May 22, 2015 3:45 pm


PBA Pays Tribute to Valor, Heroism Displayed by Own ‘Finest of Finest’

‘Put Themselves in Danger to Keep Others Safe’


The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang
NARROW ESCAPE: Three officers who were attacked by a ‘lone-wolf’ terrorist wielding a hatchet with their Finest of the Finest Awards. From left, Peter Rivera, Taylor Kraft and Kenneth Healey, right next to PBA President Patrick J. Lynch. Officer Healey was struck in the head. Officers Rivera and Kraft shot and killed the attacker.

The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association honored 51 members May 21 as “the Finest of the Finest,” including four who were seriously hurt on the job and one who was killed.

Police Officer Dennis Guerra died April 9, 2014, of injuries sustained when he and his partner, Rosa Rodriguez, responded to a fire April 6 on the 13th floor of a Coney Island housing project. When the elevator doors opened, the officers were overcome by toxic smoke.

The Chief-Leader/Michel Friang  
STILL HEALING FROM THE FIRE: Police Officer Rosa Rodriguez, injured by smoke inhalation in a fire at a Coney Island housing project that killed her partner, with her Finest of the Finest Award presented by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. At her right is PBA President Patrick J. Lynch.  

Rodriguez Also Honored

Officer Guerra was honored posthumously, with his wife accepting his award. Officer Rodriguez, who spent several weeks in the hospital and is still recovering with the hope of eventually returning to work, attended the ceremony and accepted her own award.

Four other recipients had to cope with an attack by a “lone-wolf” terrorist in Queens. The man ran up to them, striking Police Officer Kenneth Healey in the head with a hatchet and slicing the right forearm of his partner, Joseph Meeker. Police Officers Taylor Kraft and Peter Rivera, who shot and killed the attacker, also received awards. Officer Healy continues to receive rehabilitation treatment.

Police Officer James Li, who was shot in both legs by a gunman evading a bus fare, was honored, along with Officer Randy Chow, who returned fire and gave aid to his wounded partner.

“Those being honored today intervened in deadly crimes, saved the lives of adults and babies and put themselves in deadly situations to keep others safe,” PBA President Patrick J. Lynch said at the awards ceremony at the Water Club in Manhattan. “That is the very definition of the Finest of the Finest.”

The recipients were:


Police Officers Michael Pomerantz, Edelman Santos, Andrew Dossi, Aliro Pellerano and Cesar Gomez of the 46th Precinct. Officers Dossi and Pellerano were just going off duty when they joined three fellow anti-crime cops in the hunt for two gunmen who had just ripped off a deli. A gunfight with the robbers broke out, wounding Officers Dossi and Pellerano. The other officers continued the pursuit and provided the leads that led to two arrests.

Lower Manhattan/Staten Island

Police Officer Richard Ocasio of the 121st Precinct. Officer Ocasio was off-duty at a bank when he noticed another customer with his left hand in his jacket pocket simulating a gun, threatening the teller and demanding cash. He drew his weapon and subdued the would-be robber.

Manhattan South

Police Officers Daniel Sorito, Richard Di Gangi, Justin Solomon and Andrew Babajko and Sgt. Janson Deonarinesingh, all of the 120th Precinct. A civilian flagged down Officers Sorito and DiGangi to report the location of a violent criminal who had tried to run down TBTA cops at the Verrazano toll plaza the night before and was wanted for questioning in two separate homicides. Officers Solomon and Babajko and Sergeant Deonarinesingh joined the manhunt. The man was arrested without further incident.

Police Officers Philip McGovern and Rafael Perez of the 13th Precinct. The pair responded to a call about a baby choking in a restaurant. They found a 16-month-old boy, blue in color and unresponsive in his father’s arms. The cops gave the boy a series of back slaps. He finally gurgled and vomited, and recovered consciousness even before they got him to the hospital.

Police Officers Anthony Marciano and Matthew Doran of the Midtown North Precinct. Called to a residential fire on West 52nd St., these officers were told by fleeing residents that two elderly people were still inside. The officers climbed through the smoky stairway to the second floor where they found an old man, whom they carried to safety. On the third floor, they found an old woman and carried her out as well.

Police Officers Michael Konatsotis and David Roussine of the 19th Precinct. They were flagged down by frantic parents carrying a 15-month-old baby girl who was turning blue. Officer Konatsotis, who had been a volunteer EMT in Queens, started mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, while his partner sped the infant to the hospital, covering six blocks in 80 seconds. By the time they got there, the girl was belching and crying.

