2021 | Police & Fire

Police recognize standouts for lifesaving work, bravery, leadership

Annual awards given out through online video event

Montgomery County police officers who saved lives and staved off danger were honored in an annual awards ceremony that was held online.

Montgomery County honored members of the department for brave acts, fast responses, calm thinking and other exemplary work.

The online awards ceremony was produced at the end of December through a compilation of video segments. It was shared with the public last week. Even though it was a 2020 ceremony, it recognized work from both 2020 and 2019.

Several supervisors from within the department each gave a short recap of service calls and other work that was honored.

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The department’s top award is the medal of valor, recognizing heroism and bravery despite the threat of death or injury.

The medal was given to three officers for two calls — Officer Michael Damskey, Officer Andrew Richardson and Cpl. Brandi Cross:

• Damskey stopped a vehicle on southbound Georgia Avenue on Feb. 26, 2019, south of Bel Pre Road, in Wheaton. He looked up and saw a vehicle traveling about 100 mph smash into the back of a van stopped at a red light.

The van, engulfed in flames, came toward him, stopping a few feet away. Damskey grabbed a fire extinguisher, opened a van door and saved the driver, whose upper body and hair were burned. Within a few minutes, a gas line erupted and the van exploded.

• Richardson responded on Feb. 9, 2020, when a car crashed at Frederick Road and Plummer Drive in Germantown. A carport fell on the car, which was on fire, trapping three people inside.

Richardson pulled one female from the vehicle. He and Cross got a second female out of the car. Richardson and Officer Charles Valente moved the second female to safety. Cross went into the burning vehicle to try to get the driver out, but he was wedged and stuck, despite the efforts of Richardson and Officer Alex John to pull the seat backward. Cross stayed and talked to him, to keep him calm until the fire was extinguished.

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Nearly two dozen lifesaving awards were given out for actions and responses, often including medical care:

• Officer Christopher Hendrix was the first on the scene on March 29, 2020, for a call of a woman having a heart attack. Hendrix took over CPR from the woman’s husband until paramedics arrived. The woman regained her pulse and survived with minimal damage.

• Officer Ludovicus Claver went to a home on East West Highway on May 31, 2020, for a report of domestic violence. A man who tried to intervene in a fight among members of his family was pushed to the ground and struck his head on the floor. The man was not breathing and had no pulse. Claver did chest compressions on the man until Montgomery County Fire and Rescue arrived and took over. The man’s condition improved on the way to the hospital.

• Officers Lindsay Greene and Sarah Federico were the first on the scene on Oct. 14, 2019, at a home on Sugarbush Lane in North Bethesda, where a woman was in cardiac arrest. A relative did CPR, but got tired. Greene took over, then Federico continued. Fire and Rescue arrived to care for the woman, whose pulse returned.

• Officer Nathan Larson responded to a call of a stabbing in an apartment in the Fairland area of Silver Spring on Dec. 19, 2019. On the stairs, there was an unresponsive woman bleeding from her arm and several people gathered around her. Larson applied a tourniquet. The woman was taken to the hospital. Other officers arrested a suspect who was in the apartment.

• Officer Thomas Cioffi was on vacation in Aruba with his wife, who saw a teenage girl at the bottom of a resort pool. Cioffi jumped in, pulled the girl out and did CPR. The girl recovered to the point that she walked to an ambulance. Aruba’s government contacted Montgomery County to praise Cioffi

• Officer Aaron McMullen was the first to respond to a Sept. 30, 2019, call of a man who collapsed near a bus stop. The man had no pulse. McMullen did CPR. Officer Jiwoo Jang arrived and took over CPR. Officer Dustin Fritz applied pads to be used with an automatic external defibrillator. Jang and Officer Tonya Whitenton also did chest compressions, until Fire and Rescue arrived. The man survived.

• Officers Kurt Colson and Lee Meyer were on a pedestrian safety detail near Gunners Branch and Frederick roads in Germantown on Jan. 29, 2020, when they saw two females in a fight with a male. The officers intervened and subdued the suspect, who had used a large knife to stab the females. They had wounds on their hands, faces and butts. The officers intervened and subdued the suspect.

• Officers Amy Stoughton, Laura Nichols and Edgardo Diaz handled an April 8, 2020, report of a stabbing on Walkers Choice Road in Montgomery Village. The victim had multiple stab wounds on a leg and was losing a lot of blood. Stoughton and Nichols applied a tourniquet on a leg. Diaz treated stab wounds on the victim’s other leg. Sgt. Bill Powell and Lt. Christopher Fumagalli saw other stab wounds on the victim’s upper body and sealed them with their hands, then dressed the wounds.

• About 40 officers responded on Jan. 1, 2020, to a call about a man found dead in a hallway at Byron Manor Apartments on Georgia Avenue in Wheaton. Police were told that the man had been smoking drugs in an apartment and died, then two people inside dragged his body out to the hallway.

A man smoking drugs in the apartment was incoherent and would not come out, so a SWAT team forced its way in. The man was found naked and unresponsive on a couch. Sgt. Sunyoung Kim, Officer Lyndon Jones and Officer Greg Woodman worked to save the man, including using two doses of Narcan, which can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The man survived.

• Officer John McClellan also was on a list as a lifesaving award recipient, but there was not a clip in the video presentation describing what he did. A department spokesman did not have information on Tuesday afternoon about what led to McClellan’s award.

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A commendation, indicating a significant contribution to the mission of the police department, was given to:

• Officer Sean Petty, while investigating a drug complaint at an apartment off Tuckerman Lane in January 2019, learned of someone defrauding a management company out of thousands of dollars. He and colleagues ended up spending 14 months expanding the case, uncovering a large ring of identity theft and fraud, with 46 victims.

Ten apartment complexes were defrauded, including four in Montgomery County. The investigation resulted in many felony and misdemeanor charges against the alleged ringleader and others, and the seizure of two vehicles and more than $8,800.

• Officer Laura Myers was the first to respond on Nov. 11, 2019, to a 911 call at 7-Eleven on Wisteria Drive in Germantown, where a man had a large folding knife open, with a 6-inch blade on either side. Officer James Logan arrived to help on the call and got the man to put the knife in his pocket. Sgt. Matthew Krest also responded, and when the man got agitated and opened the knife again, Krest rushed him and tackled him.

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The department gave a chief’s award, for high service to the community, to:

• Officer Jayme Derbyshire’s lengthy list of achievements in 2019 included working on traffic safety issues, teaching classes about e-cigarettes and vaping, overseeing highway grant funding, and helping to train officers on how to react to people impaired by cannabis.

• Officer Steven Pascali, in 2019, noticed a pregnant, malnourished woman who was sleeping in a vehicle because she had been evicted from her home. He connected her to a crisis center and service groups and brought her food and water. He also let her stay in his home, where his family fed and clothed her and got her to see a doctor.

Other examples of his compassion and aid included taking a homeless person in Damascus to get a meal and paying nearly $200 to cover a disabled woman’s debt, so she wouldn’t be evicted from a room she rented.

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Supervisor of the year awards went to:

• Robert F. Hebron in the Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit. He was praised for developing a good work environment, showing smart leadership and providing effective training.

• Sgt. Alfred Dzenkowski, who had a high number of DUI arrests and was described as a positive role model, showing fairness and integrity. He oversees an alcohol enforcement program and coordinates training for new recruits.

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The Montgomery County Police Alumni Association Ethical Leadership Award went to:

• Sgt. David Ferragine, who was described as humble, professional, trustworthy and approachable.