Fifty-one uniformed members of the NYPD were honored by their peers for their courageous and unselfish acts of bravery at the PBA’s “Finest of the Finest” awards ceremony with plaques commemorating their deeds and lunch at The Water Club in Manhattan.
Among the recipients are police officer Dennis Guerra who died after becoming overcome with smoke in a Coney Island arson fire. His partner, police officer Rosa Rodriguez, attended the ceremony and accepted her award while officer Guerra’s wife accepted on his behalf. Other recipients included police officer Kenneth Healey who was nearly killed when struck in the head with a hatchet by a “lone wolf” terrorist, his partner Joseph Meeker who sustained a serious laceration to his right forearm during the attack and police officers Taylor Kraft and Peter Rivera who shot and killed the attacker. Police officer James Li who was shot in both legs by a gunman evading a bus fare and Li’s partner Randy Chow who returned fire and gave aid to his wounded partner were also being honored among many others.
PBA president Patrick J. Lynch said: “What makes these awards unique and special to those who receive them is that it is an honor bestowed upon them by their colleagues who are quick to recognize true courage or acts of great compassion among their ranks. We are deeply saddened that police officer Dennis Guerra did not live to receive this honor in person but we are honored to have his family here today on his behalf. 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. That is the very definition of the Finest of the Finest.”
Listed below are the names and cases of those who were honored:
POLICE OFFICERS MICHAEL POMERANTZ, EDELMAN SANTOS, ANDREW DOSSI, ALIRO PELLERANO AND CESAR GOMEZ of the 46 Pct. are named the Finest of the Finest for their Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend His Life and the Lives of Fellow Police Officers in an Exchange of Gunfire With Armed Assailants.
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. They tracked down the robbers and a gunfight broke out in which Dossi and Pellerano were both wounded. The other officers made sure their bleeding comrades got quick medical attention, continued their dangerous pursuit and provided the leads that led to the capture of the triggerman and his accomplice.
POLICE OFFICER RICHARD OCASIO of the 121 Pct. is named the Finest of the Finest for Brave and Valiant Action Taken While off Duty to Physically Subdue and Apprehend an Attempted Bank Robber.
Early this year, when he was with the 120, Richard Ocasio was off duty and in a bank making a transaction at one of the windows. He suddenly noticed that at another window there was a man making another kind of transaction. Like a gangster in a black-and-white movie, the guy had his left hand in his jacket pocket simulating a gun, threatening the teller and demanding cash. The unfortunate thief then heard, “Police, don’t move,” and saw Ocasio’s off-duty weapon pointing at him. The officer had to take the guy down to the floor before he could get the cuffs on him. Nobody got hurt.
POLICE OFFICERS DANIEL SORITO, RICHARD DI GANGI, JUSTIN SOLOMON AND ANDREW BABAJKO AND SERGEANT JASON DEONARINESINGH, all of the 120 Pct. are named the Fines of the Finest for Quick-Thinking and Tactically Excellent Action Taken to Effect the Apprehension of an Armed and Dangerous Fugitive From Justice.
These officers were on routine patrol but there was nothing routine about the bad guy they soon would be looking for. It started when a civilian flagged Sorito and Di Gangi down to say, “I know where the shooter you’re looking for is.” That fugitive was Tyrell Brown, a career criminal, being sought right then because he had tried to run down TBTA cops at the Verrazano toll plaza the night before. But he had lots of other recent crimes to his credit, including a gunpoint carjacking. And he was wanted for questioning in two separate homicides. Solomon, Babajko and Sergeant Deonarinesingh joined the manhunt. Information from witnesses led then to the wanted man, dressed in gray and wearing a wig under his hoodie. They arrested him without further incident.
POLICE OFFICERS PHILIP MCGOVERN AND RAFAEL PEREZ of the 13th Pct. are named the Finest of the Finest for their Compassionate, Quick-Thinking and Medically Expert Action Taken to Save the Life of a 16-Month-Old Child Choking on Food.
The call was about a baby choking in a restaurant. When these officers responded, they found a 16-month-old boy, blue in color and unresponsive in his father’s arms. The cops’ training kicked in. They gave the boy a series of back slaps and were finally rewarded with gurgling and vomit. The boy recovered consciousness even before they got him to the hospital.
