"I'm always replaying it in my mind, it doesn't go away," says Jonathan Morales.
The 20-year-old man charged with the shooting is in jail awaiting trial. He is also facing charges for trying to set an Escondido Mosque on fire.