Twenty-Nine Virginia Law Enforcement Officers Receive 2020-21 VACP Awards for Valor

Officers from Arlington County, Colonial Heights, Culpeper, Hanover County, Henrico County, Herndon, Martinsville, Prince William County, Stanley, Winchester, and Virginia State Police recognized for heroism.

On August 23, 2021, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police & Foundation (VACP) presented twenty-nine Virginia law enforcement officers from eleven agencies with the Association's highest honor, the Award for Valor. The awards were presented during the VACP Awards Banquet at the 95th Annual VACP Conference, held at the Williamsburg Lodge in Williamsburg, Virginia. (Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 VACP Awards program was postponed. This year's awards were a combined recognition of officers nominated in 2020 and 2021.)
The Award for Valor recognizes a law enforcement officer who, in the line of duty, performs an act of extraordinary heroism while engaged with an adversary at imminent personal risk.

Officers receiving the 2020-21 Awards for Valor are: 

Arlington County Police Department
Corporal Douglas Bennett

On December 30, 2019, Arlington County Police responded to a armed bank robbery and arrested a man on the Courthouse Metro platform. Corporal Douglas Bennett was standing between the handcuffed man and the train tracks, about seven yards away, when the arrestee bolted towards the tracks and an oncoming train.

Corporal Bennett instinctively reached out, but the arrestee's momentum was enough to keep the man moving toward the oncoming train. The arrestee fought, but Corporal Bennett managed to pull him down with the train about 10 yards away.

Other officers rushed over, and both Corporal Bennett and the arrestee were pulled to safety as the train buzzed by, inches away. The arrestee suffered no injury and subsequently was taken to jail.

Corporal Bennett did not know in the moment, but the collision and subsequent fall had caused a fracture in the tibia behind his right knee, an injury that would force him onto light duty for a month. Had the arrestee's momentum carried both men onto the tracks, it is possible that both men could have been crushed by the train.

The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police proudly honors Arlington County Police Corporal Douglas Bennett for heroism in the face of an imminent threat with the Award for Valor.

Colonial Heights Police Department
Senior Officer Christopher M. Velasquez

On April 9, 2020, Senior Officer Velasquez and three other officers were conducting a traffic stop where the driver was suspected of breaking into vehicles in a nearby apartment complex. Senior Officer Velasquez was field training a new officer who was providing backup for the lead vehicle. When his vehicle stopped, the suspect immediately exited his vehicle, produced a handgun and began firing towards the officers. The recruit officer and a backup officer took immediate cover as Senior Officer Velasquez exited swiftly and returned fire from a flank position. The suspect began to run away, only to stop and point his weapon at the officers again. Fearing for his life and the safety of his fellow officers, Senior Officer Velasquez engaged the suspect a second time, this time striking the suspect in the leg. The suspect then fled the area and was eventually found deceased from a gunshot wound to the head.

Senior Officer Velasquez's actions, consistent with his training, acted without hesitation to protect his fellow officers and the public. Senior Officer Velasquez handled this stressful incident in a professional and courageous manner. In light of his heroic acts, the VACP hereby honors Colonial Heights Senior Officer Christopher M. Velasquez with the Award for Valor.

Culpeper Police Department
Lieutenant Brittany Jenkins
Officer Al Cooper

On May 2, 2021, the Culpeper County E-911 Center received multiple 9-1-1 calls about a male subject climbing a cell tower and yelling suicidal statements. Officers quickly responded to the area and set up a safety perimeter. Shortly after their arrival on scene, the male subject reached the top platform of the tower. The secured tower is approximately 250 feet tall, with the upper platforms only accessible by ladder.

Without hesitation and without any safety gear or harnessing, Lieutenant Brittany Jenkins and Officer Al Cooper began their climb to the highest platform of the tower.

