A fallen war hero and two quick-acting and compassionate police officers who saved the life of a 10-month-old victim of a psycho-stabbing topped the list of intrepid honorees today (Thursday, Jan. 12) at the traditional “Finest of the Finest” awards luncheon sponsored by the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA).
U.S. Army Reserves Staff Sgt. James D. McNaughton, who when not in military uniform wore NYPD-blue while patrolling Transit District 2, last summer became the first New York City police officer killed in the line of duty while serving in the war in Iraq. Police Officer McNaugton’s parents – his father is a recently retired NYPD officer – were expected to attend the 1 p.m. luncheon at the Water Club on East 30th St. to accept the award on their son’s behalf.
Also expected to attend were the baby girl who was stabbed by a delusional mental patient last September, as well as her grateful parents and the devoted nanny who witnessed the attack. The resourceful police officers whose speedy action delivered the child into life-saving care were on hand to accept their awards.
Thirty-nine other New York City police officers were also cited for acts of heroism and humanitarianism ranging from daring rescues to dangerous gun battles.
PBA President Patrick J. Lynch and other members of the union’s executive board hosted the bi-annual event. The honored officers – accompanied by friends and family – were treated to a cocktail party and lunch and presented with plaques commemorating their deeds.
Lynch said: “By their extraordinary acts performed every day, our police officers have earned the title, ‘New York’s Finest.’ I like to call the officers honored here today the ‘Finest of the Finest’ because, of all the awards our officers get, we value these most. The recipients, you see, are selected by other police officers – by their peers – which makes it all that much more special.”
See below for accounts of incidents for which the officers were honored.
Police Officers Matthew Costello and Kenneth Thompson of the 46 Pct.
Extremely 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 a Dangerous Felon.
The perp in this case was acting like a Wild West gunslinger, firing shots at a man he had just been fighting and arguing with. Responding to shots fired, these officers confronted the suspect and, at first, tried to apprehend him in hand-to-hand combat. But when he turned his weapon against them, they opened fire. He was DOA at the hospital. There were no other injuries.
Police Officers Lyssette Soto and Joseph Tucci of the 43 Pct.
Extremely Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend Their Lives and the Lives of Fellow Police Officers and Innocent Civilians in a Confrontation With a Man Armed With a Shotgun.
These officers confronted a situation as dangerous as they get – an emotionally disturbed person with a loaded shotgun, and he’s angry and waving it around. They plead with him to drop the weapon. He responds by cursing and aiming the piece at them. They have no choice but to shoot him. He winds up in a hospital in critical condition, and nobody else gets hurt.
Police Officers Peter Andre and Joseph Robinson of the 30 Pct.
Extremely Valiant, Quick-Thinking, Resourceful and Intelligent Action Taken to Save the Life of a Woman Being Stabbed by a Desperate Assailant.
When these officers got to the street-corner scene, the perp was grabbing his female victim and threatening her with a knife. When the cops ordered him to release the woman, he stabbed her instead. The officers had to shoot him six times before he stopped stabbing the woman, released her and collapsed. The victim was taken to the hospital in serious condition. The assailant was DOA.
Police Officers Walter Loor, Latonya Williams, Steven Eckert, Rusty Garcia and Keith Beddows of the 28 Pct.
Extremely 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.
What started out as an armed robbery developed into a shootout on West 125th Street between the robbers and these five officers, who had responded to the scene. There were two robbers, one of them armed, and he was running, firing at the cops and ducking behind parked cars. The officers returned fire and hit the shooter seven times. He was DOA at the hospital. Two civilians were hit in the crossfire and suffered non-life-threatening wounds.
Police Officers Merritt Riley and Marcel Sim of the Midtown North Precinct
Extremely Quick-Acting and Resourceful Action Taken to Save the Life of a Would-Be Suicide as He Began to Jump From a Four-Story Ledge.
Quick action was what was called for, and quick action was what this team of cops took, when they saved a suicidal 22-year-old man from ending it all by leaping into the atrium at the Time Warner Center. They tried to talk him down at first, but when he actually started lunging into his jump, they grabbed him and pulled him to safety – at great risk to their own safety, I might add.
Police Officers Kevin Buehler, Christian Matthews, Marc Hoffman and Robert Nicholson of the Midtown North Precinct
Extremely Swift and Valiant Action Taken to Defend Their Lives and the Lives of Fellow Police Officers and to Apprehend an Armed Suspect Who Had Attempted to Murder the Police Officers.
The incident started when an armed drug suspect broke away and fled from arresting officers. The two cops, joined by two others, chased the perp on foot, even though he was firing at them. Without firing their own weapons, they caught up with the suspect – who had ditched his gun – and collared him without further incident. There were no injuries.