POLICE OFFICERS ANTHONY MARCIANO AND MATTHEW DORAN of the Midtown North Pct. are named the Finest of the Finest for Brave, Valiant and Compassionate Action Taken at the Risk of Their Own Lives to Save two Elderly People From a Burning Building.
Called to residential fire on West 52nd Street, these officers encountered people fleeing a walkup apartment building with smoke billowing out of the windows. Two elderly people were still inside, they told these cops. So Marciano and Duran went into action. They climbed through the smoky stairway to the second floor where they found an old man. They carried him to safety. On the third floor, they found an old woman and carried her out to safety. Two residents were treated for smoke inhalation. But thanks to these two cops, everyone was safe.
POLICE OFFICERS MICHAEL KONATSOTIS AND DAVID ROUSSINE of the 19th Pct. are named the Finest of the Finest in Recognition of the rapid actions they took to Save the Life of an Unresponsive 15-Month-Old Baby Girl.
This is another case of an unresponsive baby turning blue. These officers were flagged down by frantic parents carrying a 15-month-old baby girl in that precarious position. They acted quickly. Konatsotis, who had been a volunteer EMT in Queens, started administering mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, while Roussine sped the infant to the hospital, a six-block drive that he completed in 80 seconds. By the time they got there, the girl was belching and crying, and no sounds could have been more welcome.
POLICE OFFICERS BILLY CEPEDA AND THOMAS SACKETT of the 83 PCT. are named the Finest of the Finest for Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend His Life and the Lives of a Fellow Police Officer and a Civilian in an Encounter With a Knife-Wielding Attacker.
The knife was about a foot long that these cops encountered when they responded to a domestic dispute that involved an emotionally disturbed person slashing his own arm with the blade. “Drop the knife, drop the knife,” the officers 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. He didn’t kill the EDP but he stopped him.
P.O. MICHAEL CACCAVALE of the 90 Pct. is named the Finest of the Finest for Swift and Valiant Action Taken While Off Duty to Chase Down and Apprehend an Attempted Rapist.
Officer Caccavale was off duty and at home when he heard a woman’s frantic screams coming from outside his house. Without hesitation, he ran outside and saw a young woman, partially undressed lying on the sidewalk. She pointed at a man fleeing the scene, saying he’d tried to rape her. Without regard for his own safety, Mike took off after him and, catching up with him after a couple of blocks and collaring him. He made sure the attempted rapist wouldn’t find another victim on that night.
POLICE OFFICERS BRITTANY HANDLE AND ROBERT WONG of the 19th Pct. and POLICE OFFICERS LUIS MALDONADO AND LEONARDO MUNOZ of the 23rd Pct. are named the Finest the Finest for Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend Their Lives and the Lives of Fellow Police Officers in a Deadly Confrontation With an Armed and Dangerous Robber.
It started with a gunpoint robbery of a pharmacy on the Upper East Side. What the robber didn’t know was that one of the drugstore’s employees made sure that a GPS tracking device was in the bag containing the loot. It automatically triggered a search for the perp by cops from two precincts. With the GPS guiding them, these officers were able to track the robber and cut off escape routes until they cornered him in an S.U.V. on the FDR’s northbound service road near 96th Street. As the officers converged on the vehicle, the perp showed a 9-millimeter handgun and pointed it at them. He died in a hail of police bullets.
POLICE OFFICERS JAMES LI AND RANDY CHOW of the 71 Pct. Impact Unit are named the Finest of the Finest for Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend His Life and the Life of a Fellow Police Officer in an Exchange of Gunfire With a Murderous Assailant.
These officers were staked out inside a store to observe an MTA bus stop, on the lookout for fare beaters. Soon they saw two men get on the bus through the rear door. After the cops held the bus and approached the men, one was cooperative showing his Metrocard, but the other was anything but cooperative. He reluctantly left the bus but immediately started running with Li and Chow in pursuit. Then he turned and began firing at the officers, who returned fire – Li, even though he was hit in both legs. Chow signaled a 10-13 and attended to his partner. Other responding officers apprehended the shooter after a search. He was still armed.
