WASHINGTON (KABC) --Four Southern California police officers were awarded the Medal of Valor during a ceremony at the White House on Monday.
LAPD Officer Donald Thompson was among those who were honored at the event. He saved a man from a car on fire on the 405 Freeway on Christmas Day 2013. Thompson scaled two freeway dividers to rescue the unconscious driver.
Thompson, a bomb technician for the LAPD, suffered first-and second-degree burns during the incident.
"The officer who suffered those terrible burns, he left urgent care and went straight to work. He had to finish his shift," the president described.
Also honored at the White House were two Santa Monica Police Department officers and a Santa Monica College Police Department captain.
Officers Jason Salas and Robert Sparks and Capt. Raymond Bottenfield confronted 23-year-old gunman John Zawahri in the campus library at Santa Monica City College in June 2013.
They shot and killed the suspect when he pointed his assault weapon at them.
Bottenfield was actually in plain clothes at the time and was not wearing body armor.
"Each of them will tell you very humbly the same thing - they were just doing their jobs. They were doing what they had to do, what they were trained to do like on any other day," the president said.
The medals, the nation's highest honor for law enforcement, recognize exceptional courage to save human life in the face of personal risk.
In all, 13 public safety officers from across the nation were honored at the ceremony, including one who was honored posthumously.
Sgt. Robert Wilson III drew fire from assailants during a robbery while saving store employees and customers. Wilson's family accepted the award on his behalf.
The Medal of Valor ceremony came as Obama holds out hope that legislation reforming the justice system can be passed this year despite the heavily politicized climate ahead of the November election.
The need for change has been a rare point of common ground between Democrats and Republicans, and though momentum appeared to have sputtered earlier this year, a new Senate proposal has raised hopes that the issue could be successfully revived.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch, the nation's top law enforcement official, said there were no words or medals that could begin to pay the debt the country owes the officers.
"It has often been said that the price of freedom is constant vigilance," Lynch said. "Know this: they pay that price on our behalf."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.