Brooklyn North

Police Officers Billy Cepeda and Thomas Sackett of the 83rd Precinct. The officers responded to a domestic dispute that involved an emotionally-disturbed person slashing his own arm with a foot-long knife. “Drop the knife, drop the knife,” they commanded. “You’re going to have to kill me,” he replied before lunging at them with the knife. Officer Cepeda met the threat with a single bullet to the abdomen, wounding the EDP.

Police Officer Michael Caccavale of the 90th Precinct. Officer Caccavale was at home when he heard a woman scream. He ran outside and saw her partially undressed, lying on the sidewalk. She pointed at a fleeing man, saying he’d tried to rape her. The officer chased him and collared him within a couple of blocks.

Manhattan North

Police Officers Brittany Handle and Robert Wong of the 19th Precinct and Luis Maldonado and Leonardo Munoz of the 23rd Precinct. A gunman had robbed an Upper East Side pharmacy, but an employee placed a GPS tracking device in the bag with the loot. The officers cornered the robber’s vehicle on a service road of the FDR Drive. He pointed a 9-mm. handgun at them and died in a hail of bullets.

Brooklyn South

Police Officers James Lu and Randy Chow of the 71st Precinct Impact Unit. Staking out a bus stop looking for fare-beaters, they saw two men boarding through the rear door. One of the men fled on foot, and the officers gave chase. He turned and began firing at them. They returned fire, although Officer Li was hit in both legs. Officer Chow called a 10-13, and responding officers apprehended the shooter.

Police Officers Roberto Pagan and Timothy Donohue of the 71st Precinct. A man stabbed and wounded a young Jewish man praying at an Orthodox Jewish world headquarters building. When Officer Donohue arrived, the stabber was still waving the knife. When Officer Pagan and other cops responded, he man came at Pagan with the knife. Officers shot him to death.

Queens North

Police Officer Joseph Esposito of the 114th Precinct. He arrived at a scene at which a man had shot and killed his own daughter and her dog and was threatening suicide. Officer Esposito saw the man through the front door still holding a shotgun. The man stepped outside and refused several commands to drop the weapon. Then he aimed it at Officer Esposito, who shot him to death.

Queens South

Police Officers Kenneth Healey, Joseph Meeker, Taylor Kraft and Peter Rivera of the 103rd Precinct. A hooded man sneaked up behind these officers with a hatchet, hitting Officer Meeker in the arm and Officer Healey in the head. Officers Kraft and Rivera discharged 11 rounds and killing the attacker. Online chatter revealed he had terrorist ties. Officer Healey is still recovering.

Police Officers William Neville and David Hudson of the 101st Precinct. Responding with other officers to a radio run of a dispute, they found themselves in a stairwell chasing a man with a gun. Officer Hudson, who spotted the weapon in the man’s waistband and shouted, “Gun, gun,” grabbed the man’s t-shirt, which ripped off. The gunman pointed his weapon at pursuing cops. Officer Neville fired four shots in the gunman’s direction, wounding him.

Transit Bureau

Police Officers Joshua Rivera and Juan Rodriguez of Transit Bureau K-9. These officers were on foot patrol with their four-legged partners when they were told that a man had collapsed nearby in Union Square. Officer Rivera began CPR while Officer Rodriguez rushed to the Transit District 4 office in the subway station and grabbed a defibrillator. It took three attempts but the defibrillator jumped-started the man’s heart.

Police Officer Carvel Alexander of Homeless Outreach. Officer Alexander often helps people in ways above and beyond the call of duty. He buys things for the homeless out of his own pocket. He gives his last $20 bill to a mother and her three malnourished kids. He purchases clothes for people who need them and then treats them to a meal.

Police Officers Rony Nunez and Jose Jiminez and Sgt. Christopher Lockel of PSA 9. They responded to a gunpoint robbery at which the victim refused to turn over his property. The robber shot at him but missed. Officers chased the gunman down, and they exchanged fire with him. Wounded in the leg, he surrendered.

Housing Bureau

Police Officers Jose Collazo, James Thomas, Sean Higgins, Jennifer Nicalek, John Schad and Chintankum Patel of PSA 9. Officers Schad and Chintankum confronted a gunman who refused commands to drop his weapon and pointed it at them instead. They fired several times, then transmitted a 10-13. The gunman continued to ignore commands to drop his weapon, pointing it at every cop he encountered, and was shot to death.

Emergency Service Unit

Detectives Jimmy Griffin and Scott Roberts of ESU 10. The two officers were off-duty, volunteering at the fire department in Stony Brook, L.I., when they were called to the scene of an auto accident. They found a mangled wreck, with the driver pinned inside, bleeding but still alive. The car had to be cut away from him, which took 20 minutes. The driver whose life was saved turned out to be Michael Renna, who had been training ESU cops for the past 14 years in the Firearms & Tactics Section.