POLICE OFFICERS ROBERTO PAGAN AND TIMOTHY DONOHUE of the 71 Pct. are named the Finest of the Finest for Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend Their Lives and the Lives of Fellow Police Officers and Innocent Bystanders in a Confrontation With a Knife-Wielding Emotionally Disturbed Person.
Inside an Orthodox Jewish world headquarters building, a man claiming to want to convert to Judaism instead wound up stabbing a young man at prayer, causing a serious wound. When Officer Donohue got there, the EDP still had the knife and was waving it around in a threatening manner. Officer Pagan and other cops responded and the man with the knife came at Pagan with the knife. One bullet to the abdomen ended the threat and the EDP’s life.
P.O. JOSEPH ESPOSITO of the 114 Pct. is named the Finest of the Finest for Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend His Life and the Lives of a Fellow Police Officer and Innocent Civilians in a Confrontation With a Shotgun-Toting Murderer.
The perp in this case had shot and killed his own daughter and her dog before the police got to him. He had told 911 of his crimes and was threatening suicide. Officer Esposito, among the first to get to the scene, saw the man through the front door still holding his weapon – a shotgun. Still armed, he stepped out of his front doorway and refused several commands to drop the weapon. Then he aimed it this officer, who responded the only way he could, with two lethal bullets.
POLICE OFFICERS TAYLOR KRAFT AND PETER RIVERA of the 103 Pct. are named the Finest of the Finest for Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend Their Lives and the Lives of Fellow Police Officers Who Were Seriously Injured by a Hatchet-Wielding Terrorist.
The media weren’t quick to call this a lone-wolf terrorist attack at the time but that’s just what it was. These officers and two others, not long out of the Academy, were standing on a street corner posing for a picture for a freelance photographer. Without warning, a hooded man, subsequently identified as Zale Thompson, came up behind them with a hatchet, hitting Officer Joseph Meeker in the arm and Officer Kenneth Healey in the head. Both wounds were bad, Healey’s critical. Officers Kraft and Rivera reacted in seconds, discharging eleven rounds and killing the terrorist. And that’s what he was. His online chatter revealed unmistakable ties to a U.S.-based radical Islamic jihadist who advocated violence against the U.S. government.
POLICE OFFICERS KENNETH HEALEY AND JOSEPH MEEKER of the 103 Pct. are named the Finest of the Finest in Recognition of Their Dedication to the City of New York and of the Serious Injuries They Sustained in a Terrorist Attack During Their Service as Police Officers.
These officers were never given a chance to react to the terrorist with the hatchet because he struck them first. Meeker suffered a serious laceration to the right forearm and Healey sustained a life-threatening slice into the back of his head. Both were hospitalized, Meeker was released very soon, but it was touch-and-go for Healey. He fooled everyone though. Miraculously, he got out of the hospital – in a wheelchair, of course – after six days. Today, Meeker is fully recovered and Healey is still rehabbing, hoping to return to full duty soon.
POLICE OFFICERS WILLIAM NEVILLE AND DAVID HUDSON of the 101 Pct. are named the Finest of the Finest for Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend Their Lives and the Lives of Fellow Police Officers in a Confrontation With an Armed Fugitive.
Responding with other officers to a radio run of a dispute, Officers Neville and Hudson found themselves in a stairwell chasing a man with a gun. Officer Hudson, who spotted the weapon in his waistband and shouted, “Gun, gun,” grabbing the man’s t-shirt, which ripped off and wound up in the officer’s hand. The gunman, running up the stairs, pointed his weapon at pursuing cops. Officer Neville reacted quickly, firing four shots in the gunman’s direction, three of them finding their mark. A black 9-millimeter handgun was recovered near the gunman’s wounded body.
POLICE OFFICERS JOSHUA RIVERA AND JUAN RODRIGUEZ of TRANSIT BUREAU K-9 is named the Finest of the Finest for Alert, Quick-Thinking and Medically Expert Action Taken to Save the Life of a 60-year-old Man Who Had Collapsed and Was Not Breathing.
These officers were on foot patrol with their four-legged partners when a civilian ran up to them and told them that a man had collapsed nearby, on 15th Street and Union Square West. They found the man, on the ground, with no pulse. They knew what to do. Rivera began CPR while Rodriguez rushed to the Transit District 4 office in the Union Square subway station and grabbed a defibrillator. It took three attempts but the defibrillator jumped-started the man’s heart. He was conscious and alert on the way to the hospital.