Both officers, who are Crisis Intervention certified and part of the Culpeper Police Department's Peer Support Team, realized that the subject was armed with a knife in one hand and an improvised weapon (aluminum pipe) in the other hand. They began a more effective dialogue with the subject and were able to de-escalate the situation by coaxing the subject into dropping both weapons. However, at this point the male was standing on the 3-foot railing 250 feet above the ground. The officers were able to talk him down off the railing and climb down with him to a lower, safer platform and place him into protective custody.

The subject and the two officers descended down from the tower with safety gear provided by the VSP Division 2 Heavy Tactical Rescue Unit. The subject was eventually taken to a mental health facility for treatment.

These two officers climbed to 250 feet without safety equipment and with little regard for their own personal safety in order to save a person who was armed with two weapons and was determined to harm himself. The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is proud to honor Culpeper Lieutenant Brittany Jenkins and Officer Al Cooper with the Award for Valor.

Hanover County Sheriff's Office
Lieutenant Kent Mullen
Deputy Matt Keeley

On December 25, 2019, Christmas Day, Hanover County Lieutenant Kent Mullen and Deputy Matt Keeley responded to a call about an armed male who had locked the front door and was threatening to use his firearm. The reporting party advised that there were multiple family members on scene.

When Deputy Keeley and Lt. Mullen arrived, they stopped a vehicle leaving the scene. The driver advised there was arguing going on inside the residence, believed there was a gun in the house, and heard what he believed to be the sound of a firearm being loaded. The deputies heard a commotion inside the house, and what sounded like a gunshot when they were allowed entry.

The suspect's mother and sister were inside the front door. The sister was screaming and dropped to the ground right next to the front door. Lt. Mullen tried to move the sister out of harm's way and advised over the radio that shots had been fired. At the top of the stairs, Lt. Mullen and Deputy Keeley observed a male lying on the floor face down in the hallway. It was believed he had shot himself; however, his hands were tucked underneath him. Lt. Mullen stepped on his left arm to make sure he did not get up or roll over with a firearm. The suspect began moving and was breathing. Deputy Keeley began slowly moving the suspect's body onto his right side, and this exposed the pistol that was still in the suspect's hands. Deputy Keeley recovered the pistol and both Lt. Mullen and Deputy Keeley moved the suspect into the recovery position to wait for rescue personnel. The suspect's other sister was located in an upstairs bedroom during a safety sweep of the house.

These two law enforcement professionals acted swiftly and heroically to secure the safety of the shooting scene and prevent further violence. For their bravery in a dangerous situation, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police presents Hanover County Sheriff's Deputy Matthew Keeley and Lieutenant Kent Mullen with the Award for Valor.

Henrico County Police Division
Officer Konstantin D. Gileva

On March 5, 2020, Henrico Police Officer Konstantin Gileva, along with two Henrico officers and two Richmond officers, responded to the address where a wanted suspect was believed to be staying with his girlfriend. As they approached the residence on foot, they observed the suspect standing in the driveway and attempted to contact him. The suspect turned and quickly retreated into the residence.

Officer Gileva and a Richmond officer went around the residence to cover the rear door. Officer Gileva could see into the living room and could hear the officers at the front door announce themselves. Officer Gileva saw an individual moving inside the house, heard a female scream, then heard one of the other officers say the suspect was holding a female hostage.

Officer Gileva was able to see the suspect dragging the female victim across the floor into a hallway. The female was in clear distress, screaming, and struggling against the suspect. Officer Gileva and the Richmond officer attempted to open the glass patio door. Officer Gileva could then see the suspect actively stabbing the victim with a knife.

Fearing serious bodily injury or death for the victim if he did not intervene, Officer Gileva took aim at the suspect through the glass door and fired two shots. The suspect retreated into the hallway, but then suddenly reappeared and lunged on top of the victim, beginning to stab her again. Officer Gileva fired three more shots at the suspect, immediately ending the attack.

The suspect succumbed to his wounds at the hospital. The female victim sustained 32 stab wounds but survived because of the quick and decisive action by Officer Gileva.

For his extraordinary heroism while engaged with an armed adversary, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is honored to present Henrico Police Officer Konstantin Gileva with the Award for Valor.

