Virginia Police Chiefs Recognize Twenty-Six Officers with 2023 Awards for Lifesaving
Officers from Chesapeake, Chilhowie, Fairfax City, Fairfax County, Fredericksburg, Hanover County, Manassas City, Pulaski, Richmond, and Virginia State Police honored for their extraordinary lifesaving efforts.
Twenty-six Virginia public safety officers are the recipients of the 2023 Awards for Lifesaving presented by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police & Foundation (VACP). The awards were announced September 12 at the VACP Annual Conference in Norfolk, Virginia, and will be awarded at a later date at ceremonies at the officers' agencies.
The Award for Lifesaving recognizes an officer's actions that put the officer in harm's way in the attempt to save the life of another individual. This year's honorees risked their own lives in an effort to save others from burning buildings and vehicles, attempted suicides, and other dangerous situations.
Chesapeake Police Department
Officer Albert White
On November 22, 2022, multiple units responded to an active shooter at the Walmart in Chesapeake. When Officer Albert White arrived, he was met by an employee that was suffering from a gunshot wound to the neck. Officer White retrieved his medical pack and began rendering life-saving measures to the victim, which included packing the wound on her neck. Officer White maintained pressure on the wound and was then met by another employee who had been shot in the chest.
Officer White directed other officers that were now on scene to assist with the original victim, and then began rendering additional life-saving measures with the second victim. Officer White was extremely calm as he packed the wound. He directed medical personnel to triage the most serious victim, and eventually had the victim give self-care so that he could find additional work at the incident.
Officer White's actions were exemplary and model the training that he had received. The VACP is proud to recognize Officer White with the 2023 Award for Lifesaving.
Chilhowie Police Department
Chief Andrew Moss
MPO Austin Millsaps
On October 4th, 2022, MPO Austin Millsaps and Chief Andrew Moss responded to a disturbance call at an apartment complex in the Town of Chilhowie. They encountered a chaotic scene with items thrown and broken in the parking lot, along with a shattered apartment window. Chief Moss and MPO Millsaps were approached by a woman who informed them that her daughter had become unruly and dangerous.
As the woman attempted to enter the daughter's apartment, she encountered resistance. When she tried again, the door was forcefully slammed back against her. In a sudden and alarming moment, the door flew open and a female stood in the doorway, brandishing a large bowie knife just inches from Chief Moss. In response, MPO Millsaps and Chief Moss drew their sidearms, while the woman continued to scream, demanding the officers to shoot her.
Recognizing the woman's mental health crisis, MPO Millsaps remained composed and calmly addressed her, assuring her that they were not there to harm her and urging her to put down the knife. Chief Moss instructed MPO Millsaps to switch to a taser while he maintained his position, ready to use lethal force if necessary. However, instead of deploying the taser, MPO Millsaps persisted in his efforts to persuade her to relinquish the knife. They took her into custody under an Emergency Custody Order.
Chilhowie Master Police Officer Austin Millsaps demonstrated exceptional levelheadedness and compassion during an incident involving an individual who was attempting suicide by cop. Chief Moss took calm and firm control of the situation while working with MPO Millsaps to de-escalate the situation. The VACP is proud to honor Chilhowie Police Chief Andrew Moss and Master Police Officer Austin Millsaps with the Award for Lifesaving.
Fairfax City Police Department
MPO Charles Mills
PFC James Lewis
On May 15, 2023, a 911 call was received in Fairfax City for an active assault involving a man attacking people with a baseball bat inside a business. Upon arrival, the location was determined to be the Congressional Office of Representative Gerry Connolly. PFC James Lewis was the first to arrive on scene. Upon entering the building, he began giving verbal commands for the suspect to drop the baseball bat.
PFC Lewis maintained a safe distance from the suspect until MPO Charles Mills arrived on scene to provide backup. MPO Mills assisted in de-escalating the situation and was able to disarm the suspect. The suspect was safely taken into custody within five minutes of the initial 911 call.
