Thursday, May 26, 2016

Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico presents awards at the New York State Police Annual Awards Day Ceremony

New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico commended and recognized 22 individuals and two Division units for bravery, investigative persistence, police education, traffic safety, community service and overall exceptional contributions at the New York State Police Annual Awards Day Ceremony.

The 40th annual ceremony, held at the Performing Arts Center at the University at Albany, paid tribute to the courage and perseverance of employees and sworn members of the New York State Police.

Today’s awards ceremony immediately followed the State Police’s Annual Memorial
Day Service to honor the memory and service of deceased members of the State Police.
In 2015, the New York State Police lost one member in the line of duty, Trooper Donald Fredenburg Jr. - SP Academy. This year, the name of Senior Investigator Thomas G. Moran, Jr. was also added to the Trooper Wall of Honor. Senior Investigator Moran, 54, died on July 22, 2012, from cancer stemming from his assignment at the World Trade Center Site following the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001.

Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said, "Today, we recognize State Police employees; troopers, investigators and civilians, sworn and non-sworn, who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to this agency and the people of New York. Our honorees have shown tremendous bravery, dedication or leadership out on the road, or at one of our installations across the state. Every day our employees continue the fine tradition of the State Police and work to keep New Yorkers safe.”

The following awards were presented:

Brummer Award – Highest Award for Heroism

The Brummer Award, established in 1968 by Wall Street financier and philanthropist Bertram F. Brummer, represents valor, heroism, and outstanding performance of duty by members of the New York State Police. Inclusive of this year, the Brummer Award has been presented 100 times, including 13 times posthumously.

Trooper Donald L. Atkinson - Troop C
Trooper Lawrence F. Gurdo II – Troop D
Trooper Donald L. Atkinson is a 15-year veteran of the New York State Police assigned to SP Whitney Point.

Trooper Lawrence F. Gurdo II is a two-year veteran with Division and is currently stationed at SP Oneida Communications. At the time of this incident, he was assigned to SP Binghamton.

On July 15, 2015, Troopers Atkinson and Gurdo were dispatched to Whitney Point Dam, in the town of Triangle, for the report of a distressed swimmer in an area of restricted water.

Trooper Atkinson learned from witnesses that a 14-year-old girl was yelling for help after being pulled into one of the dam's intake tunnels. He could hear the girl calling for help, but he could not see her. Trooper Atkinson entered the water in an effort to locate and rescue the victim.

Shortly thereafter, Trooper Gurdo arrived on the scene and provided a rope to Trooper Atkinson. Upon receiving the rope, Trooper Atkinson continued to the intake tunnels while Trooper Gurdo entered the water from the other side of the structure. In the third and last entryway, Trooper Atkinson located the victim within the tunnel. Trooper Gurdo, who had now joined Trooper Atkinson, assisted him up onto a ledge two feet above the water. Trooper Atkinson threw the victim a rope and both pulled the victim to the safety of the ledge.

United States Army Corps of Engineers personnel assigned to the dam advised the speed of the water going through the intake tunnels was approximately 1,400 cubic feet per second, creating an extremely strong undercurrent, and the water temperature was 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Dam personnel advised the Troopers and victim would not have survived had they gone any further into the intake tunnel, as they would have been pulled underwater into a 1/4 mile long tunnel and would not be able to overcome the current.

For his actions, Trooper Atkinson was awarded the International Chiefs of Police 2015 Trooper of the Year award.

Superintendent’s Commendation Awards

The recipients of the Superintendent’s Commendation Awards were selected from the many members who have received Letters of Commendation from the Superintendent during the past year. The awards presented today recognize the recipients’ outstanding performance of duty and exceptional contribution to the New York State Police.

Major Charles Guess – Troop B
Major Guess entered service with Division on October 1, 1990 and is the Troop Commander of Troop B.

On June 6, 2015, Richard Matt and David Sweat, two convicted murderers, escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York. Over the next 23 days, one of the most intense investigations and searches in State Police history occurred. From the earliest stages, Major Guess was involved with every facet of the operation. He assembled an elite team of State Police personnel to coordinate all of the New York State, federal, and local law enforcement command and response efforts.

