Albany, N.Y. (WKBW release) -- New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico commended and recognized 29 individuals and one unit for bravery, investigative persistence, police education, traffic safety and community service at Thursday's New York State Police Annual Awards Day Ceremony.
The annual ceremony, held at the New York State Police Academy, pays tribute to the courage and perseverance of employees and sworn members of the New York State Police.
The 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.
Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico said, “Today we recognize those Troopers and employees who performed selfless acts of courage and heroism, established themselves as steadfast leaders, and demonstrated exemplary commitment to service and duty. It is this dedication to public service that makes the New York State Police stand out and places it among the most well respected law enforcement agencies in the world.”
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 93 times, including thirteen times posthumously.
This year, there are three recipients: Sergeant/Station Commander Thomas E. Haumann, Troop D Trooper Carlo Gennario Jr., Troop D
Trooper Richard J. Snyder, Troop D.
On June 22, 2010 Trooper Carlo Gennario was dispatched to a reported domestic dispute in the Town of Vienna, Oneida County. The 911 dispatcher advised that there was a distraught man at that residence with a shotgun, threatening to shoot a baby and any responding law enforcement personnel. Upon arrival, Trooper Gennario observed the man holding a shotgun in one hand and an infant in the other. After exiting his vehicle, Trooper Gennario drew his issued sidearm and ordered the subject to drop the gun. The suspect shot the child and then leveled the shotgun at Trooper Gennario, advancing toward his position, ignoring all commands to drop his weapon. Trooper Gennario fired his pistol at the subject while seeking cover behind his Troop car.
As Sergeant Thomas E. Haumann and Trooper Richard J. Snyder each arrived, they observed the subject continuing to advance on Trooper Gennario. When Sergeant Haumann ordered him to drop his weapon, he turned and advanced towards Haumann pointing the shotgun at him. At this time, Haumann, Gennario and Snyder all fired several shotgun rounds at the subject. Despite being hit numerous times, the subject continued to point his shotgun at the responding officers. Commands to drop the gun were ignored, forcing them to fire more rounds at the subject. After being hit several more times, he collapsed and released his grip on the weapon and was taken into custody. Despite the efforts of State Police who performed CPR, the infant was pronounced dead at Rome Hospital a short time later.
Sergeant Haumann, Trooper Gennario and Trooper Snyder confronted a horrifying and stressful situation which quickly became an armed confrontation. Their quick and resolute actions stopped a murderer from continuing his homicidal actions and insured the safety of other police officers and citizens.
Superintendent’s Commendation Awards
The recipients of the Superintendent’s Commendation Awards were selected from the many Members who have received Superintendent’s Letters of Commendation during this past year. The Awards presented here today are in recognition of extraordinary performance of duty or exceptional contributions to the New York State Police.
Trooper William L. Persinger, Troop A.
Shortly after 6:00 AM on Wednesday August 4, 2010, Trooper William L. Persinger and other law enforcement personnel from Niagara County responded to a home invasion in the Town of Porter, in which a family of four was being held at knifepoint by a deranged, drug-impaired individual.
Trooper Persinger immediately took control of the situation by engaging the subject in conversation on his cellular phone. While other police officers established a perimeter around the residence, Trooper Persinger negotiated with the subject for the release of the hostages. During the negotiations, the male homeowner attempted to disarm the subject who then began stabbing the homeowner in the chest and abdomen.
Trooper Persinger and other officers quickly stormed the residence, and upon approaching the upstairs bathroom where the subject was located, Trooper Persinger was confronted by the subject who attempted to stab him with the knife. A struggle ensued and, with the assistance of other law enforcement officers, the subject was disarmed and taken into custody. The homeowner was treated at the Erie County Medical Center and survived the attack.
Investigator Karen L. Dufour and Investigator Scott T. Weightman, Troop B (Investigator Weightman is a two-time recipient of the Superintendent Commendation Award).
On November 27, 1980, June M. Collard, the mother of three young children, was reported missing by her husband. Thomas Collard told State Police Investigators that his wife had left their Essex County home, located in the Adirondack hamlet of Olmstedville, with an unknown “cowboy” but never returned. Several years later a fire consumed the Collard residence and Thomas Collard moved to the State of Alabama. Despite Investigator’s suspicions that Thomas was responsible for his wife’s disappearance, they were unable to locate either the missing woman or any physical evidence to link him to June’s disappearance.