PFC Lewis did not hesitate to enter the building alone in order to prevent further injury or death to innocent victims, and MPO Mills provided immediate assistance to bring the incident to a safe end.
The actions of both officers undoubtedly prevented life-threatening injuries to victims within the office suite. The VACP is honored to present Master Police Officer Charles Mills and Police Officer First Class James Lewis with the 2023 Award for Lifesaving.
Fairfax County Police Department
Officer Nathaniel F. Blake
Officer Caleb E. McClain
On October 22, 2021, at approximately 2111 hours, Officer Nathaniel Blake and Officer Caleb McClain responded to the 7000 block of Suraci Court in the West Springfield District for a reported shooting. The caller reported that he had been shot and could not breathe. Initial information stated the shooter still had the gun and his whereabouts were unknown. Officer Blake arrived on scene and, without hesitation, immediately ran into the building to locate the victim.
Officer Blake found the victim, who was covered in blood, lying on the floor of an apartment. Officer Blake located a gunshot wound on the victim's chest. Officer McClain arrived on-scene and entered the building to assist Officer Blake. Both Officers utilized medical supplies from their Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (TECC) kits to provide lifesaving measures to the victim.
Officers Blake and McClain tended to the victim for over five minutes before Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Units were able to be escorted into the scene. It was later confirmed he made a full recovery.
Despite a chaotic scene, both Officers Blake and McClain remained calm and focused on the task at hand. They exercised an extreme level of professionalism and teamwork that ultimately resulted in a man's life being saved. The VACP is proud to recognize Fairfax County Officer Nathanial F. Blake and Officer Caleb E. McClain with the 2023 Award for Lifesaving.
Fairfax County Police Department
Lieutenant Shannon W. Massey
MPO Brian S. Walley
MPO Michael S. Morris
Sergeant Carolina M. Oliver
PFC Randy P. Bronte-Tinkew
On December 12, 2020, Fairfax County police officers responded to an apartment in McLean for a report of a gunshot victim. The victim reported that he had been shot in the face by his roommate and was able to lock himself in his bedroom. As SWAT officers arrived on scene of the incident, the victim relayed that the suspect was still in the apartment, armed with a gun and attempting to gain access into his bedroom to do further harm. Master Police Officer Lance Guckenberger, Master Police Officer Matthew Grubb, Master Police Officer Brian Walley, Sergeant Carolina Oliver and Police Officer First Class Randy Bronte-Tinkew were the first SWAT officers to arrive and quickly grabbed breaching gear and a shield to make an emergency hostage rescue.
SWAT officers quickly ran up to the 4th floor of the apartment building to relieve patrol and begin their emergency entry to rescue the hostage trapped inside. MPO Grubb and Sergeant Oliver made a successful breach of the apartment. Moments after entering the apartment, MPO Grubb and MPO Guckenberger were ambushed by the suspect who began shooting at them in the small hallway and then retreated into a bedroom. During the exchange, MPO Grubb was grazed on his left arm by a bullet fired by the suspect. MPO Walley then positioned his shield in the hallway to protect the officers as they continued to look for the victim. MPO Guckenberger found the victim's locked bedroom and breached that door to begin rendering aid.
The SWAT officers calmly coordinated with each other to safely rescue the victim from inside the apartment. Lieutenant Shannon Massey and Master Police Officer Michael Morris arrived and began to assist. SWAT officers deployed a robot to find the suspect, who was found sitting on the floor with a gun still next to him. SWAT officers were able to talk the suspect into leaving his gun behind and they were then able to safely take him into custody without further incident.
Due to the heroic actions of these SWAT officers, a violent suspect was taken into custody and a hostage was saved from further injury or death.
The VACP is proud to honor Fairfax County Lt. Shannon W. Massey, MPO Brian S. Walley, MPO Michael S. Morris, Sgt. Carolina M. Oliver and PFC Randy P. Bronte-Tinkew with the 2023 Award for Lifesaving.
