The Chief
February 8, 2008

'They Run Toward Danger'

PBA Honors 39 'Finest of Finest'

By REUVEN BLAU

When Police Officers Keith Gallagher and William Svenstrup arrived at the scene of a baby-in-distress call last weekend, there was a panicked crowd on the street in the East Village.

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The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang

SMALL BABY, BIG SAVE: Police Officers Keith Gallagher right, and William Svenstrup were two of the 39 cops honored at the Water Club. Jan. 31 by Patrolmen's Benevolent Association President Patrick J. Lynch, center, during the annual Finest of the Finest award ceremony. They helped resuscitate a choking 21-month-old girl four days earlier.

"It was pretty chaotic," Officer Gallagher recalled Jan. 31 during the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association annual Finest of the Finest award ceremony at the Water Club.

Infant 'Had No Pulse'

Jay Lyn Arroyo, 21 months, was turning blue in her mother's arms, the officers said, referring to the Jan. 27 incident. "I checked the carotid artery, but there was no pulse," said Officer Gallagher, noting that he's a certified emergency medical technician.

The partners decided to rush the baby to Bellevue Hospital, while Officer Gallagher frantically administered CPR in the back seat to the baby, who had a seizure during a bath.

"The mom was in the front, pretty frantic," Officer Gallagher recalled. "Thank God we had a divider cage, which is usually for perps."

After he used his finger to clear her airway, the baby suddenly started breathing again. "When she was revived and I looked into her eyes, it was big," he said, as his eyes watered.

Officer Svenstrup, a 14-year department veteran, said he was just nervous he'd miss the entrance to the hospital or that his partner would tire from administering CPR for the first time in his life.

'A Team Effort'

But while driving he was able to calmly call ahead and try to relax the baby's mother. "It was a team effort," remarked Officer Gallagher, who said he became an EMT because he wants to join the NYPD's elite Emergency Services Unit.

The officers were two of the 39 cops honored for their bravery and compassion at the PBA ceremony.

Union President Patrick J. Lynch told the awardees and their gathered family members that their work often goes unnoticed by the public, who are quick to blame officers when incidents turn tragic.

"When there's danger and chaos, you always find a New York City cop running towards that unknown danger," he said. "And the reality is that many get injured or killed, and sometimes that gets skimmed over."

'Mixed Emotions'

Deceased Police Officer Russell Timoshenko and his injured partner Herman Yan were also honored by their peers. Officer Timoshenko, who was shot in the face and neck after he and his partner stopped a stolen car in Brooklyn, died of his injuries July 14, 2007.

"I have mixed emotions," said Officer Yan, referring to the award. "I'd rather get it another day."

The fatal shooting occurred shortly after 2:15 a.m. on July 9, 2007, when the officers pulled over a black BMW in Prospect-Lefferts Garden, Brooklyn. They noticed that the computer in their squad car indicated that the BMW's license plate belonged to another car.

Officer Timoshenko got out first and approached the driver's side, but was suddenly shot and struck in the head and neck. Officer Yan fired back, and was hit in the arm and chest, which was protected by his bulletproof vest. He called for help, and responding officers rushed their colleagues to the hospital.

Some 'Bad Days'

Shortly afterwards, three men were apprehended. They were charged with first-degree murder when Officer Timoshenko died four days after the shooting. They are: Dexter Bostic and Robert Ellis, who were captured near Interstate 80 in northern Pennsylvania, and Lee Woods, who was arrested in New York.

Officer Yan said that the recovery process has been challenging. "It was hard in the beginning," he remarked, noting that he's had to undergo shoulder surgery and an operation to fix nerves in his hand. "I've had a couple of bad days here and there."

But he stressed that he had no regrets. "I love this job," he asserted. "The more I think about it, the more it fits me. You're kind of born to do it."

P.O. Scott McKenna and Sgt. Sean Lynskey were cited for apprehending a suspect who fatally shot an off-duty subway conductor, which sparked a heated shootout.

The June 23, 2007 incident began in East Harlem as the officers exited their marked police van. "There was a big dispute on the street," recalled Mr. McKenna, who has since been promoted to Sergeant.

'Turned and Fired'

Just as they were getting out of their patrol car, the assailant, Daniel Israel, shot and killed MTA employee Warren Dandridge, 26, in front of a Kennedy Fried Chicken at 110th St. and Fifth Ave.

"When he turned to run, he started firing at us," Sergeant McKenna remembered, noting that there was a crowd of roughly 20 people around.

Asked what happened next, Sergeant Lynskey calmly responded, "We engaged him in a very serious gun battle."

The officers chased Mr. Israel down 110th Street, taking cover under parked cars. "You just go into auto-pilot and do everything you're taught," Sergeant McKenna said.

They eventually shot Mr. Israel in the stomach in front of 1295 Schomburg Plaza. Mr. Israel is now facing second-degree murder charges, which carry a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

The entire shootout "felt like centuries," Sergeant McKenna said.

'Good to Be Recognized'

His partner added, "It's good to be recognized. Most people point out the bad stuff that we do."

As for the officers who rescued the baby, they didn't realize how big a deal the whole incident was until they got back to their stationhouse. "We just thought we were going back out on patrol," Officer Gallagher said.

Officer Svenstrup added that his nieces and nephews were also really proud. "I think my article made a couple of show-and-tells," he remarked.

The other officers who received awards were: Annemarie Marchiondo, Diana Lugo, Jose Santana, Gregory Chin, Phillip Roy, Keith Adamiszyn, Brian McCloskey, Edilio Cruz, Michael Sinner, Meliza Meade, Paul Sorocco, Joseph Cappelman, Daniel Schmelter;

George Bodenmiller, Michael Hayes, John Schmitt, Rebecca Asman, Michael Welsh, Christopher Scott, Silverio Calisi, Robert Tejada, Jorge Tobon, Brian Cregan, John Anzelino, Erik Merizalde, Rory Mangra, Kenneth Avila, Juan Gonzalez, Daniel Mallick, William Ruiz, Jonathan Wilds, Michael Tavolario, Brian McIvor, George Aguilar, and Eric Loria.