Local Police Officers, Firefighters, and EMTs Recognized at The Valor Awards
At this years ceremony, there were 38 police officers, EMTs, and firefighters honored in six special categories, including Norfolk Police K9, Krijger receiving the Ultimate Sacrifice award.
The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce hosted the Valor Awards on Friday, April 22, 2016 at the Chesapeake Conference Center. The Valor Awards offer the Hampton Roads business community an opportunity to thank and recognize public safety heroes for extraordinary acts of courage and resourcefulness in the line of duty. Emceeing the event was ABC13's Mike Gooding. At this year’s ceremony, there were 38 police officers, EMTs, and firefighters honored in six special categories, including Norfolk Police K9, Krijger receiving the Ultimate Sacrifice award.
Presenting the awards for the Ultimate Sacrifice and the Medal of Valor Awards were Bryan Stephens, President & CEO of the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce, Rhonda Bridgeman, Chairman of the Chesapeake Hospital Authority (Presenting Sponsor), and Michael Dudley, President of Optima Health and Vice President of Sentara Healthcare (Medal of Valor Award Sponsor), and Drew Lumpkin, with Senator Warner’s Office, and the Mayor of the city represented.
This year the Police K9 Krijger was awarded the Ultimate Sacrifice and his handler, Officer Ryan J. McNiff was awarded the Bronze Medal of Valor for exposing himself to great personal risk and demonstrating ext raordinary judgment in the performance of his duties with K-9 Krijger.re was only one first responder who made the ultimate sacrifice. Norfolk
On January 11, 2016 Officer McNiff and his K9 Partner, Krijger were assigned to assist the Special Operations Team in connection with a hostage/barricade situation. They responded to the call on Cape Henry Avenue in Norfolk at 1:20 in the morning. Several hours into the incident a man left the house and walked toward police officers. Officer McNiff was stationed on the perimeter and released Krijger, commanding him to apprehend the man.
Krijger responded precisely according to training by moving in and taking hold of the man's arm. But the man had a gun and shot Krijger twice. Krijger's wounds were lethal and he died heroically at the scene.
Krijger, a four-year-old Belgian Malinois served with the Norfolk Police Department as Officer McNiff's partner for three years. Acting above and beyond the call of duty in a situation involving extreme personal risk, Krijger performed his duty with the highest degree of bravery.
The Gold Medal of Valor was awarded to Officer Michael Hilton with the Chesapeake Police Department because he selflessly positioned himself in harm’s way while focused on preservation of life. On the evening of January 14, 2015 Officer Hilton and other third precinct officers were called to Sir Gawaine Drive to assist with a person who was reported to be in the middle of the street threatening to commit suicide. They were told the suicidal man had a gun. Officer Hilton is honored for protecting the residents of the Camelot community, his fellow officers, and himself in a dangerous situation. Officer Hilton selflessly, calmly and deliberately utilized his training and experience to stop a serious threat to the safety of the public.
Officer Paul Chris Bryant with the Virginia Beach Police Department, Barry Kirschner with the Virginia Beach Department of Emergency Medical Services received the Silver Medal of Valor award. This Medal of Valor shows how First Responders from all departments work together to save lives. On September 27, 2015 at 12:30 in the afternoon, Virginia Beach Police dispatch received a call of a swimmer in distress off the shore of Sandbridge Beach. Firefighters from Engine 17 arrived on scene first. Two firefighters entered the rough seas in hopes of rescuing the distressed swimmer. The swimmer was unconcious and face down in the water. The firefighters attempted to get the victim and themselves back to the shore, however the current and rough seas overtook them and pushed them back in the opposite direction of the shore. They determined the victim was deceased and this was now a recovery effort. The two firemen were met continuously with high relentless large waves which caused them to go underwater. A large wave separated the firemen and one of them began drifting away in the strong current. He was struggling, worn out and in obvious distress as the relentless overpowering waves continued to crash down on him. He needed to be rescued before he drowned. Virginia Beach Police Officer Paul Chris Bryant arrivd on scene and saw the firefighter struggling for his life in the water. Without hesitation, Officer Bryant removed his gun belt, radio, boots, and vest; grabbed two life jackets and entered the raging water. Officer Bryant swam through the dangerous seas to the struggling fireman and assisted him with the placement of the life vest. Officer Bryant grabbed hold of the fireman's float can and began pulling him towards the shore. Officer Bryant's efforts were successful, saving the firefighter who was taken to the hospital for treatment. Officer Bryant went back in the ocean to assist the second firefighter and was again pummeled relentlessly by the treacherous surf. Barry Kirschner, a volunteer with Virginia Beach Emergency Medical Services and Lifeguard Supervisor, arrived on Sandbridge Beach to see one firefighter, Officer Bryant, and the drowning victim in the surf. Mr. Kirschner jumped in to the water, swam to the struggling First Responders and pulled them together. He was holding Officer Bryant and the Firefighter afloat with the support of the rescue can and a PFD as they were severely exhausted from the severe water conditions. The three were pulled to shore by safety ropes secured by the help of the Marine Rescue team. Barry Kirschner's heroic measures assisted in the ability to connect the two responders in the water together as a group so that they could be pulled to shore. This rescue involved heroic efforts from mulitple departments. Despite the death of the orginial victim, the quick actions of Officer Paul Chris Bryant and Barry Kirschner saved the lives of Virginia Beach First Responders.
