PAWTUCKET — Over the last year, they've tackled gun-toting suspects, entered burning buildings, located runaways, intervened in violent domestic disputes, talked people out killing themselves, and caught drug dealers. And, as Pawtucket Police Lt. Roberto DaSilva pointed out, this was “just a sampling” of what Pawtucket Police officers have to deal with on a regular basis.
Some of the most heroic and selfless moments that occurred on the job in 2011 were recognized on Thursday at the Pawtucket Police Department's annual Awards and Memorial Ceremony. Held at the Veterans Amphitheater in front of a crowd of family and friends, Mayor Donald R. Grebien, Public Safety Director Antonio Pires, and Police Chief Paul King presented merit awards and commendations to some 30 men and women on the police force who went over and above the call of duty.
Also recognized posthumously was Officer William Wetherspoon Gemmell, who died on June 22, 1908 after being shot while responding to a dispute. Because the Police Department had been unsuccessful in an attempt to locate living relatives of Gemmell, a Medal of Honor was presented on his behalf to the Pawtucket Fraternal Order of Police. DaSilva noted that if a relative of Gemmell eventually comes forward, the medal will be given to the family.
Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien noted that the ceremony is held each year during National Police Week, and said its purpose is to honor “those who lost their lives in the line of duty and those who serve us now.” He acknowledged Special Officer Gammell, who lost his life 104 years ago in Pawtucket, as well as the late Providence Police Sgt. Maxwell Dorley, who recently perished in a cruiser crash while en route to an emergency call, as being examples of the ultimate sacrifice that goes with the job.
Director of Administration Antonio Pires spoke about the dangers that go along with the job, and cited the example of two Pawtucket officers, Emmanuel Mejia and Jess Venturini, who “were put in great peril” on May 2 when they responded to a call involving an armed fugitive from Attleboro. (The two officers ended up shooting the wanted man, Jamie Coyle, and have been placed on administrative leave pending the results of an investigation.) Pires told those assembled that he felt confident the process would show that the two officers had acted prudently, professionally and well within the scope of their duties. (Both Mejia and Venturini also received commendations and Mejia received a merit award for their actions last year in unrelated incidents).
Police Chief Paul King spoke of how “proud I am in the men and women of this Department.”
He also thanked former Police Chief George L. Kelley III, the mayor, and the citizens for their support, saying, “Because of you, it makes the job worthwhile.”
Five officers received the highest honor, the merit award, presented to those “who perform in an exceptional manner in an extremely dangerous situation.”
Sgt. Manny Maciel, Officer Emmanuel Mejia and Officer Gary Correira were recognized for their actions in an April 26, 2011 house fire on Broadway in which they helped evacuate several occupants, including a man who was immobile and had to be carried outside to safety.
Also receiving merit awards were Officers William Figura Jr. and David Dolan, for a May 6, 2011 incident in which they arrested a male suspect who had fired shots outside of a bar, recovering a stolen firearm and illegal drugs in the process.
Commendation awards, presented to officers who have exhibited “exceptional police work” and achievement that “reflects favorably on the individual officer as well as the Pawtucket Police Department,” were given to 16 officers.
Officers Emmanuel Mejia and Jess Venturini were honored for recognizing and arresting a dangerous male suspect who had committed an armed robbery at Parent's Marina on Jan. 10, 2011; Officer Christopher Miller was praised for locating two female suspects wanted for a Jan. 30, 2011 armed robbery of a gas station on Mineral Spring Avenue; and Officer Carl Barovier was recognized for his quick work in helping to identify and arrest a male suspect wanted for firing shots at a man on Main Street on March 6, 2011.
Officer Paul Trout was recognized for helping to stabilize the bleeding of a woman who had been injured in a Feb. 6, 2011 fight on Pond Street; and received a second commendation for helping to arrest a suspect in a shooting outside of a bar on May 6, 2011.
Officers John Duffin, Nathan Gallison, Daniel Ashworth and Jess Venturini received commendations for their work in arresting a male suspect who had pistol-whipped and robbed a couple in a Roosevelt Avenue apartment on June 25, 2011; and Officer Mario Comella was honored for his actions on a Sept. 9, 2011 patrol where he recognized a missing, developmentally impaired female who had been forced into prostitution.
Also commended were Officers David Dolan, Matthew Braga and Diane McLaughlin for their actions on Oct. 10, 2011 in disarming a distraught and drunk male who had been holding a knife to his chest; and Officer Michael Cioe, for pulling a suicidal man off a railing of the Main Street bridge on Dec. 30, 2011.
Additionally, Officers Carrie Hormanski, Robert Pickett and Theodore Georgitsis were honored for their investigation of an apartment on Weeden Street on Nov. 23, 2011 that led to the discovery of an illegal marijuana-growing operation and the arrest of a suspect on drug charges.
Numerous other officers received the Achievement of Excellence Award, including Det. Sgt. Robert Winsor, Det. Donti Rosciti (2), Det. David Silva (2), Officer Theodore Georgitis, Officer Robert Pickett, Officer Justin Gould (2), Officer Scott Slack, Officer Michael Costigan, Officer Geoffrey Metfooney, Officer John Donley, Officer William Fiqura, Officer Justin Snape, Officer Michael Lajoie, and Officer Carrie Hormanski.
Receiving Letters in File for their actions were: Officer Michael Tousignant, Officer Erica Bucka, Officer Craig Allison, Officer Alexander Smith, Officer Michael Costigan, Officer William Lopatka, Officer Scott Slack, Officer Michael Lajoie, Officer Thomas Vasatka, Officer Christopher Lombardi, Officer John Duffin, Officer Christopher Polinick, Officer Anthony Luchetti, Officer Sean Sullivan, Officer Peter Spetelunas, Officer Maria Cruz, Officer Joseph Skahan, Officer Kenneth Dolan, Officer John Donley, Det. Sgt. Paul Brandley, Det. David Silva, Det. Donti Rosciti, Det. Hans Cute, Det. Edward Berube, Det. Charles Devine and Det. Susan Cormier.
The Civilian Employee Recognition Award went to dispatcher Tracy Colvin for helping police to quickly locate and aid a suicidal man, thought to be possibly armed, who had taken prescription pills and initially refused to cooperate with police and firefighters.
Colvin was recognized for displaying “calmness and professionalism at the highest level” and police said that it was through her effort that the distraught male and the officers on the scene were not injured.