Additionally, Major Guess encouraged constant briefing of community leaders, conducted numerous interviews with media outlets, and coordinated continual updates to the media in order to keep the public informed.

On June 26, 2015, fugitive Richard Matt was shot and killed; and on June 28, 2015, fugitive David Sweat was captured. During the 23 days of searching and investigation, thousands of law enforcement personnel responded, with no law enforcement personnel or citizens being injured or killed.

Technical Sergeant Jay D. Cook – Troop B
Technical Sergeant Jay D. Cook entered service with Division on April 11, 1994 and currently supervises the Traffic Incident Management Team in Troop B.

In June 2015, Sergeant Cook took a lead role as a patrol supervisor during the search for David Sweat and Richard Matt. He coordinated the response of Troopers assigned to his strike team, and responded to numerous reported sightings and reports of suspicious activity.

On June 28, 2015, Sergeant Cook was searching the town of Constable for David Sweat, suspecting that he was traveling toward the Canadian Border. Sergeant Cook was patrolling on Coveytown Road, approximately two and a half miles south of the border, when he observed an individual walking. Sergeant Cook recognized the subject as David Sweat, and issued verbal commands for him to stop. The escaped murderer refused and fled. Sergeant Cook pursued Sweat on foot, continuing to issue verbal commands. After pursuing Sweat for over 100 yards, and having no other option to gain custody of the fleeing escapee, Sergeant Cook discharged his Division-issue sidearm, striking Sweat twice.

Sergeant Cook took Sweat into custody and coordinated his immediate medical care which undoubtedly contributed to saving his life. Sergeant Cook's actions concluded the 23-day manhunt and prevented a dangerous escapee from likely absconding into Canada.

Technical Sergeant Ronald M. Pena – Troop B
Technical Sergeant Ronald M. Pena entered service with Division on September 27, 1997, and is the Senior Firearms Instructor in Troop B.

In June 2015, Sergeant Pena coordinated countless building and area searches during the Clinton Correctional manhunt detail. He remained in the field and assembled a strike team to provide immediate action searches in areas in which Special Operations Teams were not immediately available. On June 26, 2016, Sergeant Pena and his team responded to a report of shots fired in the area of State Route 30, in the town of Malone.

Sergeant Pena located a small camper in a wooded area east of the roadway and detected the odor of gun powder in the air and a set of footprints traveling away from the camper. Sergeant Pena met with the United States Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol Tactical Unit (BORTAC) National Team leader and advised him of his findings. The BORTAC team entered the woods south of the camper.

Sergeant Pena was then advised of camper trailer which was reportedly struck by gunfire while traveling on State Route 30. He responded to the campground, conducted interviews, and noted shotgun slug holes on both sides of the camper. Sergeant Pena concluded that the camper had recently been in the area where he smelled the gun powder.

Sergeant Pena returned to his original location and, along with several uniform members, took a position on the wood line north of the BORTAC location.  Sergeant Pena learned that two distinct coughs were heard in the woods. He immediately notified the BORTAC team leader. Moments later, the BORTAC located escapee, Richard Matt, armed with a shotgun and ordered him to drop the shotgun.  Matt refused and the BORTAC was forced to use deadly physical force to take him into custody.

Trooper Thomas A. Gallery - Troop D
Trooper Thomas A. Gallery entered service with Division on August 16, 2007 and is assigned to Troop D at SP Hastings.

On January 7, 2015, Trooper Gallery responded to a residence in Central Square, NY to assist State Police Investigator Charlotte Yerdon with the arrest of a subject for Rape and Criminal Sex Act 3rd degree.

Trooper Gallery and Investigator Yerdon were speaking with the subject at the doorway when he suddenly bolted back into the residence and grabbed a large kitchen knife. Trooper Gallery tackled the suspect as he was stabbing himself in the neck, and Trooper Gallery received deep lacerations to his left hand from the knife in the process.

Trooper Gallery disengaged and used his Division-issued Taser to disable the subject who was then taken into custody.

Trooper Gallery’s actions not only prevented the subject from taking his own life, but also from causing serious injury to Trooper Gallery or Investigator Yerdon.
Trooper Christopher B. Braun - Troop E
Trooper Christopher B. Braun entered service with Division on January 15, 2007, and is stationed at SP Lyons in Troop E.