Captain Brian (Keith) Ashbury and Master Firefighter Joseph Polozzi from the Virginia Beach Fire Department also received the Silver Medal of Valor award. These firefighters went above and beyond to save a life and put their own lives at risk to do so. On February 13, 2016 at 4:36am, Firefighters were called to a house fire on Victoria Drive. They were told there were victims trapped inside. On scene they saw a major fire concentrated in the back portion of the house and extended into the attic. The flames were rapidly spreading through the rest of the home. One homeowner was in the front yard and told them a man was trapped in a bedroom. Fire crews determined that a high risk rescue effort would be initiated doing a vent-enter-search in a bedroom. Captain Brian (Keith) Ashbury and Master Firefighter Joseph Polozzi cleared the window opening and made entry through the bedroom window. They put themselves in extreme danger as they immediately faced high heat and thick black smoke. Their thermal image camera went completely white from the high temperatures. They were forced to search in complete smoke caused blindness. They located the homeowner on the floor at the end of the bed. Captain Ashbury and Master Firefighter Polozzi were unable to define the exact location of the window opening in the heavy smoke and darkness but were able to see the beam of flashlfights of the police officer's outside. Working together they moved the homeowner toward the window. There was concern for a flashover as they felt the heat building inside the room. They handed the unconcious man over to the crews outside the window. He was breathing. The patient has since been released from the hospital. Captain Ashbury and Master Firefighter Polozzi valiantly put their lives at risk to save the life of a Virginia Beach resident.
Officer Brent Leatherman, Officer Michael Torian from the Norfolk Police Department received the Bronze
Medal of Valor for their act of bravery in the line of duty, in a manner evincing a disregard of personal consequences, in order to stop any further injury to innocent bystanders. Officer Leatherman and Officer Torian gave verbal commands to the suspect, who surrendered without incident. The suspect was taken into custody.
The Bronze Medal of Valor was also awarded Master Police Officer Edward Donohue, Master Police Officer Paul K. Lynch, and Master Police Officer Brian Staub with the Virginia Beach Police Department. Based on the totality of the events that took place and specifically that the suspect had shot a citizen and fired upon officers, the actions of MPO Staub, MPO Lynch and MPO Donohue were clearly done at extreme personal risk and heroic in their efforts to protect fellow officers and the citizens of Virginia Beach. The first-line supervisor on the scene for this incident remarked about these officers, “Their sheer professionalism allowed them to take the armed offender into custody without deadly force”.
There were eight honorees for the Investigative Merit awards. Presenting the awards to the eight honorees were Bryan Stephens, Drew Lumpkin, and Rhonda Bridgeman.
The first Investigative Merit was awarded to Detective Robert Cornatzer with the Portsmouth Police Department. Detective Robert Cornatzer dedicated over four months of continuous work to ensure that two suspects were brought to justice and tried for their crime against a good citizen who was trying to lend a helping hand. On January 20, 2015 a patron in a Portsmouth Bar agreed to take two customers, a man and women, home. While driving, the man pulled a gun and put it to the driver’s head and demanded all his money. The man struck the driver in the head repeatedly until he stopped the car. The two passengers forced the man out of his own car and took off. A tip that came in on the Portsmouth Crime Line was turned over to Detective Robert Cornatzer. He took this information and the report from the victim and began to aggressively investigate the case. In June he was able to identify the woman and obtained a warrant for her arrest. As a direct result of his years of experience as a criminal investigator and his excellent interview and interrogation skills, Detective Cornatzer obtained a full confession from her on June 25. She led him to the man with the gun. She later pled guilty and testified against the man. He was found guilty by a jury. Detective Cornatzer was also able to obtain information to solve a separate robbery case during this investigation.