Henrico County Police Division
Officer Brian R. Wolfe

On June 13th, 2020, after nearly two months of quarantine for COVID-19, eight or more groups of teenagers and young adults had gathered to play in a large unsanctioned football tournament. The weather was nice, concessions were being sold, and a large crowd had gathered to watch the games.

An estimated 1000 adults and children were at the field. After several fights broke out among spectators, police were asked to clear out the unpermitted event. Henrico County Police Sergeant W. R. Bodenhamer and Officer B. R. Wolfe heard multiple gunshots coming from the corner of the field. They observed two males on the Rec Center property firing guns towards individuals just outside of the property. Additionally, Officer Wolfe observed an individual who had taken cover behind a vehicle who begin firing back at the first two shooters. One of the shooters began heading toward the center of the football field, while actively displaying a firearm and continuing to take shots. Without regard for his own personal safety, Officer Wolfe ran toward this shooter. After taking the suspect into custody, Officer Wolfe recovered the firearm from the suspect. Other officers later located one adult victim suffering from a non-life-threatening gunshot wound.

Officer Wolfe exhibited extraordinary bravery by running into the face of danger to apprehend an armed adversary amidst chaos and mayhem in a very large crowd. His actions undoubtedly prevented further injuries and possibly even death. The VACP is pleased to present the Award for Valor to Henrico Police Officer Brian R. Wolfe.

Herndon Police Department
Police Officer First Class Stephen Phelps

On September 2, 2019, Herndon Police Officer First Class Stephen Phelps was in his police cruiser when he heard a woman screaming that she had just been robbed. He looked up to see two male subjects running rapidly past his cruiser.

PFC Phelps immediately gave chase while yelling commands at the two subjects to stop. One of the subjects turned and fired a handgun at PFC Phelps as he continued to flee the scene. PFC Phelps continued to give chase down the middle of the roadway, returning fire towards the subject while continuing to yell commands at him to stop and drop his weapon.

The second subject was running but was struggling to stay on his feet. As the subject continued to disregard commands to stop, PFC Phelps deployed his Taser with no effect. Phelps then transitioned back to his firearm, again yelling commands to stop as the subject struggled to stay on his feet and flee the scene.

Two off-duty police officers from the Washington, DC Metropolitan Police Department and a medic from Fairfax County Fire and Rescue were nearby and heard the gunshots. All three responded to offer assistance and ran towards the subject and tackled him to the ground.

The subject who had fired shots at PFC Phelps was apprehended by Virginia State Police troopers approximately 30 minutes later less than a mile away after he attempted to carjack another subject at gunpoint to flee the area. Both subjects involved in this case were later linked to additional armed robberies and attempted sexual assaults in both Fairfax and Montgomery County and charged with such. The subject who fired at PFC Phelps was additionally indicted on Attempted Capital Murder of a Police Officer.

PFC Phelps assumed great personal risk when he pursued two violent felons on foot without any cover while taking fire. The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is honored to present Herndon Police Officer First Class Stephen Phelps with the Award for Valor.

Martinsville Police Department
Officer Michael Panos
Officer Jason Griffith

On January 1, 2020, Officer Michael Panos attempted to stop a pickup truck for an equipment violation. The driver of the pickup truck refused to stop and a pursuit followed. Officer Jason Griffith joined in the pursuit. When the pursuit came to an end, the suspect exited the truck and fled on foot. Seconds after the foot pursuit began, the suspect turned and began firing on the officers, wounding Officer Panos. Both officers returned fire, striking the suspect several times.

Officer Panos, with a gunshot wound to his arm, was able to complete a tactical reload during the gun battle. Officer Griffith was able to disarm and cuff the suspect before quickly rendering aid to Panos. Both Panos and the suspect were hospitalized. Following his release from the hospital, the suspect was arrested and charged with multiple offenses, including attempted capital murder.

The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police commends Martinsville Officer Michael Panos and Officer Jason Griffith for their courage under fire, and we are proud to present them with the Award for Valor.

