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VACP/VPCF Recognizes Nine Virginia Officers with 2011 Lifesaving Award

September 28, 2011 | VACP

Nine Virginia police officers are the recipients of the 2011 Lifesaving Awards presented by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police (VACP) and the Virginia Police Chiefs Foundation (VPCF). The awards were announced September 27 at the VACP/VPCF Annual Conference in Norfolk, Virginia.

The Lifesaving Award recognizes an officer’s actions that put the officer in harm’s way in an attempt to save the live of another individual. The awards were given to the recipients’ police chiefs to be presented at ceremonies at the officers’ agencies.

The 2011 VACP/VPCF Lifesaving Award recipients are as follows:

Chesterfield County Police Department
Officer First Class Kevin A. Bates

Officer Bates arrived at the scene of a car crashed and on fire down an embankment within Greenleigh Trailer Park with a driver trapped. Chesterfield Fire and EMS was not yet on scene, and Officer Bates could see through smoke and flames that the passenger door was open and feet were sticking out. Officer Bates, without hesitation, grabbed the feet of Claudio Macias Ramirez, attempting to pull him from the vehicle. The suspect was highly intoxicated and resisted the officer, yelling that his brother was in the backseat of the vehicle. Officer Bates was unable to see through the flames and smoke if there was another passenger and focused on pulling Mr. Ramirez from danger. He had to aggressively use an underarm hook and pry Ramirez from the flaming vehicle to safety. No one else was located in the vehicle once Chesterfield Fire arrived and extinguished the flames. Due to the unselfish acts of Officer Bates, Claudio Macias Ramirez was pulled to safety with minor injuries.

Newport News Police Department
Sergeant Lawrence R. Gleba
Detective Charles A. Howser
Detective Sean P. McGee

On May 21, 2010, members of the Narcotics Enforcement Unit (NEU) executed a search warrant at 4423 Baughman Court. After successfully serving the warrant, detectives spoke to one of the suspects while standing outside of the apartment. At this time, the attention of the detectives standing outside of the apartment was drawn to a rather large pit bull canine that was roaming around the apartment complex. Detectives were made aware of the dog's presence by citizen cries of, "Get your dog!" As detectives began to focus on the pit bull, the dog approached a group of children. The dog seemed to center its attention on a young child who was on a bicycle. In an obvious sign of fear, the juvenile jumped off his bike and began to flee from the canine. In response to the juvenile's actions, the pit bull became aggressive and began to growl and showed its teeth.

Trying to escape from the menacing pit bull, the child ran around a tree, then into an open area adjacent to 4419 Marshall Avenue. As the juvenile was running, the pit bull repeatedly lunged at him in an apparent attempt to knock the child to the ground. Witnessing the attack, Sergeant Gleba, Detective McGee, and Detective Howser ran to the child's assistance. Before they could save the child from imminent attack, the pit bull lunged at the juvenile and knocked him to the ground. The dog bit the juvenile's leg and was in the process of biting the back of his neck when the detectives arrived on scene. Since they did not have a clear shot at the dog, Sergeant Gleba kicked the pit bull, which caused it to disengage from the child's neck. The pit bull was now preoccupied with Sergeant Gleba and the other detectives. This gave the juvenile an opportunity to escape, although only temporarily.

As the juvenile stood up, Sergeant Gleba told him to stand still. Just as he said this, the pit bull began moving towards the juvenile once again. Seeing this, the juvenile started screaming and began running away. Just as the pit bull was ready to grab the juvenile by the pants leg, Sergeant Gleba grabbed the juvenile's left arm and swung the juvenile to the left side of his body. This effectively put him, Detective Howser, and Detective McGee in between the attacking pit bull and the child. As they shielded the child from the aggressive pit bull, the dog began to growl and snapped its teeth in a vicious manner at the detectives. As they began to back away from the belligerent animal, the pit bull lunged at the detectives. At this time the detectives fired their duty weapons at the dog, killing it.

The actions of Sergeant Gleba, Detective McGee, and Detective Howser saved the life of Tymel Mohammed, the nine-year-old victim of the dog attack. Their actions exposed them to an extreme level of danger, and the threat of serious injury was highly probable. Additionally, their decision to shoot only when an appropriate backdrop was available not only shows clear decision-making under extreme conditions, but resoundingly demonstrates their actions were sound and appropriate.

Richmond Police Department
Sergeant David Naoroz

On November 18, 2010, Richmond Police Sgt. Naoroz, Sgt. Jean-Guy LeGouffe and Officer Jill Simons responded to a house fire at 1004 Edgehill Road in Richmond. Smoke was pouring from the house and the officers observed flames coming from the second story. Neighbors advised the officers that an elderly woman was still inside the residence and unable to get out of her bedroom.

Richmond Fire and Emergency Services personnel had not arrived, so Sgt. Naoroz and Officer Simons entered the house to try to find the woman, but were forced to retreat due to heavy smoke and flames. Firefighters arrived and began to work the fire incident. Fire Captain M.V. Liverman found the victim unconscious on the floor of her bedroom. She was wedged underneath furniture and boxes. Captain Liverman yelled for assistance so Sgt. Naoroz went into the house again and made his way upstairs. Conditions inside the house were deteriorating, with an estimated temperature of 120 degrees on the floor and approximately 600 degrees near the ceiling. The bedroom where the victim was trapped was unbearable for Captain Liverman with fire protective gear, and Sgt. Naoroz was only wearing his police uniform.