On September 26, 2015, Trooper Braun was dispatched to a one-car collision where the driver had crashed into a tree. Upon arrival at the scene, he found the driver unconscious and trapped inside the extensively damaged vehicle, which was fully engulfed in flames.

Trooper Braun used a fire extinguisher from his patrol vehicle to suppress the fire, but the flames continued to advance. Trooper Braun moved to the rear seat of the vehicle, in order to gain better access to the driver, even though the fire had already completely burned the front passenger seat, dashboard, center console, and the driver's right leg. Eventually, assistance arrived and the fire was extinguished. Without regard for his safety, Trooper Braun never abandoned the trapped driver.

The driver was extricated and transferred to the hospital.

Trooper Craig T. Rose – Troop K
Trooper Craig T. Rose entered service with Division on December 1, 2008, and is stationed at SP Poughkeepsie in Troop K.

On July 16, 2015, Trooper Rose was assigned to investigate a one-car collision on the Taconic State Parkway. Upon arrival at the scene, he found a vehicle engulfed in flames with an injured woman and child lying on the shoulder of the roadway. Trooper Rose also observed two unconscious children inside the vehicle. Without regard for his own safety, he entered the burning car and moved the children to a safe location. Trooper Rose used a fire extinguisher from his patrol vehicle to extinguish the flames and checked the vehicle for other occupants. He found an unresponsive woman trapped in the driver’s seat.

Despite the fact the flames began to reignite, Trooper Rose made repeated attempts to remove the unconscious female but was unable to do so. He again extinguished the vehicle fire and provided first aid to the injured victims.

In the days following the accident, Trooper Rose followed up with the victims and personally delivered care packages prepared by members of SP Poughkeepsie.

Trooper Talia L. Duke – Troop K
Trooper Thomas J. Famighetti – Troop K
Trooper Steven T. Hobson – Troop K (retired)
Trooper Steven T. Hobson retired after 20 years of service with the New York State Police. He was last assigned as a Bloodhound handler in Troop K.

Trooper Talia L. Duke entered Division service on April 21, 2008 and is stationed at SP Lagrange in Troop K.

Trooper Thomas J. Famighetti entered service with Division on March 2, 2015 and is stationed at SP Brewster in Troop K.

On October 6, 2015, the Suffolk County Police Department contacted the New York State Police at Troop K to report that a homicide suspect may be in the Pawling area. The suspect's cellular phone was located by hikers on a portion of the Appalachian Trail in the town of Pawling.

Trooper Hobson and his Bloodhound partner, Darby, were called upon and Trooper Talia L. Duke and Trooper Thomas J. Famighetti were assigned to assist Trooper Hobson. Darby scented off the cell phone, which had been handled by several people, and began.

While searching a wooded area, Trooper Hobson’s team encountered the suspect, who was in possession of a box cutter. He had several cuts on his neck and refused the Troopers’ orders to drop the weapon. The suspect fled and the search team followed him deeper into the woods despite the fact that it was now dark.

During the pursuit, the suspect menaced the Troopers and continued to injure himself. The suspect finally stopped and for over two hours, Troopers Hobson, Duke and Famighetti negotiated with him until he discarded the box cutter and surrendered.

Investigator Charles B. Fontanelli - Troop L
Investigator Charles B. Fontanelli entered service with Division on January 15, 2007 and is assigned to the Major Crimes Unit in Troop L.

On December 5, 2014, Investigator Charles B. Fontanelli was assigned to investigate a fatal hit-and-run collision on the Southern State Parkway. His initial investigation revealed the victim’s vehicle was hit from behind and impacted a tree, resulting in the driver’s death. Witnesses provided a limited description of the vehicle that caused the accident and fled the scene.

The next day, Investigator Fonatelli’s relentless search for the suspect vehicle led to an active car fire in Amityville, New York. The burned rental car was found to have extensive front end damage and matched the description provided by witnesses.

Over the next year, Investigator Fontanelli identified several people involved in the collision and subsequent cover-up. Through the use of social media, phone records, and countless interviews, he developed a timeline of events and identified the operator of the suspect vehicle at the time of the collision.