Police Officer Luis Martinez of the 120 Pct.
Extremely Brave and Valiant Action Taken While Swimming 50 Yards to Rescue From Drowning a Woman Who Had Attempted Suicide in the Waters of New York Harbor.
It started when a woman, in an apparent suicide attempt, found herself floating in New York Harbor about 50 yards out from the Staten Island ferry terminal in Lower Manhattan. Cops on the scene called for Harbor, Aviation and ESU backup, but Officer Martinez, a U.S. Marine Corps-trained swimmer, decided there was no time to lose. He swam out to her and kept her alive until the divers could get there.
Police Officer Patrick Caprice of the 73 Pct.
Extremely Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend His Life and the Life of a Fellow Police Officer While Being Seriously Wounded in an Exchange of Gunfire With a Dangerous Suspect.
“A courageous cop” is what the Daily News called Officer Caprice the day after this incident. He was shot in the arm and stomach in a shootout that followed a drug bust, but managed to get off 14 shots at the gunman despite his wounds. With typical modesty, Officer Caprice gave all the credit to the cops who got him safely to the hospital. But we agree with his seven-year-old son Isaiah. “He’s a brave man,” Isaiah told the Daily News.
Police Officer Steven Lawrence of the 83 Pct.
Extremely Brave and Valiant Action Taken While Off Duty to Defend His Life in an Exchange of Gunfire With an Armed Robber.
Officer Lawrence was off-duty and in a neighborhood bodega when he noticed two men acting suspiciously. The officer went to his car, which was parked nearby, but before he could get into the vehicle one of the men approached him, pointed a gun at him and tried to rob him. Officer Lawrence drew his off-duty weapon and shot the robber in the left knee. He was eventually apprehended by other officers, thanks to Officer Lawrence’s quick action and follow-up information.
Police Officer Vincent Schiavarelli of Brooklyn Warrants
Extremely Brave and Valiant Action Taken While Off Duty and While Being Wounded in Saving a Storekeeper From Death at the Hands of a Knife-Wielding Robber.
This incident made a big splash in the newspapers and on TV news broadcasts last June. Officer Schiavarelli was off-duty and grabbing a cup of coffee at a Dunkin’ Donuts when an attempted robber pulled a knife on the sales clerk. Officer Schiavarelli tackled the robber, getting stabbed in the side in the process, and causing the perp to flee the store empty-handed. Other officers soon tracked him down and apprehended the robber.
Police Officers Gleb Andreyeva, Luis Lopez, Keyshawn James and Ron Sawyers of the 71 Pct.
Extremely Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend Their Lives, the Lives of Fellow Police Officers and the Life of an Innocent Civilian in a Dangerous Confrontation With and Armed Murderer.
Responding to shots fired, these officers encounter a man with a handgun in one hand and holding a woman victim in a headlock. They ordered the gunman to release the hostage, but he refused, daring them to shoot him. As soon as the woman broke free, they obliged, hitting him in the torso and the knee. The man also tried to shoot himself. He fell to the ground and was apprehended. Nearby, the cops found the corpse of a man he had killed.
Police Officers Ronald Casazza, Michael Girdusky and Joseph Kohrat of the 108 Pct.
Extremely Alert and Tactically Intelligent Action Leading to the Apprehension of a Band of Burglars and Robbers.
While on patrol in an unmarked vehicle, these officers observed a parked van that fit the description of one involved in two robberies earlier in the day. As they approached, they actually witnessed the van’s driver steal a purse from a female pedestrian. The perps fled and the officers gave chase. The cops caught up with the van in Long Island Expressway traffic and, after a struggle, subdued and arrested the robber. In the van, they also recovered property from five previous robberies.
Police Officer Daniel Diviccaro of the 115 Pct.
Extremely Brave, Alert and Quick-Thinking Action Taken to Rescue a Young Girl From an Attack and Leading to the Apprehension of a Serial Child Molester.
Officer Diviccaro was off-duty when he stopped a one-man sex crime wave involving attacks on kids in a Queens park. While driving his car, he spotted a man dragging a teenage girl into the woods. After calling for backup, the officer chased the child molester. The perp didn’t get far and was soon arrested by backup officers who had flooded the area. He was identified by two other children he had attacked a day or so earlier.
Police Officer Robert Burns of the 113 Pct.
Extremely Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend His Life and the Lives of a Fellow Police Officer and Innocent Civilians While Being Seriously Wounded by a Dangerous Suspect.
and Police Officer Shannon Pearl of the 113 Pct.
