Four Albany County Sheriff’s deputies involved in a fatal shooting at Snowy Range Ski Area in December were awarded Medals of Valor Tuesday morning for their attempts to keep a Colorado man alive.

Undersheriff Rob DeBree says deputies Adam Dean, Ed Rosier, Matt Donnell and Aaron Gallegos did everything they could to keep 48-year-old John Alan Britton alive throughout a Dec. 6 standoff in a parking lot at Snowy Range Ski Area.

The situation ended in tragedy when Britton charged the deputies with a hunting knife and at least one of the deputies shot him to death. Britton died at the scene.

“They immediately cared for him as best as they possibly could, and had made arrangements previous to that to have an ambulance standing by in case he needed that,” said DeBree. “And that was mostly for his mental issues.”

Sheriff’s deputies spent much of that Sunday looking for Britton after his friends reported he was possibly suicidal. Dean, Rosier, Donnell and Gallegos eventually found Britton in the ski area parking lot, sitting in a pickup with a hunting knife.

Deputies placed the ski area on lockdown, and DeBree says they negotiated with Britton for over 40 minutes before he suddenly charged them with the knife.

DeBree says the deputies’ actions that day were exemplary, and academy instructors are using the incident to teach trainees strategies for trying to keep such situations from taking a deadly turn.

“It was by the book, if there is such a thing,” says DeBree. “They tried to negotiate, they tried to help him as soon as the shooting took place. They did everything they possibly could, and that’s something that needs to be portrayed to trainees.”

The case is closed, and the deputies were cleared of any wrongdoing within a few weeks. But the final report from the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation has not been released, and it remains unclear who fired the fatal shot or shots.

“What most people don’t understand is this not only affects the deputy, which it will for the rest of their lives, but it affects their families,” says DeBree. “And we believe when there’s a situation like this, they need to be recognized for a lot of the hurdles that they had to overcome -- and probably will for many years.”

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