We are also proud to honor MPO Lance Guckenberger and MPO Matthew Grubb with the VACP's highest honor, the Award for Valor.
Fredericksburg Police Department
Sergeant Aimee Lynch
Fredericksburg Sheriff's Office
Lieutenant Tabatha Merrell
Fredericksburg Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Tabatha Merrell was driving home after playing the part of Mrs. Claus for the Public Safety Santa Run when she saw a young woman on the Falmouth Bridge, bending over the railing looking down. Lieutenant Merrell turned her vehicle around to check on the young woman, who she found with one leg hanging over the bridge. Lieutenant Merrell immediately called for assistance over her police radio. Still dressed from head to toe in her Mrs. Claus dress, boots, glasses, and wig, Lieutenant Merrell approached the woman and started using her crisis intervention skills. Fredericksburg Police Patrol Sergeant Aimee Lynch was also driving home after working the Santa Run and pulled over to assist Lieutenant Merrell. FSO Lieutenant Merrell and FPD Sergeant Lynch worked as a team and were able to safely pull the 25-year-old woman off the railing. The woman was taken to a nearby hospital where she received mental health treatment.
“The most amazing part of this story is that Lieutenant Merrell and Sergeant Lynch typically take a different route home. Call it divine intervention or fate, I truly believe these officers were meant to take the route they did and help save this woman's life. I applaud them both for flawlessly utilizing their crisis intervention skills,” said Fredericksburg Police Chief Brian Layton. Fredericksburg Sheriff Foster echoed Chief Layton's sentiment and stated, “This was remarkable teamwork between the Fredericksburg Sheriff's Office and Police Department and a true Christmas miracle.”
The VACP is honored to present the 2023 Award for Lifesaving to Fredericksburg Sheriff's Office Lieutenant Tabatha Merrell and Fredericksburg Police Sergeant Aimee Lynch.
Hanover County Sheriff's Office
Deputy Matthew Newton
Virginia State Police
Trooper B.D. Spangler
On Monday, December 12, 2022, Hanover Sheriff's Office Deputy Matthew Newton and Virginia State Police Trooper B. D. Spangler responded to the bridge on I-95 North that passes over Doswell Road for the report of female contemplating suicide. When Deputy Newton arrived on scene, Trooper Spangler was already speaking with the female, who had one leg over the concrete barrier. Deputy Newton carefully made his way towards the female while Trooper Spangler was keeping her attention. Using hand signals, Newton communicated to Spangler to maintain her attention. Deputy Newton was able to quickly grab the female and pull her off the rail to safety.
Deputy Newton and Trooper Spangler are to be commended for their coordination and lifesaving effort. The VACP is honored to recognize Hanover Sheriff's Office Deputy Matthew Newton and Virginia State Police Trooper B. D. Spangler with the 2023 Award for Lifesaving.
Manassas City Police Department
Officer Kentalle Gaines
On October 27, 2022, a 9-1-1 call was received from a citizen stating that she was on top of the parking garage about to jump off. Manassas City Police Officer Kentalle Gaines arrived on the scene first and located the person in crisis, leaning over the ledge on the top floor of the parking garage. Officer Gaines immediately started to build a rapport with the person, but the person would not step away from the side of the parking garage.
Officer Gaines attempted to make the person feel comfortable, and the person in crisis started to confide in Officer Gaines. Officer Gaines convinced the person to step away from the ledge and talk to her. Officer Gaines kept herself between the person in crisis and the ledge. Officer Gaines continued to de-escalate the highly tense and emotional situation. Eventually, the person was taken to a local hospital for a mental health evaluation.
The person in crisis admitted that she attempted suicide eight times and was about to jump out of the parking garage. Officer Gaines placed herself in immediate danger and utilized her de-escalation skills and experience to bring a potentially tragic situation to a positive ending. Officer Gaines went above and beyond in the performance of her duty, utilized excellent judgment, and ultimately saved the person's life.