Extremely Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend Her Life, the Lives of Innocent Civilians and the Life of a Fellow Police Officer Who Was Seriously Wounded by a Dangerous Suspect.
A prowler had threatened to shoot a Queens homeowner, who reported the incident to 911. These officers responded. When they approached the suspect, he grabbed Officer Burns in a headlock and slashed him in the throat with an eight-inch carper knife, nearly killing him. Officer Pearl shot the perp in the right arm, stopping the attack.
Police Officers David Harris and Dominic Romano of the 105 Pct.
Extremely Brave and Valiant Action Taken While Being Wounded to Defend Their Lives and the Life of a Fellow Police Officer in an Exchange of Gunfire With a Shot-Gun-Wielding Emotionally Disturbed Person Who Had Been Desecrating and Destroying Religious Statues.
An emotionally disturbed person took it into his head last July to start shooting up some religious statues in front of Saint Joachim and Anne Roman Catholic Church. Officers Harris and Romano responded to the shots-fired and as soon as they confronted the suspect, before they could even get out of their vehicle, he starting shooting at them. Both cops were struck and wounded but they returned fire and felled the gunman, who was apprehended by other officers.
Police Officers Brian Quill, Darren Santiago and John Siraco of PSA 3
Extremely Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend Their Lives and the Lives of Fellow Police Officers and Innocent Civilians in a Confrontation With an Armed and Dangerous Felon.
While on foot patrol, these officers encountered a suspect firing a weapon at another man. They called out many times for the perp to drop his weapon but he turned it on them instead. They opened fire, wounding the suspect and stopping the dangerous situation.
Police Officers Erik Hansen and David Broadwell of PSA 5
Extremely Brave and Valiant Action Taken While Being Wounded to Defend Their Lives and the Lives of Fellow Police Officers and Innocent Civilians in an Exchange of Gunfire With a Dangerous Suspect.
While with their sergeant on routine patrol, these officers encountered a man walking down the street carrying a handgun in each hand. When the perp saw the cops, he started shooting. The sergeant was hit, suffering serious injury, and so was Officer Hansen, who was grazed in the right ankle. They exchanged gunfire with the perp, who fled into a building and then jumped out of a 14th-floor window. The perp went to the hospital in critical condition. The officers were treated and released. And Sergeant Patrick Boyle, who is with us here today, has also recovered nicely.
Police Officer Douglas John of Transit District 20
Extremely Brave and Valiant Action Taken to Defend His Life and the Lives of Innocent Bystanders in a Deadly Confrontation With and Knife-Wielding Assailant.
A drunken idiot had knifed another man and chased his victim into the subway, intending to finish the job. When the victim got away, the knifer started threatening innocent bystanders. That’s the scene officer John encountered. He warned the suspect to drop the knife at least 10 times but, after observing that civilians were now is mortal danger, he shot the man once in the chest. The perp was DOA.
AND NOW FOR TWO SPECIAL AWARDS.
Police Officers Victor Matos and Maria Franco of the 33 Pct.
Alert, Quick-Thinking and Resolute Action Taken to Save the Life of a Ten-Month-Old Child, Victim of a Stabbing by an Emotionally Disturbed Person.
This incident also made the news. A mental patient just walked up to a nanny pushing a stroller on a sidewalk in Washington Heights and began stabbing the 10-month-old girl who was in the stroller. The nanny grabbed the child and hopped into a livery cab hoping to get her to a hospital in time to save her life. But the taxi got stuck in traffic and these officers got into the act. Officer Franco took the child from the nanny, then handed her off to Officer Matos and cleared a path for him through traffic so he could get the child to Columbia Presbyterian. They stayed at the hospital for the rest of their shift to make sure the baby survived. All are with us today: the officers; the child, Isabelle Avins; the child’s parents, and the nanny.
Police Officer James McNaughton of Transit District 2
Extremely Selfless Devotion to His City and Country and Extraordinarily Self-Sacrificing and Patriotic Action Taken While Giving His Life to Bring Freedom and Democracy to the Iraqi People.
James McNaughton is the first New York City police officer to lose his life while serving his country as an Army Reserves Staff Sergeant in the conflict in Iraq. Without any hesitation, he put his life on the line for his city and for his country. He came from a family steeped in NYPD tradition: His father, William McNaughton, is recently retired from the Transit Bureau; his stepmother, Michelle, is assigned to Transit Bureau headquarters, and the woman he was engaged to marry, Lilliana Paredes, is assigned to the Ninth Pct. They are proud of James McNaughton. So are the whole city, the nation, and the world, for that matter.