Sergeant Timothy Cooper, Detective Casey Thomas, and Detective Alex Johnson from the Suffolk Police Department were honored with the Investigative Merit Award. These detectives worked over a hundred hours to bring closer for a victim and his family in a brutal homicide. They started with only a body in the water that had been there for a couple of months and worked diligently until they had three full confessions. On March 9, 2015 Suffolk Police recovered a body floating in the water at Lakeview Parkway. An autopsy revealed the subject had received blunt force trauma to the head and had water in his lungs. Detective Casey Thomas and Detective Alex Johnson were assigned this as their first homicide case. Working under the leadership of Sergeant Timothy Cooper they went out of their way to ensure that this case was solved. They identified one suspect who had fled to Wisconsin. Then they located another suspect in Suffolk and they managed to get him to implicate himself in murdering the victim. That suspect confirmed that one of the other people involved had fled to Wisconsin and that there was a third person involved. Detectives Thomas and Johnson were able to track down and obtain a full confession from the third suspect. They developed a phone relationship with the suspect in Wisconsin and obtained a full confession from that suspect after flying to Wisconsin and arranging a meeting at a Police Station.
The final Investigative Merit award was presented to Detective Matthew Faubion, Detective Heather Linville, Detective Joyce Williams, and Intel Analyst Amanda Lopez from the Suffolk Police Department. This team’s dedicated hard work lead to the apprehension of an Internet Child Predator and to the safe return of a Suffolk Teen. On August 17, 2015, a 14 year old girl was reported missing by her mother. She left a note saying she was okay and loved her family. Instead of shuffling this to a back burner as a cold runaway case, Detective Matthew Faubion, Detective Heather Linville, Detective Joyce Williams and Intel Analyst Amanda Lopez spent hours scouring neighborhood computers, cell phone records, talking with family and friends and following up on tips to produce a lead in the case. Finally on September 23, the girl called her mother. Intel Analyst Lopez traced the call to a residence in Superior, Wisconsin. These Suffolk Investigators quickly learned Superior Police were investigating a man at that address for a juvenile missing under similar circumstances. The suspect convinced both girls he was a modeling scout and was able to get them to go home with him. Suffolk Investigators information gave the Superior Police the edge they needed to obtain a search warrant and search the home. It was during that search that the girl from Suffolk was located. The suspect was arrested and charged with Sexual Assault and Statutory Rape in Wisconsin and additional charges are pending. This investigation is being adopted by the FBI Crimes Against Children Task Force and charges from additional victims are forthcoming.
There were 18 police officers, firefighters, and EMTs honored for the Lifesaving Award. Presenting the awards were Drew Lumpkin, Rhonda Bridgeman, and Bryan Stephens.
The first Lifesaving Award was presented to Captain David Elliott, Firefighter Paramedic Russell Deaton, and Firefighter Douglas Hughes with the Chesapeake Fire Department. On July 23, 2015 crews responded to a house fire on Oak Grove Road. Engine 4 arrived first. Crews reported heavy smoke and flames and they had been told someone was trapped inside. Captain Elliott established command. Engine 4’s crew forced the front door open and was met with heavy smoke, zero visibility and high heat. They found the victim a few feet inside the home and quickly removed him from the burning house. Engine 4’s crew immediately initiated CPR. Additional crews arrived and transported the patient to the hospital. He was breathing on his own and had a pulse. The quick decisive and heroic actions of Captain David Elliott, Firefighter Paramedic Russell Deaton and Firefighter Douglas Hughes saved this person’s life.
Officer Taylor Andersen with the Chesapeake Police Department was also awarded the Lifesaving Award. On January 16, 2015 Officer Taylor Anderson responded to an assist medic call. The call was in reference to a baby being born into the commode at this home. Officer Anderson went to the house and heard a woman calling out from inside the residence. He followed her voice to the bathroom and found her standing over the commode. Her baby was in the commode still attached to her by the umbilical cord. The baby was in distress with toilet water up to her nose and eyes. Officer Anderson did not hesitate. He reached down and removed the baby from the commode. When he placed her on the seat of the commode she began to cry, indicating she was breathing normally. Officer Anderson wrapped the baby girl in a towel to keep her warm until medics arrived. When medics arrived they took the mother and child to the hospital where both were reported to be in good condition.
Chesapeake Police Department’s Officer James Hamilton was presented the Lifesaving Award. On May 10, 2015 a mother and daughter went to see a movie at Chesapeake Square Mall for Mother’s Day. The mother suffered cardiac arrest. Officer James Hamilton arrived on scene at the same time as the Fire Department. He jumped right in and gathered the patient’s history and helped move her to a position for CPR. He then assisted medics in the CPR rotation and helped move the patient to the ambulance. The patient regained her pulse before transport to the hospital. Officer Hamilton was a key player in a true life save. The patient has since fully recovered.
