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VACP/VPCF Recognize Fifteen Virginia Officers with 2012 Lifesaving Award

August 19, 2012 | VACP

Fifteen Virginia police officers are the recipients of the 2012 Lifesaving Awards presented by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police (VACP) and the Virginia Police Chiefs Foundation (VPCF.) The awards were announced August 14 at the VACP/VPCF Annual Conference in Roanoke, 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 2012 VACP/VPCF Lifesaving Award recipients are as follows:

Alexandria Police Department
Officer Anthony Gorham
Officer Joshua Leach
Officer Frank McGrigg

On July 25, Alexandria police officers were dispatched to a call for a mentally ill young man who was becoming increasingly paranoid and aggressive. Officer Joshua Leach, Officer Frank McGrigg and Officer Anthony Gorham, along with CSB Emergency Therapist Gabriel Duer, arrived at the apartment and were greeted by the young man's mother. An assessment of the young man determined that an inpatient psychiatric hospitalization was needed.

Upon hearing this recommendation, the young man became increasingly agitated and lunged at his mother. The officers intervened and prevented him from hurting her, at which point the young man quickly turned and sprinted onto the apartment's fourth-floor balcony. Without any hesitation, he jumped. Amazingly, the officers who had been running after him were able to catch him in mid-air as his entire body had left the balcony. They struggled to bring the young man back onto the balcony using bed sheets, television cables, and whatever else they could find to hold onto him and prevent him from falling. After 15 minutes, the officers were finally able to bring the young man back onto the safety of the balcony.

Had it not been for the swift actions and unwavering determination of Officers Gorham, Leach and McGrigg, this incident could have had a far different outcome. Thanks to these officers, the young man survived to get the help he needed.

Arlington County Police Department
Corporal Stephen Taphorn

On May 22, 2012, a suicidal 15-year-old juvenile fled from a meeting with his mental health counselor and mother. The juvenile was making threats to injure and kill others in an attempt to provoke officers to kill him. Approximately an hour and a half later, patrol units located the juvenile on the top level of a 7-story mall parking garage, threatening to jump.

Corporal Stephen Taphorn, a School Resource Officer and Crisis Negotiator, responded to the garage and began negotiations. The negotiations seemed to be progressing well with the young man listening and interacting with Corporal Taphorn; however, after 45 minutes of talking, the juvenile suddenly stopped speaking and gave behavioral cues that he was preparing to jump. Corporal Taphorn, who had been progressively closing the distance between himself and the juvenile, seized the opportunity and element of surprise and rushed the juvenile, purposely using his body to trap the young man against the low wall on which he was sitting.  His actions prevented the juvenile from committing suicide and allowed other officers to rush in and take the juvenile into custody without injury.

Corporal Stephen Taphorn utilized his skills of negotiation to maintain contact with the juvenile while other resources were moving into place. He recognized the juvenile’s intentions and took emergency action while placing himself in extreme danger.

Afterwards, Corporal Taphorn took the extra steps to escort the young man to the hospital and speak with him and his mother as well as the involved mental health professionals to guarantee he received the appropriate treatment.

Chesterfield County Police Department
Cpl. Robert E. Balducci
Master Officer Kenneth M. Pope

On Dec. 11, 2011, Corporal Robert Balducci was dispatched to assist a fire call involving a vehicle fire adjacent to a mobile home. While en route, Corporal Balducci was advised that the car was occupied and flames and "lots of smoke" could be seen. The caller reported banging on the vehicle's window, but the occupant wouldn't wake up. Upon Corporal Balducci's arrival, the vehicle was filled with smoke, and flames were coming up between the seats. He used his ASP baton to break the window. As Corporal Balducci opened the door, Master Officer Kenneth Pope arrived and helped him pull the unconscious male occupant from the vehicle, saving the man from being burned or suffering smoke inhalation or other life threatening injuries.

The occupant later said that he had parked the car, but left it running, and fallen asleep. It appears the heat of the catalytic converter caused leaves under the car to ignite.

Chesterfield County Police Department
Officer 1st Class Lewis J. Hagen, III

On Oct. 15, 2011, a call for service for a vehicle crash on Price Club Boulevard in Chesterfield County was dispatched to officers. Citizens reported that a vehicle was overturned on its side and on fire. Upon his arrival, Officer 1st Class Lewis Hagen saw that the vehicle was on its passenger side and the engine compartment was on fire. The vehicle was between three electrical boxes it had struck and the wood line.

Without concern for his own safety, Officer Hagen immediately climbed up to the driver-side door and began pushing it as hard as he could, working to bend it enough to keep it open. He then worked on getting the victim out. The female driver was strapped in with a seatbelt and unable to unlock it. Perkins was able to get into a position that allowed Officer Hagen to pull her up and out of the top of the vehicle through the seat belt. As he brought the victim away from the vehicle, a citizen came over and helped bring the woman to the ground. Officer Hagen and the unknown citizen then carried her across the street to a safe location away from the burning vehicle.

Portsmouth Police Department
Officer Adrien Henderson

On July 26, 2011 shortly after midnight, officers were dispatched to a home on Peachtree Lane West to assist fire units. A suspect had ignited the front of the home, which was occupied by an adult female and her three small children. There was no other entrance to the home, and the woman advised the 911 call-taker that she could not get out.

Officer Henderson was one of the first units to arrive on-scene and noted that flames had already spread to the soffit and fascia on the north side of the home, where the front door was located. While other officers attempted to break the southwest comer windows, Officer Henderson saw the resident and her three children through another window near the front door. With flames spreading to the eaves directly over the front door, Officer Henderson kicked in the door and entered the home. He coaxed the resident to carry one of her children out and Officer Henderson lifted the remaining two children and carried them to safety.