In September, 2015, the operator of the vehicle was indicted on charges linked to the death of the victim. Three associates of the operator were also indicted for setting the vehicle on fire in an attempt to evade discovery by law enforcement.

Senior Investigator Leslie J. Simpson – Troop NYC
Investigator Brian R. Augustine- Troop NYC
Investigator James J. Durkin- Troop NYC
Senior Investigator Leslie J. Simpson entered service with Division on March 29, 1989.

Investigator Brian R. Augustine entered service with Division on August 29, 1989 and Investigator James J. Durkin entered service with Division on April 30, 1997.  All are assigned to the New York Drug Enforcement Task in Troop NYC.

On May 17, 2015, New York Drug Enforcement Task Force Group T-31, which includes all three investigators, arrested two subjects for Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree and seized 74 kilograms of heroin, approximately two million dollars in cash and a loaded handgun.

The seizure of 74 kilograms of heroin is the largest seizure of heroin in the New York area and the fourth largest within the United States by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) or a DEA Task Force. The heroin has a street value of approximately $40 million.

Due to the efforts of Group T-31, a large scale drug distribution network was dismantled and 74 kilograms of heroin will never make it into our communities.

Technical Sergeant John J. Heverly - Aviation
Technical Sergeant John J.  Heverly entered service with Division on November 28, 1994 and is stationed at SP Aviation in Saranac Lake.

On March 22, 2015, SP Aviation-Saranac Lake received a request from Department of Environmental Conservation dispatch to assist in the search for a mother and two young sons who got lost during a hike on Mt. Marcy the previous evening. There was an added sense of urgency due to the estimated minus 30-degree wind chill temperature during the night.

DEC Forest Rangers arrived at the SP Aviation hangar and Sergeant Heverly launched on the rescue at 7:20 a.m. His initial attempt to reach the search area was thwarted due to heavy fog. However, at approximately 10:30 a.m., the weather had cleared for a second attempt, at which time Sergeant Heverly successfully piloted the helicopter to the summit of New York's highest mountain peak.

After a brief search, Sergeant Heverly observed the lost hikers and advised the DEC Command Post. A DEC Forest Ranger was inserted into the scene utilizing the aircraft's external hoist. While circling, Sergeant Heverly observed the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) members searching up-slope and directed them to the scene. After being evaluated by SORT members and packed for hoist extraction, the mother and her sons were hoisted to the helicopter and transported to Adirondack Medical Center. All three were treated for varying degrees of frostbite and hypothermia, but survived without serious injury.

Trooper Kevin P. Dobson Traffic Safety Award

The Traffic Safety Award recognizes a member’s commitment to saving lives and reducing accidents through public education and enforcement. This award is made possible with the help of the New York State Trooper Foundation. The award is named in honor of the late Trooper Kevin P. Dobson who was killed on March 26, 2011 on Interstate 290 in the Town of Tonawanda, Erie County.  While outside his patrol vehicle conducting a vehicle and traffic stop, Troop Dobson was struck and killed by a passing motorist.

Trooper Anthony R. Cordick – Troop B
Trooper Anthony R. Cordick entered Division service on June 10, 2013 and is assigned to Troop B at SP Plattsburgh.

Trooper Cordick is dedicated to removing intoxicated and impaired drivers from New York State roadways. In 2015, Trooper Cordick made 56 DWI arrests, 35 drug arrests and conducted more than 50 Drug Recognition Expert evaluations.

Trooper Cordick has also been a significant contributor in nearly every measurable category of law enforcement while answering over 405 calls for service in 2015. He had 17 felony arrests, 55 misdemeanor arrests, and 31 violation arrests. He also led Troop B with a total of 792 Vehicle & Traffic arrests. Trooper Cordick has also made numerous presentations to local schools and organizations in the community, regarding impaired driving, highway traffic safety and crime prevention. He is utilized as a Standardized Field Sobriety Test and Breath Test Instructor for the State Police Academy, along with the Zone 9 Police Academy.

George M. Searle Memorial Award

The George M. Searle Memorial Award, established to honor the late Deputy Superintendent George M. Searle, is presented to individuals who have distinguished themselves in training and education.