Prince William County Police Department
Officer Christopher Seise

On October 18, 2019, Prince William County Police Officer Christopher Seise was the first officer to respond to a stabbing-in-progress call in Woodbridge. He saw a male carrying a young female down the apartment building stairs and noticed the juvenile's upper body covered in blood. He saw the male reach the bottom of the stairs and repeatedly punch the juvenile female in her face.

Without hesitation, Officer Seise ran towards the male as he yelled commands to stop. Officer Seise physically took the male to the ground and attempted to take him into custody. Additional officers arrived to help take the violent subject into custody. They also located a second female stabbing victim, the mother of the juvenile victim, in the apartment associated with the call for service.

Multiple other officers and medical units responded to quickly save the lives of the two stabbing victims. These officers will be recognized with VACP Lifesaving Awards and Letters of Commendation to be presented in a separate event.

The immediate response actions of Officer Seise to apprehend the violent suspect saved the life of the juvenile victim and made it possible for additional officers to secure the scene and render aid. The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is proud to honor Prince William County Police Officer Christopher Seise with the Award for Valor.

Prince William County Police Department
Officer Anthony Edwards
Officer M. R. 
(Name withheld for security reasons.)

On August 15, 2019, Prince William County Officer Anthony Edwards and Officer M. R. responded to a domestic situation where the suspect was threatening his wife and family. Both officers were approached by the victim in front of the residence as more officers were dispatched to the scene.
Officer R. and Officer Edwards spoke to the victim and were advised that her husband was armed with a knife and BB gun. They quickly relayed the information to incoming officers. When Officers R. and Edwards approached the residence, they observed the suspect at the doorway and ordered him to step out of the house and show his hands. The suspect eventually emerged from the residence and charged towards Officer Edwards with a knife in his hand. When the suspect ignored commands to stop and continued to charge towards them, Officers R. and Edwards discharged their weapons and stopped the threat.

Additional officers soon arrived and provided first aid to the suspect and checked on the welfare of the occupants of the house and ensured their safety.

These officers undoubtedly saved their own lives and the lives of the suspect's family by their quick thinking and actions. The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is honored to present Prince William County Police Officer Anthony Edwards and Officer M. R. with the Award for Valor.

Prince William County Police Department
Sergeant James Krisner
Officer Ivan Torres
Officer Ravinder Mehta
Officer Shaun Barrett
Officer Adam Beard

On December 9, 2020, Prince William County officers responded to reports in Dumfries of a suicidal subject armed with a handgun. The subject left the residence with the firearm prior to the officer's arrival, so Sergeant Krisner had units stage near the entrance of the neighborhood. The subject was believed to be going to a nearby wooded area to harm himself.

A police helicopter was requested to aid in the search and the subject was quickly located standing in the wood line near an intersection. Concerned that seeing police cruisers would draw him toward the residential street and back to his own residence, the units staged nearby and coordinated with supervisors on the safest approach and plan of action. During this time, the subject was seen departing the woods and walking back toward his residence. Knowing his wife was still there, the above units immediately moved on foot toward the subject to intercept him. However, the subject made it to the front door of the residence as officers arrived.

Sergeant James Krisner and Officers Adam Beard, Ravinder Mehta, Ivan Torres, and K9 Officer Shaun Barrett quickly established a perimeter to the front of the residence and gave the subject commands. He refused to comply with commands to stop and drop the firearm, instead advancing towards the officers with the firearm raised. All five officers then engaged the subject, firing their service weapons and incapacitating him. Although the subject was still alert with the gun within inches of his hand, Sergeant Krisner and Officer Beard moved forward to secure the firearm and render aid until medical personnel arrived. The other members provided cover and then began checking on the safety of the subject's wife and surrounding residents.

These officers placed themselves in harm's way to provide assistance to an armed, suicidal subject, his family, and the community. The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is honored to present the Award for Valor to Prince William County Sergeant James Krisner, Officer Ivan Torres, Officer Ravinder Mehta, Officer Shaun Barrett, and Officer Adam Beard.