The VACP is honored to present Manassas City Police Officer Kentalle Gaines with the 2023 Award for Lifesaving.
Pulaski Police Department
Lieutenant Sarah J. Grim
Sergeant Jamie R. Brown
On June 2nd, 2022, at 09:59 AM, Pulaski Fire was dispatched for smoke coming from a basement, with entrapment. The victim was someone who could not physically move to exit the structure. Pulaski Police Officers Lieutenant Sarah J. Grim and Sergeant Jamie R. Brown and three firefighters arrived on scene. Upon entering the house, it was confirmed that smoke was entering the first floor from the basement. Several methods to remove the victim were attempted without success.
As more smoke filled the first floor, it was decided to push the recliner the resident occupied to the door and to relocate the resident to a mega mover device on the porch. The quick actions of these two individuals and their bravery in entering the structure — without regard for their personal safety as they had no safety gear — helped save a life that day.
For their commendable service, the VACP is honored to present Pulaski Police Lieutenant Sarah J. Grim and Sergeant Jamie R. Brown with the 2023 Award for Lifesaving.
Pulaski Police Department
Sergeant Cody J. Dickerson
On January 20, 2023, Pulaski Police Sgt. Cody J. Dickerson responded to 4600 Longhorn Rd. to back up Pulaski County Sheriff's Office personnel. The call was dispatched as a mentally-disturbed male who had broken into and set fire to an abandoned residence. When the officers arrived on scene, there was heavy smoke coming from the residence and they could hear a male voice yelling incoherently from inside of the residence.
Prior to arrival, the officers were made aware of the suspect's aggressive and erratic behavior. Fire and emergency services personnel remained back until the scene was secured. The officers were unable to get the suspect to respond to them and were forced to kick in the back door of the residence to gain entry.
Once the door was breached, heavy smoke made it hard to see anything inside of the residence. The smoke was so thick that officers were only able to remain in or near the residence for a few seconds at a time before they had to evacuate to fresh air. On one of their trips into the residence, officers spotted a male subject lying in the floor who was attempting to speak but was incoherent. The subject was unable to move on his own, so the officers dragged him out of the residence. Once outside, it was determined that the man was possibly suffering an overdose and NARCAN was promptly administered. Approximately 5 minutes after the male was removed from the residence, the entire structure ignited and was completely engulfed in fire.
Sgt. Dickerson's actions that day directly led to the preservation of life during a highly volatile situation. The VACP is honored to present Pulaski Police Sgt. Cody J. Dickerson with the 2023 Award for Lifesaving.
Richmond Police Department
Detective Sandy Ledbetter-Clarkson
In the early morning hours of March 12, 2023, Richmond Police Detective Sandy Ledbetter-Clarkson was traveling to Richmond International Airport to transport a fugitive from Ohio. Detective Ledbetter-Clarkson observed a vehicle travel off the highway and strike a tree head-on. The detective, though not on patrol, immediately pulled over to render aid. Smoke began emitting from the engine followed by flames. The detective forced opened the door to find a woman and two small children inside. The detective removed both children, one at a time, and placed them at a safe distance from the vehicle before heading back to attempt to extract the mother. Although the flames had increased significantly the detective was determined to rescue the women from the burning car. Her actions saved the lives of three people in crisis, and she will forever be known as a hero. The VACP is proud to recognize Richmond Police Detective Sandy Ledbetter-Clarkson with the 2023 Award for Lifesaving.
Virginia State Police
Trooper Jordan S. Corvin
On the night of November 20, 2021, Virginia State Police Trooper Jordan S. Corvin went above and beyond to save the life of an armed carjacker on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge at the Virginia-Maryland line.