Captain Michael J. Regan - Academy
Captain Regan entered service with the Division on October 3, 1983 and is assigned to Troop H at the Academy.

Captain Regan was given the specific task of overhauling the curriculum for both the Basic Leadership School for new Supervisors and the Leadership for Commissioned Officers School for newly promoted Lieutenants.

Throughout the winter of 2015, Captain Regan worked diligently on each course to create a curriculum that balanced leadership theory and supervisory best practice with practical, scenario­based exercises. He developed a new curriculum for each course, rooted in the experiences of many successful supervisors across the State Police.

By year's end, Captain Regan had overseen the successful offering of two sessions of each course, training nearly 150 leaders.

Trooper William V. McDonagh Award

This award was established in honor of the late Trooper William McDonagh, who was killed in the line of duty on December 14, 1975. Trooper McDonagh actively participated in community events and this award recognizes State Police members for their exceptional community service efforts.

Zone Sergeant Daniel B. McMorris – Troop K
Zone Sergeant Daniel B. McMorris entered Division service on November 15, 1999 and is assigned to Troop K at SP Wappinger.

Sergeant McMorris has been a volunteer firefighter with the Union Vale Fire District for 25 years, where he currently holds the rank of Chief.  He currently organizes and teaches the annual fire prevention program to over 800 elementary school students in the Arlington Central School District.

Four years ago, Sergeant McMorris started the Union Vale Fire Company Community Support Fund.  This fund was originally established to support friends and neighbors in the community that were going through difficult times.  The fund helped victims of fire, serious injury, as well as other hardships.  As the fund has become more successful, it has been able to help families beyond the limits of the town of Union Vale.

In  2009, Sergeant McMorris lost his mother after a courageous battle with breast cancer. Since then, he and his family have been committed to volunteering with organizations helping to better the lives of people living with cancer including the American Cancer Society, Mile of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation and most recently a local charity called Sparrow's Nest of the Hudson Valley. Sparrow's Nest is a non-profit organization that provides home cooked meals to families of caregivers diagnosed with cancer. Sergeant McMorris delivers these meals every week on his pass days.

Sergeant McMorris also volunteers his time with the Town of Washington Youth Soccer Program and has coached several teams over the last 7 years.

Superintendent’s Unit Citation Award

This award was established to recognize the outstanding efforts made by members of a particular unit or detail.

Forensic Investigation Center – Biological Science Section and Forensic Identification Unit
During the June, 2015, manhunt for David Sweat and Richard Matt, two escaped prisoners from the Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York, exceptional effort was put forth by many of the staff assigned to the Forensic Investigation Center. Of particular note, were the personnel assigned to the Biological Science Section and the Forensic Identification Unit.

On June 17, 2015, the Latent Section of the Forensic Identification Unit was notified that numerous items associated with the escape, were being submitted that afternoon for latent print analysis and DNA testing. Being that latent print work needed to be completed prior to the DNA analysis, all Latent Section Members of the Forensic Identification Unit volunteered to work as many hours as necessary to ensure that the items were processed appropriately, thoroughly and in a timely fashion. The processing of these items took several days with members working well into the evening hours. The effort put forth by the Forensic Identification Unit to process the evidence and move it forward to the DNA section was exemplary.

The Biological Science Section of the Forensic Investigation Center was responsible for the DNA testing of the evidence submitted. On June 20, 2015, an active burglary scene was discovered near Wolf Pond Road in the town of Bellmont. At this point in the investigation there had been no confirmed sightings of either escapee.

Evidence was submitted to the Forensic Investigation Center during the early morning hours of June 21, 2015. In less than 12 hours, the Biological Science Section was able to confirm that DNA from both escapees had been found at the burglary scene. This information was the first positive link that, not only were the suspects were still in the area, but that they were still together.

On June 24, 2015, a burglary was reported in the town of Malone. A DNA profile consistent with Richard Matt was identified from collected evidence within hours of submission to the Forensic Investigation Center. This evidence confirmed that Richard Matt was indeed in the area.