Stanley Police Department
Officer Dominic J. Winum (Posthumous)

On February 26, 2021, Stanley Police Officer Dominic J. “Nick” Winum was on routine patrol when he observed a vehicle that matched the description issued for a suspicious person with a gun.

Before the officer could exit his patrol vehicle, the driver got out of his vehicle and began shooting at Officer Winum's vehicle. Officer Winum succumbed to his injuries at the scene. The suspect fled into the nearby woods on foot. A handgun was recovered from the suspect's vehicle.

Law enforcement personnel responded to the scene and assisted with tracking the suspect, who was found hiding in a barn. He made a threatening movement and was shot by Page County Sheriff's Deputies. The suspect died at the scene, where a Smith & Wesson M&P-15 rifle was recovered in his possession.

Stanley Police Officer Dominic J. Winum is posthumously honored tonight with the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police Award for Valor.

Virginia State Police
Special Agent Albert C. Arnold

On February 27, 2018, the United States Marshal's Service's Capital Area Region Fugitive Task Force in Richmond adopted a fugitive investigation. It involved an adult male suspect wanted by the Richmond City Police Department for the violent strangulation and attempted rape of a female victim.

The suspect was located within two days at an establishment in Henrico County.

The suspect donned a mask to conceal his identity and fled the scene in a vehicle and a pursuit was initiated. Special Agent Arnold and the Task Force members pursued the suspect for 16 miles to Interstate 64, with local agency officers joining in the pursuit.

While traveling east on Interstate 64, the suspect vehicle suddenly pulled into an emergency crossover, striking a U.S. Marshal's vehicle. The suspect immediately jumped out of his vehicle and, wielding a machete and yelling, charged at Special Agent Arnold and the other Task Force members who had surrounded him. Ignoring commands to stop, the suspect abruptly turned towards Special Agent Arnold, who discharged his police firearm, killing the suspect.

The suspect had an extensive criminal history of violence, malicious wounding and domestic assault of a family member. Additionally, the suspect was known to be proficient in martial arts and skillful with a machete. He made it known to his associates that he would not go back to jail under any circumstances.

For his extraordinary actions the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is honored to present Special Agent Albert C. Arnold with the Award for Valor.

Virginia State Police
Sr. Trooper Robert J. Fedorchuk

On May 9, 2019, Trooper Terry Smith was on patrol in Pulaski County when he spotted a truck matching the description of a stolen Dodge Ram truck traveling south on Interstate 81. When Trooper Smith activated his emergency lights to initiate a traffic stop, the suspect vehicle sped up and a pursuit ensued. During the pursuit, the driver of the truck fired several rounds at Trooper Smith's vehicle.

The pursuit continued south on Interstate 81 into the Town of Wytheville. At one point, the driver turned off the truck's headlights and was able to elude the officers. Town of Wytheville Police Officers canvassed the area and found the vehicle abandoned on Barrett's Mill Road.

A short distance away on Railroad Avenue, a female acquaintance of the suspect was being detained at a traffic stop by Senior Trooper Robert J. Fedorchuk, Wytheville police officers and Wythe County Sheriff's deputies. The woman told police that the suspect would not go back to jail and would not go down without a fight.

Moments later, the suspect drove up to the scene in another stolen vehicle in an attempt to “rescue” his girlfriend from police. A second pursuit was initiated during which the suspect rammed a Wythe County Deputy Sheriff's vehicle stopped alongside the road. The deputy, in fear for his safety, fired at and into the stolen truck. Trooper W. B. Harrison pulled his vehicle into the path of the truck to stop the suspect from continuing to flee. Verbal commands were given the entire time by all law enforcement on scene.

The suspect drove straight into Trooper Harrison's vehicle and struck it head-on. Trooper Harrison was crouched down inside the vehicle and unable to escape. The suspect then began trying to drive onto and over the top Trooper Harrison's patrol car. In fear for the life of his fellow trooper, Senior Trooper Fedorchuk fired one round and struck the suspect, who was taken into custody and transported to Carillon Memorial Roanoke Hospital where he succumbed to his injuries. Senior Trooper Fedorchuk's immediate actions and skill undoubtedly saved the life of Trooper Harrison, and possibly several others who were at the scene.

