The Springfield Police Department acknowledged 50 of their officers with awards for bravery during a ceremony on Oct. 12.
Officers were acknowledged for their work responding to shootings, fires, home invasions and other life-threatening situations.
Deputy police chief Steven Kent was responsible for identifying officers to be commended for their bravery, teamwork, and selflessness during chaotic or life-threatening situations, as well as their efforts to help the community.
“I know what you guys do every day. I hear ShotSpotters go off … and I hear cars streaming to gunfire,” Kent said, admitting that he listens to the police radio at night after his shift. “It’s amazing. I’m humbled by you and it makes me proud.”
The department awarded officers for their actions spanning from 2018 to present after several award ceremonies were put on hold – the last due to interference from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among those awarded were Lts. Aaron Butler, Thomas Zarelli, Sgt. Matthew Benoit, and officers Clay Canning, Dayaliz Cruz, Chad Joseph and Francisco Luna, who were recognized for their “immense courage … situational awareness, quick thinking and coordination” after intervening in a fight between a man and his girlfriend. The 44-year-old man then shot at officers with a shotgun and attempted to flee, but was hit by police gunfire and killed at the scene.
Capt. Brian Keenan, Sgts. William Catellier and James Mazza and officers Christopher Bates, Aristides Casillas and Darrin Fitzpatrick were also honored for their actions responding to an event that left Fitzpatrick with injuries that forced his retirement.
A man attempting to flee during a drug investigation plowed his car into Fitzpatrick. A few officers stayed behind to assist Fitzpatrick, while others gave chase and stopped the car about a half-mile away. They found he had been shot by Fitzpatrick just before he was hit by the car, and provided medical aid until an ambulance arrived. He was then arrested.
Officers Gregory Vatrano and Scott Stelzer were awarded separately for apprehending a suspect after he stabbed Vatrano in the chest with a knife. The knife was stopped by a ceramic plate in Vatrano’s body armor, according to police spokesman Ryan Walsh.
Lts. Brian Beliveau and John Zollo, Sgts. Patrick Denault, Daniel Johnson, Shaun Linnehan, along with officers Brendan Linnehan, Colin Cochrane, James Trubia and Elizer Vazquez were additionally honored for their rescue of multiple people from an apartment building during a fire that consumed multiple buildings, injuring three residents and displacing more than 45 people.
Then, Sgts. Jaime Bruno and Mark Jones, with officers Barker, Edwin Irizarry, Servio Jimenez, Joseph Levesque, Daniel Regan and Ramon Sierra were awarded medals for courage and professionalism after being caught in the crossfire of a 2019 shooting that occurred outside Club Aquarius in the early morning.
Officers Barker, Duff, Noel Agosto, Brendan Curran, Kelley Diederich, Maria Famularo, Daniel McKay, Spencer O’Quinn, Michael Rodriguez, Joel Rosemond and Eric Blair with K-9 Mr. Warner were likewise acknowledged for their bravery responding to a 2019 home invasion.
According to Walsh, officers arrived in the middle of the invasion and arrested three men. They also confiscated two guns and rescued eight victims, one of whom was struck in the eye. He had been beaten with guns and a crowbar.
Lt. Joseph Dunn and officers Barker, Duff, Jacob Boudreau and Joshua Dufrane were commended for their courage and dedication to duty after braving gunfire at a gas station from a man wanted for domestic violence.
When police arrived at the gas station, the man opened fire on them and retreated into a locked bathroom with multiple gunshot injuries. The man then killed himself in the bathroom.
Sgt. Christopher Hitas and officers Daniel Huard and Nicholas Mancinone were given awards for pursuing and arresting an armed suspect with an illegal firearm.
Officers Luna, Josue Cruz and Luis Delgado were acknowledged for their life-saving actions to resuscitate a 3-month-old who stopped breathing.
The mother, Portia James, and her healthy baby Kairo attended the ceremony to thank the three officers. During the event, Walsh played video from body camera footage of the scene showing officers trying to revive the baby. The audience applauded when the child showed signs of life. Officer Luna received her second award.
Springfield police commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said of the honorees:
“These officers are recognized for a wide array of situations, all of which were unpredictable, rapidly evolving and required immense courage, selflessness and professionalism.”
She continued: In the heart of hearts and in the heart of their minds their efforts are to help save others. That’s the kind of person who becomes a police officer.”