In recent years, this “cold case” was reassigned to Investigators Karen L. Dufour and Scott T. Weightman of the Troop “B” Violent Crimes Investigation Team (VCIT). After reviewing the original report, thirty years of case notes, and re-interviewing family members and acquaintances of Thomas and June Collard, the Investigators became more convinced than ever that Thomas Collard was responsible for his wife’s disappearance.
In 2009, the two Investigators traveled to Florida and Alabama to investigate new leads and to coordinate their efforts with the local sheriff’s office in Alabama. In June 2010, they flew to Florida to interview Thomas Collard Jr. Although this interview did not develop any solid leads, Thomas Jr. did call his father to alert him. When Dufour and Weightman arrived in Alabama to interview Thomas Sr., he quickly confessed to killing his wife, burying her on the property in Olmstedville and bulldozing over her body. He confided that he wanted to clear his conscience and protect his son from any further scrutiny. He was charged with Murder in the Second Degree and arrested as a Fugitive From Justice by Alabama authorities.
When Dufour and Weightman’s returned to New York, they developed a plan to excavate the former home site in search of June’s body. Utilizing a variety of outside resources, the three-quarter acre home site was cleared of thick vegetation and ten dump truck loads of debris before excavation could begin. After seven days of digging and sifting, human remains were found which were subsequently identified as those of June Collard. The case was brought to a successful conclusion on March 31, 2011 when Thomas Collard pleaded guilty to killing his wife and was sentenced to 8 to 24 years in prison.
Trooper Kevin A. Beattie and Trooper James D. Cleary, Troop B.
On Thursday September 16, 2010, a resident of the Town of Brandon in Franklin County reported that upon entering his hunting camp he was confronted by a stranger pointing a rifle at him. The camp owner and his friend retreated and thought they heard gunshots. State Police and US Border Patrol Agents surrounded the cabin. Attempts engage the subject in negotiations were met with unintelligible responses and gunfire.
The stand-off continued for the next 6 hours during which time darkness set in and weather conditions deteriorated. Forty-degree temperatures were accompanied by periods of heavy rain. Communications among the drenched law enforcement personnel were hampered by the lack of cellular phone service in this remote area, poor radio reception, and the hesitancy of Members to communicate orally for fear of giving away their positions. A command post was established on the road at the end of the camp driveway and Trooper Beattie with his K-9 partner “Cully,” and Trooper Cleary, were positioned in a wooded area adjacent to this driveway, roughly 50 yards in front of the command post.
The subject unexpectedly exited the front door of the cabin and began a stealthy advance down the dirt driveway toward the command post, rifle at the ready. As the subject approached the Troopers, he was undetected until K-9 “Cully” alerted them to his presence. Trooper Cleary, who was armed with his .223 caliber patrol rifle, illuminated the subject with his flashlight and ordered him to drop his weapon. When the subject ignored the command and turned toward the Troopers and lowered his rifle at them, both opened fire. The subject was struck in the upper body and sustained non-life threatening injuries. He was treated at the scene by a S.O.R.T. medic before being taken by ambulance to Alice Hyde Medical Center in Malone, NY.
Trooper David G. Brown, Troop E.
On Saturday October 2, 2010 Trooper David G. Brown was dispatched to investigate an erratic vehicle on ST-415 in the Town of Erwin, Steuben County. Witnesses reported the vehicle weaving and glancing off guide rails and bridge railings before it left the roadway, became airborne, turning end over end before coming to rest on its wheels. Flames soon became visible from under the hood, and three local area firemen who had witnessed the accident, forcibly opened the driver’s door, but the 53 year driver actively resisted their rescue attempts.
Trooper Brown arrived and gave the firemen the fire extinguisher from the trunk of his troop car to suppress the flames, while Trooper Brown attempted to rescue the combative operator. Despite being further hindered by the man’s legs being partially pinned under the steering wheel, Trooper Brown’s persistence paid off and he freed and removed the man to safety before flames fully engulfed the entire vehicle. EMS’s evaluation revealed the driver was a diabetic and that his blood sugar was extremely low.
Trooper Tarone M. Liebman, Trooper Ronald G. Butler Jr., Trooper Richard E. Billings, Trooper James P. Creede, Troop G.
Shortly after 11:30 PM on Monday, April 26, 2010, Troopers Tarone M. Liebman, Ronald G. Butler Jr, Richard E. Billings and James P. Creede responded to assist Warren County Deputies who were attempting to stop a vehicle that fit the description of one that had just left the scene of a burglary with shots fired at a residence in Warrensburg, Warren County.