Officer Henderson displayed extraordinary heroism and placed himself in imminent personal danger to save an adult and three small children from harm. Other officers present commented that his swift actions went beyond the normal call of duty.

Prince William County Police Department
Lieutenant William M. Cox
First Sergeant Michael H. Hustwayte
Officer William Dalton
Officer Matthew L. West

On April 6, 2011, the Prince William County Police Dive Team was training at the Fredericksburg Quarry, testing new dive suits. The Stafford County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team also was training at the quarry. After testing their suits, the Prince William County divers exited the water while two Stafford divers remained in the water, completing a dive. Prince William County Police First Sergeant Michael Hustwayte suddenly observed the Stafford divers come to the surface in a hurry. Hustwayte yelled to the divers and asked if everything was all right. He then noticed one of divers was apparently having trouble staying afloat.

Hustwayte shouted to the diver to drop his weight belt and then yelled to his own teammates on land that the Stafford diver was in trouble. It quickly became obvious he was in severe distress as he frantically tried to get to shore. The diver slipped below the surface of the water several times and was not wearing a full face mask. Also frantic, the second Stafford diver tried to push her colleague to shore, but met with little success.

Even though Prince William County Police divers Officer William Dalton and Lt. William Cox had already removed their own dry suits, they jumped into the 42-degree water without hesitation and started swimming out to the diver who was about thirty feet from shore. Because they had noticed the Stafford diver was in the process of fully submerging, they also decided they did not have time to put on their own personal flotation devices. When Dalton and Cox reached the diver, he had almost stopped moving and was hardly making any breathing sounds. As Dalton pushed from the front, Cox pulled the diver from the back and they both swam vigorously in an attempt to close the distance to the shore. In their effort to keep the diver’s head above water, they had to swim underwater in order to push the diver up to the surface.

Observing that Officer Dalton and Lt. Cox were moving very slowly as they pulled the deputy, First Sergeant Hustwayte ran into the frigid water and swam out to their location. With his help, the three men were able to swim the distressed diver close to the shore. As they neared the shore, Officer Matt West ran into the water and helped them drag the Stafford diver to shore. The diver’s lips were blue and his skin had turned sallow. The four Prince William County divers removed the diver’s equipment and suddenly he started to breath again. The diver was subsequently transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital and was admitted. Fortunately, the diver was able to recover and was released from the hospital the next day.

It was later learned that the Stafford diver, Deputy Brian Smyser, had indeed made an attempt to drop his forty pounds of lead weight; however, the weight belt malfunctioned and the release failed. In addition to the lead weight, Deputy Smyser did not have any air in his buoyancy control device, exacerbating the situation by causing him to be dragged under the water. It also was discovered that the deputy had run entirely out of air.

Newport News Police Department
Sergeant John V. Polak
Officer Wilbur J. O’Berry

On June 14, 2011, at approximately 1420 hours, a woman was attempting to park her vehicle at her home in Newport News when she lost control of her minivan and accidentally struck her townhome. The woman then panicked and changed the gear setting on the minivan, which made the vehicle drive across the parking lot, down an embankment and into a small pond next to the complex. The 69-year-old woman uses a walker and was unable to extricate herself from the vehicle as it floated into the middle of the pond.

Newport News police units were dispatched to the call and several officers arrived on scene. Without hesitation, Officer W. J. O'Berry and Sergeant J. V. Polak stripped off their duty gear and began to assist the woman while her vehicle was still in the water. Officer O'Berry opened the rear hatch of the minivan, crawled through and began to check her for injuries. The water level inside the minivan had already risen to cover the woman’s waist and was slowly rising as the vehicle sunk deeper into the pond. Sergeant Polak attempted to open the driver's door, but it would not open.

Officer O'Berry assisted the woman by unbuckling her seat belt and assisting her out of the driver's seat and towards the rear of the vehicle where the water was not as high. Sergeant Polak had moved to the passenger side cargo door and, while standing in stomach high water, decided that the best course of action was to rescue her from the cargo door. When he opened the cargo door, the water level inside the vehicle began to rise again. Officer O'Berry disregarded the rising water and continued to hold the woman as she moved towards the open cargo door. When she reached it, Sergeant Polak had her place her arms around his neck and he lifted her above the water level. Sergeant Polak then carried the woman to the pond's edge, where he sat her down and kept her still in case of injuries. Newport News Fire Department personnel then arrived and took over care for the accident victim.

Virginia State Police
Trooper Charles "Chuck" H. Campbell, Jr.

On December 23, 2011, at 2:40 a.m., Trooper Charles "Chuck" H. Campbell, Jr. responded to a single-vehicle crash in Carroll County on Interstate 77. Upon his arrival, Sr. Trooper Campbell found a tractor-trailer had overturned in a curve, crashed through the guardrail and come to rest in a deep ravine. Sr. Trooper Campbell and four citizens, who had stopped at the scene, quickly went down the steep embankment to the truck that had become engulfed in flames.

They quickly searched the area and located the driver, who had been ejected from the wreckage and was lying inside what was left of the trailer portion of the truck. The driver had suffered serious injuries and was unable to move on his own. Sr. Trooper Campbell and the other individuals pulled the driver from the wreckage to a safe location and rendered aid to him until fire and EMS arrived.

Without the swift actions of Trooper Campbell and the other citizens, the driver would have most certainly died from his injuries and the consuming fire.


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.