Sergeant Nathanial Hawes with the Portsmouth Police Department responded to a report of a man having a heart attack at the Dollar General Store on High Street on December 11, 2015. Stg. Hawes arrived to find the man in full arrest. He began CPR and continued until medics relieved him. The man was taken to Maryview Hospital. Sergeant Hawes’ quick action with lifesaving measures allowed this man to remain alive to be transported to the Hospital. Sergeant Hawes was presented the Lifesaving Award.
Two men in the Suffolk Fire Department, Lieutenant Jeremy Gould and Senior Firefighter John M. Piver received the Lifesaving Award. On March 30, 2015 Lieutenant Jeremy Gould and Senior Firefighter John Piver rescued a woman attempting to take her life by wading out into the James River. The woman was holding on to a bridging piling about 150 yards away from the shoreline. The water was around 45 degrees. She appeared to be chest high in the water and was not responding to anyone calling from the bridge. Lieutenant Gould and Firefighter Piver received the go ahead to rescue her immediately, as waiting for cold suits or more crews would be too late. They tied off to a tag line and waded out into the frigid water to retrieve the woman. They brought her back to the shoreline where she was placed in a stokes basket and hoisted to the waiting ambulance. They both acted without due regard to their own safety and put this woman’s life first.
In late August 2015, Lieutenant Taz Lancaster, with the Suffolk Fire Department, was off duty surfing in Buxton, North Carolina. He was paddling in to shore when noticed a surfboard floating and upon scanning the immediate area, saw a man bobbing with only his head showing barely above the water. The man told Lieutenant Lancaster he had fallen off his board head first into a shallow sand bar and felt as if he were paralyzed. Without hesitation and with the possibility of a c-spine injury Lieutenant Lancaster used his surfboard as a backboard to stabilize the man as best he could while floating him back to shore through the rough breaking waves. While on shore, Lieutenant Lancaster called 911, further immobilized the victim’s neck and reassured the man until rescue arrived and flew the man out. Lieutenant Lancaster tracked the man’s progress and fortunately he only had temporary paralysis due to the compression sustained to his c-spine and ended up making a full recovery. Had Lieutenant Lancaster not quickly assessed the situation and took the appropriate action when he did the man could have sustained permanent paralysis from the waves slamming him around or could have drowned in the rough surf. Because of Lieutenant Lancaster’s quick thinking he was awarded the Lifesaving Award.
Lastly, Firefighter Jerome Willoughby, Firefighter Emerson Carroll, Captain Phillip Thompson, Captain Timothy Whalen, Firefighter David Seitz, Firefighter Jennifer Gronski, Firefighter Shawn Mehall, Medic Neil Daigle, and Medic Nicholas Ilchyshyn from the Norfolk Fire Department were all awarded the Lifesaving Award. On July 7, 2015 Norfolk Fire and Rescue crews were called to an apartment fire on Fenchurch Street. They knew someone was inside the burning home. Engine 1 Firefighters went into the front door and found smoke banked down to knee level. They did not find the woman reported to be inside. Captain Thomas and Firefighter Carroll went up to the second floor where they were met with moderate heat and very intense black smoke with zero visibility. They searched the left bedroom. Firefighter Willoughby came up the stairs as the backup man on the hose line. Captain Thompson split the crew to search two rooms at once. Firefighter Willoughby found the woman unconscious on the floor of the front bedroom. Firefighter Carroll assisted Willoughby with removing her from the second floor. Engine 2 arrived to secure the water supply and assist Medics with patient care. The victim was not breathing and a pulse could not be found. CPR was started and continued until the victim was placed in the medic unit. The patient started breathing on her own and had return of pulse while in the ambulance. These teams assisted with fighting the fire, rescuing the victim, and patient care. All contributed to saving this woman’s life.
The Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce thanks all the men and women first responders who put their lives on the line every day. We appreciate everything you do to keep our community safe.
Thank you to our sponsors: Chesapeake Regional Healthcare (Presenting Sponsor); Chesapeake Conference Center (Host Sponsor); Sentara Healthcare (Medal of Valor Sponsor); The Auto Connection ( Lifesaving Sponsor); Harvey Lindsay Commercial Real Estate (Gold Sponsor); ABC13 (Media Sponsor); Neptune Video Creations (Video Production Sponsor); GEICO, Dale Carnegie Training, and the Shopper (Silver Sponsors).