Troopers Liebman and Creede joined the pursuit while Troopers Butler and Billings took up a position with a Warren County Deputy near the Village of Lake George and were able to deflate all four tires on the suspect vehicle with the deployment of tire deflation devices.
The pursuit continued south until the suspect lost control of his vehicle and came to a stop. The suspect exited his vehicle and immediately opened fire with a .357 magnum revolver, striking Warren County Sergeants Ralph Bartlett and Greg Riley. The four Troopers and several Deputies, including both who were struck, returned fire and fatally wounded the suspect.
Trooper Joseph P. Smith Jr., Troop G.
On Friday August 20, 2010 Trooper Joseph P. Smith was patrolling an area in Washington County looking for a man involved in a violent domestic dispute, who had driven from his residence with the couple’s 7-year-old daughter.
Trooper Smith located the vehicle on a nearby road, initiated a traffic stop, and when he questioned the driver about the domestic incident, the suspect immediately became argumentative. Because Trooper Smith feared that the child might be in danger if the intoxicated driver attempted to flee, he attempted to remove the keys from the ignition of the truck. The suspect suddenly put the truck in gear and drove off at a high rate of speed with Trooper Smith hanging halfway out of the driver’s side window.
Trooper Smith drew his pepper spray and discharged it inside the vehicle, and after being dragged for approximately 1/10 of a mile, the suspect pushed Trooper Smith out of the truck and onto the roadway where he sustained serious injuries. As a result of the pepper spray, the suspect abandoned the vehicle and walked to his brother’s house where he left his daughter, unharmed. A week-long manhunt resulted in the suspect’s capture and he was charged with Assault in the First Degree and Reckless Endangerment in the First Degree.
Sergeant/Station Commander Mark W. Breen, Troop K.
Shortly before 8:30 PM on Friday March 19, 2010 Sergeant Breen responded with uniform patrols to a domestic incident with shots fired in the Dutchess County town of Milan. A man had forcibly entered his estranged wife’s residence and was holding her at gunpoint in an upstairs bedroom. Sergeant Breen and a Dutchess County Sheriff’s Deputy entered the residence and ascended a set of stairs where they established verbal contact with the suspect, who threatened to kill both his estranged wife and then himself.
Upon hearing the distraught woman scream that she was about to be killed, Sergeant Breen kicked in the bedroom door, and with the Deputy confronted the armed man. After the Deputy attempted to taser the subject, the man turned and pointed his shotgun at Sergeant Breen, who fired a single shot from his .45 caliber Glock, mortally wounding the suspect. His action saved his own life and those of the innocent hostage and fellow police officer.
Sergeant Mark A. Nielson, Trooper Adrian A. Melendez, Troop K.
At 5:30 AM on Tuesday April 27, 2010, a vehicle was reported stolen from a nearby McDonald’s in the City of Peekskill in Westchester County. Once troopers located the fleeing vehicle, the operator refused to pull over. A pursuit ensued through the Town of Cortlandt and into the Village of Croton. The driver then drove through a locked gate leading to the grounds of the historic Van Cortlandt Manor, unaware that he was approaching the Croton River and that the bridge that had once spanned the river had long since been removed. As the pursued vehicle arrived at the banks of the Croton River, it jettisoned 75 feet from the shoreline while plunging 30 feet into the river, coming to rest on its roof.
Upon arrival, Sergeant Mark A. Nielson and Trooper Adrian A. Melendez made their way through the thick brush to the river’s edge and entered the frigid water. Though the car was only submerged in 4 feet of water, the doors and windows were all closed and completely under water. Peering into the passenger compartment they saw that the driver and had crawled into the back seat of the vehicle where he located a small air pocket which prevented him from drowning. The driver was rescued from the river and once on shore, he was placed under arrest.
Trooper Nhan N. Le, Troop T.
Shortly before 6:30pm on Tuesday December 7, 2010 Trooper Nhan N. Le responded to the scene of a jack-knifed tractor-trailer on the snow-covered, westbound side of the New York State Thruway, in the Onondaga County Town of Van Buren.
As Trooper Le arrived at the scene, he saw a second tractor-trailer collide with the first, and before he could secure the scene, a third tractor-trailer collided with the first two resulting in a complete highway blockage. As Trooper Le began to render assistance to the victims, he quickly realized that a fire had erupted in the engine compartment of the second tractor-trailer, in which the driver was pinned inside and in danger of being burned alive.
