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More than 65 honored at Pr. George's valor awards

Three officers pulled a man from a burning car stuck on the back of a delivery truck as the car’s wheels continued to accelerate rapidly.

Another officer grabbed the arm of a man who had purposely swung himself off a bridge and pulled the man to safety.

Four firefighters rescued a pregnant woman whose vehicle had crashed into a creek and turned upside down.

They were a few of the more than 65 Prince George’s County public safety officials honored with Valor Awards at a luncheon Monday at Martin's Crosswinds in Greenbelt.

The annual event, emceed by NBC4 anchors Doreen Gentzler and Jim Vance, recognizes police officers, sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and dispatchers for unusual acts of heroism.

Most county big-wigs, including county executive Jack Johnson, council chairman Tom Dernoga, and every ranking public safety official, attended.

In a speech before the awards were presented, Johnson highlighted the county’s record decrease in crime last year, citing as reasons for the drop the officers’ hard work and his commitment to certain crime fighting initiatives -- even amid media criticism.

“We now have the safest community that we have had in 35 years, and we are proud of that,” Johnson said. “Today, we are proud that we stayed the course.”

For the police department, the night’s biggest winners were Lt. David S. Lloyd, Officer Paul. M. Mazzei Jr. and Officer George A. Merkel Jr., who earned silver medals of valor and were named police officers of the year.

In December, Lloyd, Mazzei and Merkel pulled a man from a burning car that had crashed into the back of a delivery truck. The driver of the car, Lloyd and Mazzei said, was unresponsive, and his foot was firmly pressed against the gas pedal even as rescuers tried to pull him to safety. That caused the tires to spin, creating the risk that the flaming car might come loose from the truck and crash into a crowd of pedestrians, they said.

“It was surreal,” Lloyd said of his reflections after the incident. “We were kind of walking around going, ‘What happened?’”

Among the others honored:

Ten firefighters and paramedics who pulled one of their own, firefighter Daniel McGown, to safety after he fell unconscious fighting a fire in Kettering in April 2009. Two of them, volunteer captain Walter “Joe” Brown and volunteer firefighter Timothy McCloskey, earned gold medals. McCloskey was also honored as firefighter of the year.
Corporal James J. Flynn, who pulled a man to safety in April 2009 after the man swung himself underneath the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
Volunteer firefighter Kevin McVey, who used the Jaws of Life to help rescue a teenager from an SUV that had crashed into a ravine.
Sgt. Timothy E. Cordero, Officer Edward K. Martin Jr. and Officer Stephen K. Johnson, who chased a man in a van toward D.C. in September and stopped him from jumping off the Anacostia River Bridge. The man threw six pounds of marijuana from his car during the chase — marijuana that was later recovered — and police later found he had been fleeing with his three-year-old son in the van.
Twenty-one firefighters on the scene of the Penn Mar Shopping Center explosion in May 2009.
Sgt. Kenneth M. Fox, who felled with one, non-fatal shot a gunman who barricaded himself in a house after firing a weapon at Cpl. Michael R. Soden, who was also honored. The gunman had raised his rifle at officers surrounding the house when Fox shot, police said.
Emergency Dispatch Aide Gerald Shiplett, who was honored as the emergency dispatch aide of the year for handling a 911 call in March 2009 about a man holding 15 customers inside a business at gunpoint.
Emergency Dispatcher Cherika Lucas, who was honored as dipatcher of the year for helping officers over the radio in a chase of a double homicide suspect in September. That suspect was eventually shot and killed by officers.
Sheriff’s Corporal Richard Johnson, who was honored as deputy of the year for developing a mentoring program for at-risk students at High Point High School.
Master Corporal William S. Tuttle, who was honored as corrections officer of the year for his work overseeing the jail’s central control operations.

-- Matt Zapotosky

By Matt Zapotosky  |  April 27, 2010; 8:03 AM ET
Categories:  Emergencies & Rescues , Fires & Fire Safety , Heroes , Matt Zapotosky , Pr. George's  
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