Police Officer CARVEL ALEXANDER of Homeless Outreach is named the Finest of the Finest for his Devoted, Compassionate and Extremely Selfless Service to the Homeless at Every Opportunity, of which He Has Had Many.
Homeless Outreach is an NYPD unit meant exclusively to help people. Officer Carvel Alexander has fulfilled that mission in ways above and beyond the call of duty. He buys things for the homeless out of his own pocket. He gives his last twenty-dollar bill to a mother and her three malnourished kids. He buys clothes for people who need them and then treats them to a meal. He does this time and time again. We just had to recognize him as a “Finest of the Finest.”
POLICE OFFICERS RONY NUNEZ AND JOSE JIMINEZ AND SERGEANT CHRISTOPHER LOCKEL of PSA 9 are named the Finest of the Finest for Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend Their Lives and the Lives of Fellow Police Officers and Innocent Civilians in an Exchange of Gunfire With an Armed Robber.
Shots fired was the initial report, and it turned out to be an attempted gunpoint robbery. The victim refused to turn over his property, got shot at for his refusal but the perp missed. The shooter ran from the scene, soon to be chased down by these and other officers. He then began shooting at his pursuers, who returned fire. Finally he was cornered, tossed his pistol away, sat down on a bench and was arrested. It was later discovered that he had a gunshot wound to his leg.
POLICE OFFICERS JOSE COLLAZO, JAMES THOMAS, SEAN HIGGINS, JENNIFER NICALEK, JOHN SCHAD AND CHINTANKUM PATEL of PSA 9 are named the Finest of the Finest for Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend His Life and the Lives of Fellow Police Officers and Innocent Civilians in a Confrontation With an Armed Perpetrator.
Responding to a radio run of shots-fired, Schad and Chintankum were the first officers to confront the gunman, who refused commands to drop his weapon pointed it at them instead. They fired their weapons several times then transmitted a signal 10-13, which brought these other officers to the pursuit that followed. The gunman continued to ignore commands to drop his weapon, pointing his firearm at every cop he encountered, and finally paid for it with his life as he was struck by seven police bullets.
POLICE OFFICER ROSA RODRIGUEZ of PSA 1 AND DENNIS GUERRA of PSA 1 is named the Finest of the Finest for Brave and Valiant Action Taken While Risking Life and Limb to Rescue Trapped People From a Burning Building.
Officer Guerra, who gave his life protecting others, died as a result of injuries sustained in the fire. Family members accepted his award.
The two cops were returning from taking a prisoner to Brooklyn Central Booking when the fire call came in. The pair reached the building before other first responders and immediately went upstairs toward the fire, knowing there were rescues to be made. They entered a building elevator and a minute later, when the door opened on the 13th floor, they faced a barrage of smoke overcoming them both. Officer Rodriguez was rushed to a hospital in critical condition, where she remained for weeks. Officer Guerra never regained consciousness and died three days later. As they say, greater love hath no man…
DETECTIVES JIMMY GRIFFIN AND SCOTT ROBERTS OF ESU 10 are named the Finest of the Finest for Alert, Quick-Thinking and Expert Action Taken While Off Duty to Extricate a Fellow Member of the NYPD Service Who Was Pinned in His Auto Following a Highway Accident.
What these guys did shows that NYPD officers’ devotion to duty doesn’t stop at the city line. Coincidentally, it just so happens that it was all NYPD officers who were involved in this incident in Stony Brook, Long Island. Bur Griffin and Roberts, volunteers for the local fire department, didn’t know that a fellow member of the NYPD service was the victim when they responded to a “confirmed pin with serious injuries.” What they found on the highway was a mangled wreck, with the driver pinned inside. The auto was split in half, with the roof caved in on the driver, who was bleeding but still alive. The victim couldn’t be moved so the car had to be cut away from him. It took a suspenseful 20 minutes. The life they saved belonged to Michael Renna, who had been training ESU cops for the past 14 years in the Special Weapons Module of the Firearms & Tactics Section.