Trooper Le retrieved the fire extinguisher from his vehicle and attempted to extinguish the fire, which had begun to spread in to the cab of the truck. Trooper Le handed his extinguisher to the truck driver and retrieved a second fire extinguisher from a Thruway snow plow that had arrived. The combined efforts of both men resulted in the fire being completely extinguished, thereby saving the driver from an agonizing death.
Trooper Le then turned his attention to the driver of the third tractor-trailer who had lost part of his face when the cargo of the first tractor-trailer ripped off the top of his cab as the two vehicles collided. Using first aid supplies from his troop car, Trooper Le and an unidentified motorist applied direct pressure to the driver’s wounds and successfully controlled the bleeding, but not before the driver lost consciousness.
Trooper Le’s outstanding performance was not limited to his life-saving efforts. Throughout the incident, he coordinated with the nearby interchange to deny entry to additional westbound vehicles while initiating a complete closure of the westbound lanes. This closure lasted for nearly four hours until the involved vehicles could be removed and the highway safely re-opened.
Investigator Keith W. Fox, CNET Central, Community Narcotics Enforcement Team.
Early in 2009 Investigator Keith W. Fox began an investigation into trafficking of hydroponic marijuana in the central New York area. Through hours of surveillance, debriefings of confidential informants, and exchange of information with other law enforcement agencies, he identified several levels of a criminal network that originated with a Mexican Drug Cartel.
Through his diligence, the investigation grew into a multi-jurisdictional operation involving the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Massachusetts State Police and Members of the Mid-Hudson office of CNET. The case culminated with the execution of search and arrest warrants in various jurisdictions throughout the nation. In all, over 2000 pounds of marijuana was taken off the streets and 19 individuals are facing criminal prosecution. In addition, $1.5M in U.S. currency was seized, along with various real estate, several vehicles and 40 long guns, including 1 machine gun.
Supervisor Recognition Awards – Sworn and Non-sworn
These awards recognize the outstanding work ethic demonstrated by both sworn and civilian supervisors, coordinating and overseeing various units within the State Police.
Supervisor Recognition Award / Non-Sworn
Presented to Ms. Jennifer F. Limoges, Supervisor Forensic Services, Forensic Investigation Center, for her expert supervision overseeing the successful deployment of a new breath testing instrument. She played a vital role in the associated training, careful logistical planning and supervisory oversight to meet short deadlines and was instrumental in developing an electronic records system which is capable of generating legally submittable records electronically that will reduce delays and lower costs.
Supervisor Recognition Award / Sworn
Presented to First Sergeant Timothy M. Coughlin, Troop E, for his expertise and abilities in planning, coordinating, leading and assisting with special large group details around the state. He has provided critical leadership in planning and leading large funeral details for Division Members, always making sure that they are conducted in an extremely professional, respectful and compassionate manner. In such important events, there is often only one chance to “get it right” and First Sergeant Coughlin always makes sure that we get it right.
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.
Mr. Jay A. Caponera, Forensic Scientist 3 DNA, Forensic Investigation Center, is an outstanding scientist who is competent in both serology and DNA disciplines and is assigned to the Sexual Assault Team at the lab, often working difficult and complex cases. He has provided critical testimony in a number of cases which has led to the conviction of individuals for sexual assault cases and has been commended for his professional abilities by District attorneys and Judges. In addition to his regular casework duties Mr. Caponera has been instrumental in the validation of new technologies and studies which keep the Forensic Investigation Center in compliance with accreditation standards. Mr. Caponera recently obtained certification as a Fellow in Molecular Biology from the American Board of Criminalistics.
Mr. Gerald A. Engstrom Jr., Information Technology Specialist 3, Division Communications, is the only person currently assigned to the Division’s Geographic Systems Unit. In that capacity, his work has been vital to the success of a number of critical initiatives including the agency’s statewide Automatic Vehicle locator program which has enhanced officer safety and improved communication capabilities between patrol vehicles and their dispatch points. He served as the project lead for the implementation of County-based Computer Aided Dispatch systems in State Police patrol vehicles, improving interoperability through the use of technology in support of nearest available protocols for County 911 operations. Mr. Engstrom also has an expertise in mapping and has provided map support to command post operations, critical incidents and in evidence at high profile criminal trials, and has expertly represented the State Police as the agency’s 911 coordinator.
Superintendent’s Traffic Safety Award, Renamed "Trooper Kevin P. Dobson Traffic Safety Award"
Superintendent D'Amico announced at the ceremony that the the award will now be named the "Trooper Kevin P. Dobson Traffic Safety Award," in Dobson's honor.
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.
