Winnipeg man shot 10 times protecting Manitoba students in D.R. given Star of Courage

24/03/2019 Posted by admin

Lester Lehmann was shot and severely beaten in the Dominican Republic while protecting a group of Manitoba high school students from armed intruders in 2014.

But he doesn’t like being called a hero.

The 67-year-old Winnipeg man was among 44 Canadians presented with the Star of Courage by Governor General David Johnson on Friday at a ceremony in Rideau Hall in Ottawa.

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“It’s quite humbling really,” Lehmann told Global News. “First responders, [firefighters], [police officers], put their lives on the line daily. Mine just happened to be caught on camera.”

READ MORE: Winnipeg man recounts being shot, beaten in Dominican Republic

Lehmann’s story garnered national headlines in January 2014 after he was shot 10 times while defending 26 Manitoba students who were in Puerto Plata volunteering at an orphanage.

The attack was captured on surveillance video and showed two men kicking open a door to his residence and one entering.

In the video, Lehmann is seen chasing an intruder with a baseball bat and striking him. The second man emerges with a handgun. There is a brief struggle in which Lehmann tries to swing the bat at the armed man, who shoots several times. Lehmann falls and starts bleeding, the two men run off before help arrives several minutes later.

Where some people might have frozen, Lehmann said he had to do something.

“Most of them were 16-, 17-year-old girls,” he said. “Some who had never been away from home before. I was responsible for them.”

WATCH: Lester Lehmann speaks out for the first time (2014)

Looking back on the attack he admits his actions might not seem rational.

“There was two guns pointed at me and I thought I’ll just go crazy and be totally irrational,” he said. “I thought they wouldn’t shoot at me because I didn’t have a gun, or a weapon, so my logic was they won’t shoot me.”

“It’s something that happened. It’s ten minutes of my life that it occurred,” he said. “First responders run into danger all the time and don’t get thanked for it nearly enough … I just reacted in an irrational way and got away with it. I’m a lucky person.”

READ MORE: Tighter security could be coming to Parliament Hill: RCMP

Lehmann’s family was in Ottawa to watch their father and grandfather receive the award.

“He doesn’t feel what did was heroic, he felt what he did, he had to do, and that anyone in that situation would do the same thing,” said his son Sean.

And granddaughter Montana said she was  “honoured” to see her grandfather being recognized.

“He always sort of plays it down so it was nice to see him accept the award,” she said.

RCMP constable Curtis Barrett – who helped stop an armed shooter on Parliament Hill – also accepted the Star of Courage.

On Oct. 22, 2014, Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was killed in a shoot out with Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers and six RCMP officers in Centre Block after fatally shooting Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was standing guard at the National War Memorial.

Michael Lumahang and Jesse Haw received a Medal for Bravery for helping rescue a young boy who nearly drowned in the Ottawa River in 2014.

Lumahang first attempted to save the boy by jumping in the river, before Haw dove in after both of them.

Unfortunately during the rescue Lumahang drowned. His mother, Mrs. Aquilina Conulibang Tremblay, accepted the award on his behalf.

“I’m glad that Michael got it alongside me because he helped me get [the boy] back,” Haw told Global News. “The thought that really helped me put the event was knowing that [the boy] was going to start Grade 8 that September and that is enough for me to sleep easy at night.”

*With a file from the Canadian Press