For his extraordinary actions the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is honored to present Senior Trooper Robert J. Fedorchuk  with the Award for Valor.

Virginia State Police
Trooper Gregory M. MacDougall

On September 7, 2020, the Virginia State Police put out an alert for a black 2018 Toyota Corolla. The suspect driving the vehicle was wanted for parental abduction, and had threatened to harm himself, his 4-year-old son, and anyone who tried to stop him. The driver had already eluded several agencies in at least two different states.

Trooper Gregory M. MacDougall was located on the southbound side of I-295 when the vehicle passed his location, traveling in excess of 125 mph and passing vehicles on the shoulders. Trooper MacDougall immediately notified dispatch and initiated a pursuit of the suspect vehicle.

The pursuit continued east onto I-64 and due to the suspect's erratic driving, his vehicle came in contact with Trooper MacDougall's patrol car. The impact of that collision caused the suspect to lose control and run off the road into the median, where it overturned.

Within a minute or two of the crash, the suspect dragged his young son out of the overturned vehicle and began to walk away. Several troopers joined Trooper MacDougall in a foot pursuit, taking care to de-escalate the situation to prevent injury to the child.

The suspect reached the back deck of a residence where he conceded and released his son to the safety of Trooper MacDougall. The father was taken into custody without further incident. Only then was it discovered that the man had had a gun on him the entire time.

This incident clearly required a united and coordinated effort among the Troopers, all of whom placed their lives at risk to save the young boy. However, it was Trooper MacDougall who demonstrated extraordinary professionalism and dedication to rescue a young boy from a life-threatening situation and arrest the suspect without further incident.

The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is honored to award Virginia State Police Trooper Gregory M. MacDougall with the Award for Valor.

Virginia State Police
First Sergeant Jonathan E. Smith
Senior Trooper Adam S. Waybright

On Dec. 10, 2020, the Harrisonburg Police Department issued an alert for a suspect involved in a shooting they had responded to in the city.

A Virginia State Police trooper had observed the suspect vehicle, a rental box truck, traveling north on Interstate 81 in Rockingham County. As the trooper pulled up to the suspect vehicle, the driver of the box truck shot out the back window of the trooper's vehicle and then sped away.

First Sergeant Jonathan E. Smith and Sr. Trooper Adam S. Waybright responded. A lengthy pursuit followed into the Town of Woodstock, involving serious property damage. The driver lost control of the vehicle and ran off the road into a ditch. After the box truck came to rest, Senior Trooper Waybright was able to pull in front of the subject and pin the vehicle, preventing the suspect from leaving.

The suspect drew his weapon and pointed it in Trooper Waybright's and First Sergeant Smith's direction. First Sergeant Smith directed the suspect to throw the handgun out of the driver's side window. The subject complied after several commands. First Sergeant Smith then instructed the subject to place his hands outside of the window, again to which he complied after several commands.

The suspect was charged with malicious wounding and attempted murder and was turned over to the Harrisonburg Police Department.

The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is honored to present Virginia State Police First Sergeant Jonathan E. Smith and Senior Trooper Adam S. Waybright with the Award for Valor.

Virginia State Police 
Trooper Allen T. Stuart
Trooper Christopher T. Viars

On July 7, 2020, Trooper Allen T. Stuart and Trooper Christopher T. Viars were dispatched to assist the Wythe County Sheriff's Office with a domestic dispute call. As they arrived on scene, they discovered an armed male subject at the residence.

After additional personnel arrived, the decision was made to approach the residence using an armored vehicle. Wythe County Sheriff's Deputies as well as Troopers Stuart and Viars approached the residence on foot behind the armored vehicle. As they approached the residence, Trooper Stuart and Trooper Viars encountered the male subject in the wooded area behind them. The troopers notified the deputies that the suspect was behind them and was armed.