Trooper Kevin P. Dobson, Troop A, is posthumously recognized today with the Traffic Safety Award, now named in his honor, not only because of his commitment to highway safety, but also because of his dedication to, and ultimate sacrifice for, the citizens of the State of New York.
During his career with the State Police, Trooper Dobson was a leader in traffic safety enforcement as well as criminal interdiction and, over the years, received many awards and letters of commendation for his efforts. In the year 2010, Trooper Dobson wrote 876 traffic tickets, averaging over 12 tickets per patrol day, as well as making 41 criminal arrests. His years of experience and professional abilities made him a logical choice to work as part of the City of Buffalo Operation Impact Detail in which State Police Troopers assisted the City of Buffalo Police Department in patrolling the streets in an effort to reduce violent crime in city neighborhoods.
On March 26, 2011 Trooper Dobson, while conducting a vehicle and traffic stop on I-290 in the Town of Tonawanda, Erie County, was struck and killed in the line of duty. His death has been felt throughout the law enforcement community in western New York which lost a loyal, dedicated and professional Trooper.
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.
Sergeant Robert G. Hugus, SP Academy and Trooper Timothy D. Kirch, Troop G worked to research best practices, develop training curriculums, train instructors and assist in the actual delivery of training for two new important statewide initiatives; the Mobile Field Unit and the Taser Program.
Superintendent’s Unit Citation Award
This award was established to recognize the outstanding efforts made by members of a particular unit or detail.
This year the recipient of the Superintendent’s Unit Citation Award is the State Police Community Narcotics Enforcement Team – Western Region, which is headquartered in Buffalo, New York, for a remarkable year during 2010, which included a number of significant criminal cases.
Summaries of some of these cases include: A large heroine distribution case run in cooperation with the Attorney General’s Office’s Organized Crime Task Force; A case in which members of this unit assisted the Greece, NY Police Department by identifying and arresting 3 people responsible for the brutal murders of 3 Jamaican citizens; A case in which the unit assisted the DEA in a cross-border cocaine smuggling operation from Florida to Ontario; In another case, this unit investigated and arrested two subjects in possession of $30,000 worth of heroin; Another case involved the seizure of 18 kilograms of cocaine and 913 pounds of marijuana, leading to the arrest of 9 people; Another involved the seizure of 16 pounds of heroin, 46 pounds of cocaine, 900 pounds of marijuana, 2900 marijuana plants, 10 firearms and $117,000 in US currency, resulting in more than 250 arrests.
Trooper William V. McDonagh Community Service 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.
Trooper Kelly M. Caporale, Troop C has worked tirelessly most of her life, to ensure that children in Herkimer, Otsego, Chenango and Oneida Counties always have a Merry Christmas, since her father, a retired Marine, founded the local chapter of the Toys for Tots program 23 years ago. Trooper Caporale serves on the Board of Directors for the Marine Corps League Toys for Tots program and serves with the organization, Holly Days Christmas for Children, which is also dedicated to seeing that less fortunate children who enjoy a special gift at Christmas from Santa Claus. In the years 2007 to 2009 more than 3,000 children from 800 families received gifts from a total of more than 13,000 toys. The scope of these programs involves a year long effort for Trooper Caporale, including long hours of organizing and running fund raising events, such as the “Snowball Softball,” a golf tournament and auction, and an extensive letter writing campaign to enlist the help of local businesses and supporters.
New York State Police Certificates of Appreciation
State Police Certificates of Appreciation are presented to individuals who, over a period of time, have made a significant contribution to the criminal justice system or who have provided valuable assistance in a life threatening situation.
Sergeant Ralph Bartlett and Sergeant Greg Riley of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office.
On April 26, 2010 members of the Warren County Sheriff’s Office responded to a reported burglary with shots fired. The suspect fled the scene and a pursuit ensued during which tire deflation devices were used to disable the suspect’s vehicle causing it to come to a stop on State Route 9N in the town of Lake George. Warren County Sergeants Ralph Bartlett and Greg Riley, and other responding officers, exited their vehicles at which point the suspect immediately opened fire with a .357 handgun. Both Bartlett and Riley were struck by the suspect’s gunfire. Despite being wounded, both Bartlett and Riley, along with other Deputies and State Troopers, properly returned fire, fatally wounding the gunman. The actions of Sergeant Ralph Bartlett and Sergeant Greg Riley, taken in the face of grave personal danger, contributed to the successful conclusion of a tragic incident and ensured the safety of other deputies and Troopers at the scene.