Trooper Corvin observed a vehicle traveling along Interstate 95 in Fairfax County that had been reported stolen out of Maryland. The vehicle had been carjacked and then used in more than a dozen break-ins, robberies, and larcenies in multiple jurisdictions in and around the National Capital Region. Trooper Corvin was alerted to the fact that the vehicle had just been used in a commercial robbery in Prince George's County, Maryland, a mere hour earlier.
After confirming the vehicle was the one being sought by multiple jurisdictions, he followed from a safe distance while alerting his fellow state troopers that he was going to initiate a traffic stop. The vehicle continued south on I-95 and into Prince William County, where it took the exit for the Prince William Parkway. With two additional troopers as back up, Trooper Corvin initiated a traffic stop on the stolen vehicle as it approached the intersection with Telegraph Rd. The stolen vehicle refused to stop and, instead, fled from the trooper at a high rate of speed. A pursuit was initiated.
As the vehicle continued north on I-495 towards Maryland, Trooper Corvin and fellow troopers were able to arrange their patrol cars around the stolen vehicle, contain it, and bring it to a stop on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. As soon as the stolen vehicle stopped, its driver and passenger fled on foot. The passenger was quickly apprehended by assisting troopers.
The male driver kept running along the bridge, occasionally looking back at Trooper Corvin running after him on foot. As Trooper Corvin got closer, the juvenile male jumped onto the Jersey wall. Trooper Corvin immediately yelled for the male driver to “Stop!” because he knew there was nothing on the other side of the Jersey wall except for the Potomac River and the bridge support pillars. Trooper Corvin slowed his approach so as not to startle the teenager and made eye contact with him as he sat down on the narrow cement barrier wall.
Just as Trooper Corvin cautiously worked his way to the driver and reached out to him, the juvenile let go from the bridge. Trooper Corvin grabbed hold of the teenager's sweatshirt. Bracing himself to keep from going over the cement wall as well, Trooper Corvin held tight to the sweatshirt and held on to the juvenile until three other troopers arrived. It took all four of them to pull the male safely back over the Jersey wall to the interstate shoulder.
Without regard for his own safety, Trooper Corvin demonstrated extraordinary courage and dedication to saving another's life. The VACP is proud to recognize Trooper Jordan S. Corvin with the 2023 VACP Award for Lifesaving.
Virginia State Police
Trooper Edward A. Burns
Trooper Darius R. Henry
Trooper Sean M. Hovendon
Trooper Sarah L. Jezioro
On June 15, 2021, at 7:38 a.m., Virginia State Police Trooper Edward A. Burns observed a Lexus traveling
north on Interstate 395 at a high rate of speed and then use the emergency shoulder to pass another vehicle.
When Trooper Burns caught up with the Lexus and activated his emergency lights to initiate a traffic stop, the Lexus refused to comply and, instead, fled from the trooper at a high rate of speed. A pursuit was initiated. The fleeing vehicle proceeded to run two red lights and then crashed on the overpass above South Van Dorn Street. Trooper Burns engaged the driver to take him into custody, but a struggle ensued, and the driver attempted to disarm Trooper Burns. When unsuccessful, the male suspect pulled away, ran up to the cement wall along the sidewalk, and attempted to jump off the overpass. Trooper Burns grabbed for the male and got hold of his belt, thus preventing the man from falling approximately 40-45 feet to the street below.
Trooper Burns held fast to the man, now suspended in the air by his belt, as Troopers Henry, Hovendon, and Jezioro ran up to the scene. Without a second to waste, Trooper Hovendon and Trooper Henry grabbed the suspect's clothing and limbs to help Trooper Burns and Trooper Jezioro bring the man back over the wall to the safety of the sidewalk.
The man was finally brought back over the wall again and taken into custody without further incident.
These troopers demonstrated extraordinary effort and action, while putting their own lives repeatedly at risk. The VACP is proud to recognize Trooper Edward A. Burns, Trooper Darius R. Henry, Trooper Sean M. Hovendon, and Trooper Sarah L. Jezioro with the 2023 VACP Award for Lifesaving.