A deputy challenged the suspect, and he began firing his rifle at deputies and both troopers. Trooper Stuart and Trooper Viars returned fire, striking the subject in the head and arm. Rounds fired by the subject struck two of the Wythe County deputies.

Trooper Stuart and Trooper Viars immediately ran over to where the suspect fell in order to secure the rifle and evaluate his injuries. They applied a tourniquet to the subject's arm and assessed his head wound.

Trooper Stuart's and Trooper Viars' expert and heroic actions successfully concluded a violent encounter and made it possible for the injured deputies to be treated. For their bravery and extraordinary actions, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is honored to present Trooper Allen T. Stuart and Trooper Christopher T. Viars with the Award for Valor.

Virginia State Police
Sergeant Damien M. Walls

On the night of April 22, 2020, Trooper Damien M. Walls was on routine patrol when he was asked to assist a Bedford police officer who was in a high-speed pursuit of a vehicle.

Trooper Walls was able to safely deploy spike strips, effectively disabling two of the suspect's tires. However, the suspect continued to flee from pursuing officers disregarding stop signs and driving on both sides of the road.

The Bedford officer then requested that Trooper Walls and Trooper W.R. Keesee, who had joined the pursuit, execute a vehicle containment maneuver to bring the vehicle to a stop. Both troopers executed containment maneuvers, but the suspect cut in front of Trooper Walls and lost control, ending up in the edge of a field.

Trooper Walls immediately exited his vehicle with his weapon drawn and commanded the suspect driver to exit the vehicle and show his hands. The suspect opened the car door and immediately pointed a pistol at Trooper Walls. Trooper Walls alerted the other officers and trooper, then positioned himself to provide cover for his fellow officers. The suspect refused to comply with repeated commands to drop his weapon. When he made a furtive movement, Trooper Walls shot the subject, who continued to reach for his weapon.

Trooper Walls and the other officers on scene were able to safely approach the suspect, secure the firearm, and Trooper Keesee began administering first aid. The suspect was transported to a local hospital and survived his wounds.

For his extraordinary actions, the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is honored to present Virginia State Police Sergeant Damien M. Wells with the Award for Valor.
Winchester Police Department
Sergeant Sean C. O'Connor

On November 11, 2020, the Winchester Police Department Emergency Communications Center received a call that a man had smashed his neighbor's truck window with a sledgehammer.

The first two officers on the scene, Field Training Officer Jeffrey Ferraro and his trainee, Officer Luke Callas, arrived and contacted the accused man, who was standing on the porch of his apartment. The man inexplicitly reached into his open apartment door to grab an AR-15 style rifle, which he began to brandish at both officers.

Officer Ferraro and Officer Callas immediately sought cover behind a citizen's vehicle while trying to get the man to put down the rifle and surrender. Corporal Amber Polk and Sergeant Sean O'Connor were dispatched to assist.

Corporal Polk immediately took multiple rounds from the gunman's rifle, trapping her inside of her cruiser. Sergeant O'Connor arrived and took up an initial position of cover behind one of the apartment buildings. He tried to establish communication with the gunman, who was still brandishing his rifle at the three officers and refusing to surrender.

Sergeant O'Connor attempted once more to get the gunman to drop his weapon before firing two rounds from his police rifle, striking the suspect and ending the threat to his fellow officers and citizens who resided in the complex.

Sergeant O'Connor secured the scene and EMS responded; however, the gunman had suffered fatal wounds and was pronounced at the scene.

Throughout this horrible incident, Sergeant O'Connor demonstrated extraordinary heroism and bravery. His quick and decisive actions without a doubt saved lives that day.

The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is honored to present Winchester Police Sergeant Sean C. O'Connor with the Award for Valor.

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The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police & Foundation ( is a statewide charitable organization of federal, state and local police chiefs and other law enforcement executives dedicated to improving the professionalism of police agencies in Virginia and to providing training and education programs for law enforcement executives. The Association was founded in 1926 and has more than 600 members.

Photos of the award winners are available at 

Contact: Ms. Dana Schrad, Executive Director
Mobile: (804) 338-9512 • Email:

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