The search intensified and additional evidence continued to be collected and submitted from a variety of locations. On June 27, 2015, evidence from two separate scenes was collected and submitted during the early morning hours. Approximately 14 hours later, the Biological Science Section was able to confirm that DNA from David Sweat was found on pepper shakers left a camp scene while Richard Matt’s DNA was exclusively at the other scene.

Human Resources - Benefits Administration Unit, Member Hiring/Recruitment Unit and the Civilian Hiring Section.
The mission of the Benefits Administration Unit is to administer several Division, State and Federal Benefit Programs which are available to the approximately 5,600 State Police employees. The BAU accomplishes the administration of employee benefits via separate unit subsections entitled: Medical Monitoring, Leave and Attendance (LATS), Health Benefits, Military Programs and Benefits, and Administrative Support. The employees assigned to each section can quickly research and respond to employee issues or questions in a timely and knowledgeable manner.

The Member Hiring/Recruitment Unit carries out the mission of attracting and ultimately hiring the most highly qualified applicants and maintaining diversity within the workplace of the New York State Police.

The Civilian Hiring Section is responsible for the execution of hiring, processing, testing, promotional policies and the administration of guaranteed benefits for non-sworn employees. In 2015, the Civilian Hiring Unit assisted a total of 72 new employees statewide and continues to work on the establishment of new positions and units.

Supervisor Recognition Awards

These awards recognize the outstanding work ethic demonstrated by both sworn and non-sworn supervisors who coordinate and oversee various units within the State Police.

Ms. Julie Pizziketti – Director of Biological Services
Ms. Julie Pizziketti joined Division in 1995 and was promoted to Director of Biological Sciences at the Forensic Investigation Center in April 2015. She is responsible for overseeing DNA casework, the DNA Databank, and Serology.

On June 6, 2015, one the largest manhunts in New York State history was initiated when two convicted murderers, David Sweat and Richard Matt, escaped from Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, New York. During the course of the investigation, hundreds of pieces of evidence were collected at multiple crime scenes and then analyzed at the Forensic Investigation Center.

On June 20, 2015, under Ms. Pizziketti’s leadership, the Biological Sciences Section of the Forensic Investigation Center confirmed that DNA, from both escapees, was found at the scene of a camp burglary on Wolf Pond Road in the town of Bellmont. The DNA analysis was completed in an extraordinary turnaround time of less than 12 hours. This was the first positive lead that proved the escapees were still in the area and traveling together. The DNA evidence was instrumental in the deployment of resources and the successful conclusion of the manhunt.

Technical Sergeant Christopher M. Giovazzino – Troop B
Technical Sergeant Christopher M. Giovazzino is a 12-year-veteran of the New York State Police and has served as the Troop B Communications Supervisor since 2012. During that time, Sergeant Giovazzino has been the driving force and point person for the consolidation of all Troop B dispatch points to a single dedicated dispatch center.

Technical Sergeant Giovazzino additionally distinguished himself in June 2015 during the Clinton Correctional Facility Manhunt Detail by continually adapting to the dynamic and challenging communications environment. Technical Sergeant Giovazzino and his staff worked tirelessly, keeping telephone and radio communications running during the 23-day manhunt. His efforts are more remarkable given the fluid operational landscape, impact of difficult geography, multiple areas of operation, and limitations of technology.

Civilian Employee Recognition Awards

The Civilian Employee Recognition Award is presented to civilian employees who have made significant contributions to the Division of State Police.

Ms. Tammy A. Werts – Troop A
Ms. Werts is a 10-year-employee of the State Police and is currently the Zone 2 Secretary in Troop A where she conscientiously performs her duties. Ms. Werts maintains proficiency with Division computer applications, including Microsoft Excel, and was recently tasked to revamp and standardize the monthly activity forms for the four zones within Troop A. The revised form now captures the relevant statistical information required to uniformly measure and analyze data.

Additionally, in the temporary absence of the Principal Clerk, Ms. Werts readily accepted a request to perform these critical duties.

Ms. Werts is a cornerstone of the Troop A Retirement and Promotional Committee and has also volunteered for the Special Olympics Polar Plunge, coordinated the Western NY “Books for Vets” book drive, and assisted in the annual Trooper Kevin Dobson Memorial Golf outing.