Wednesday, April 26, 2017

PGPD Officers Honored at Annual Valor Awards Ceremony

Prince George’s County Police officers and our public safety partners proudly work for the people of Prince George’s County. These first responders perform with honor and distinction every day – their good works often going unnoticed.  Earlier today, a group of police officers and other first responders who went above and beyond in the line of duty were honored at the 40th Annual Valor Awards ceremony. Here are the Prince George’s County Police officers who were recognized for their heroic efforts.

Officer of the Year, Gold and Silver Medal of Valor
On March 13, 2016, an armed suspect approached the District III police station in Palmer Park with the intent of harming police officers and civilians. The armed suspect began firing a handgun indiscriminately at passing motorists and at the District III station.  As gunfire continued, several police officers inside District III rushed to the front and side entrances to investigate. While on his way to District III, Detective Jacai Colson was made aware of the impending situation developing at the station. Corporal Jason Wells, Corporal John Wynkoop, Officer Brian Melius, and Officer Matthew Scott, along with other officers responded and were immediately met with gunfire as they confronted the gunman. The officers gained cover and subsequently began engaging the gunman and returning fire. Upon approaching District III in his vehicle, Detective Colson observed the gunman engaged with officers. Without hesitation, Detective Colson exited his vehicle and effectively engaged the gunman, discharging several rounds from his firearm. In doing so, Detective Colson was able to draw the gunman’s fire and allow the officers to advance.  As the gun battle ensued, Detective Colson continued to engage the gunman while attempting to gain adequate cover. Ultimately, the gunman was subdued and apprehended.  Tragically, Detective Colson was critically wounded during the exchange of gunfire.  Police Officer Cody Katzenmaier tirelessly attempted to save Detective Colson’s life while officers transported him to the hospital, but Detective Colson succumbed to his injuries.

Corporal Jacai Colson is posthumously awarded the Gold Medal of Valor and was selected Police Officer of the Year thereby reflecting great credit upon himself and upholding the highest traditions of the Prince George’s County Police Department.

Corporal Jason Wells’ and Police Officer Brian Melius’ courageous actions and unrelenting determination, while exposing themselves to extreme danger, are awarded the Gold Medal of Valor. Due to their selfless dedication to duty, steadfast courage, and without regard for their own personal safety Corporal John Wynkoop, Police Officer Cody Katzenmaier, and Police Officer Matthew Scott are awarded the Silver Medal of Valor.    

Gold Medal of Valor
Police Officer First Class Anthony Sciaretta
Police Officer Christopher Malinowski

On November 2, 2015, PGPD officers were dispatched to an armed carjacking on River Bend Road in Fort Washington.  The victim provided a detailed description of his vehicle and of the suspect, who displayed a handgun, demanded the vehicle, and pistol-whipped him prior to taking the vehicle.

Moments later, Police Officer First Class Anthony Sciaretta spotted the carjacked vehicle leaving the scene.  Police Officer First Class Sciaretta attempted a traffic stop, but the suspect refused to stop and a pursuit began.  Police Officer Christopher Malinowski joined the pursuit and assumed control of the radio transmission. The pursuit continued through residential streets, the jurisdiction of Forest Heights, onto Indian Head Highway and into the District of Columbia.  

After getting a flat tire, the suspect vehicle continued at a slow speed until it came to a stop on Gainsville Street in Southeast Washington. The suspect ran from the vehicle while brandishing a handgun.  Police Officer First Class Sciaretta and Police Officer Malinowski pursued on foot, giving verbal commands for the suspect to stop and drop the weapon.  The suspect did not obey those commands and began firing at the officers.  Police Officer First Class Sciaretta and Police Officer Malinowski returned fire, striking and killing the suspect.

For their keen patrol instincts, sound pursuit techniques, and decisive actions while placing themselves in extreme danger while being fired upon, Police Officer First Class Anthony Sciaretta and Police Officer Christopher Malinowski are awarded the Gold Medal of Valor.

Silver and Bronze Medal of Valor
On June 3, 2016, PGPD officers responded to 15th Avenue in Langley Park for a domestic assault call.  A citizen called the police to report she heard a woman screaming for help and saw a man lying in the street. 

Upon arrival, they discovered a small fire burning inside of an apartment. Corporal Gainey located a witness who advised the occupants of the apartment were involved in a domestic dispute and the male occupant started a fire inside the apartment and fled the scene. He was later found and arrested.

Officers could see smoke billowing from the apartment building. They were forced to kick in several doors in order to warn sleeping residents. Police Officer First Class Batista and Police Officer Benitez, who were fluent in Spanish, were instrumental in relaying the danger to the residents. 

Corporal Cheatham ran into the hallway and grabbed an infant from a young mother, swaddled the child and carried the infant outside. Corporal Gainey grabbed the mother and carried her outside.  Police Officer First Class Penafiel grabbed a man and carried him to safety.  Police Officer Benitez and Police Officer First Class Batista also each grabbed a child.  In all, at least a dozen people were safely evacuated.  Once all of the residents in the hallway were evacuated, Corporal Gainey, Police Officer First Class Penafiel, Police Officer First Class Batista and Police Officer Benitez ran back into the building to search the apartments one by one looking for any residents they may have missed. 

Lieutenant Smith recognized the danger to these officers were too great and ordered them to evacuate.  Police Officer Benitez did not hear the order to evacuate as he had gone up to the second floor to check the only apartment that wasn’t cleared. Lieutenant Smith was afraid that Police Officer Benitez would be overcome with smoke, so he entered the building, ran upstairs, and located him in the back room of the apartment. They exited the building safely.

For their heroic actions, while placing themselves in extreme danger, Lieutenant Jason Smith and Police Officer Leonardo Benitez are awarded the Silver Medal of Valor.  Corporal David Cheatham, Corporal Michael Gainey, Corporal William Watson, Police Officer First Class Juan Penafiel and Police Officer First Class Victor Batista are awarded the Bronze Medal of Valor. 

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