Sgt. Naoroz followed the light from the firefighter’s flashlight to locate him and the trapped woman and assisted in her rescue. Sgt. LeGouffe and Officer Simons met the trio at the stairs and helped bring the woman outside to a waiting ambulance.  Because of the time Sgt. Naoroz spent in the house, he was taken to VCU Medical Center and treated for smoke inhalation. Sgt. LeGouffe and Officer Simons were treated at the scene. Following the incident, Captain Liverman stated, “With almost 24 years of fire experience, I can say that I have never witnessed anyone without respiratory protection risk their own life the way he (Naoroz) did.”

The fire victim was admitted to VCU Medical Center for treatment and survived her injuries. The emergency room physicians believe she was within moments of perishing had she not been rescued from her home.

Strasburg Police Department
Officer John Magdinec
Officer Joey Miller

On July 15, 2010 at approximately 2:00 am, the Shenandoah County Communication Center dispatched Fire and Rescue units to 325 and 327 Mulberry St. in Strasburg for a duplex fire. Strasburg Police Officers John Magdinec and Joey Miller responded as well and arrived on scene within one minute of dispatch and ahead of fire and rescue. When the officers arrived, there were flames and thick black smoke coming from the windows, roof and doors. Neighbors advised the officers there were people still inside 325 Mulberry St. The officers forced entry into the front door of the residence and heard calls for help coming from a back bedroom. After several attempts they located a male subject (Paul Weidling) and removed him from the residence. He told the officers there was still a female inside. The officers obtained a blanket from a neighbor and placed it over their heads and returned inside locating the female, Roberta Kibler. Roberta Kibler was incapacitated, and the officers safely removed her from the residence. The residence was a complete loss, but no lives were lost due to the quick and courageous actions of the officers. The officers were transported to Shenandoah County Memorial Hospital and treated for smoke inhalation.

Virginia State Police
Trooper Nasir S. Sessoms

Shortly after 5 pm on March 8, 2011, Trooper N. S. Sessoms was at his Henrico County residence recuperating from shoulder surgery. He happened to look out the window and observed a nearby residence in the 1200 block of Wilderness Drive on fire. Without hesitation, Sessoms ran to the residence to see if anyone was trapped inside.

Unable to make contact with anyone inside, he forcefully made his way in through a locked door. Once inside, he discovered an elderly male disoriented in the heavy smoke and flames. Sessoms was able to lead the man to safety outdoors at which time the man said that his wife was still inside on the second floor.  Sessoms rushed back into the burning residence to search for the woman and found her in an upstairs bedroom. He was able to escort her down the stairs and safely away from the home where she was reunited with her husband.  The off-duty trooper and the elderly couple suffered minor injuries and were assessed by emergency personnel on-scene.

Trooper Sessoms, an 8-year veteran with the Virginia State Police, demonstrated extraordinary courage by his actions to willingly and selflessly rescue the couple form their burning home.

Virginia State Police
Trooper Joseph K. Zyra, Jr.

On June 13, 2010, at approximately 11:47 pm, Trooper Joseph K. Zyra, Jr. was on routine patrol on I-64 working the mid-night shift in Area 47, which consists of the cities of Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Suffolk.  He received radio traffic that Chesapeake Police Department was in pursuit of a 2010 Chevrolet Impala occupied by two males on I-664 southbound for narcotics violations and was requesting assistance from the State Police.  As the pursuit turned onto I-64 westbound headed towards Zyra’s location, it increased to speeds in excess of 100 MPH.  Trooper Zyra attempted to pull out in front of the fleeing vehicle to slow it down, but its speed was too great and it passed Zyra along with several other police vehicles.  

The fleeing vehicle then exited the Interstate at Dominion Boulevard and turned into a residential neighborhood as Zyra continued in the pursuit to offer assistance. The vehicle turned onto Robert Welch Lane, which is a dead end road with a large retention pond at the end.  The vehicle accelerated and continued off of the end of the road striking a dirt hill, going airborne for 30 yards and then going front end first into the middle of the 12-foot deep retention pond. 

Trooper Zyra, without any hesitation or concern of his own personal safety, immediately dove into the murky and stagnate water of the retention pond without removing his shoes or gun belt.  The passenger, Richard Henry Taylor, had exited the vehicle upon impact with the water.  Zyra first swam to Mr. Taylor finding him all right and able to swim and directed him towards the officers waiting on the bank of the pond.  Zyra realized that the vehicle was quickly sinking and that the driver was still inside, so he swam to the sinking vehicle.  The rear passenger side window was the only glass visible above the water so Zyra used his ASP collapsible baton to break out the glass.  The driver, Frederick Forson-Peebles, stuck his head through the broken glass as he was gasping for air.  Trooper Zyra pulled Mr. Peebles through the window as the car sank and found that he could not swim.  Zyra struggled attempting to keep Mr. Peebles from drowning until fellow officers threw him a life preserver, tied to a rope and pulled both to safety. 

Trooper Zyra sustained a serious laceration to his right hand and tendon damage as a result of breaking the glass out.  According to all Officers and Troopers present, Mr. Peebles would have definitely drowned if it had not been for the heroic, courageous and immediate actions of Trooper Zyra.

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The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is a statewide organization of federal, state and local police chiefs and law enforcement executives dedicated to improving the professionalism of police agencies in Virginia. The Association was founded in 1926 and has more than 600 members. The Virginia Police Chiefs Foundation is a charitable educational foundation created by the VACP to provide training and education programs for law enforcement leaders.