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Valor Medals Bestowed on City's Finest

Public safety employees honored at luncheon.

Seventeen of Alexandria’s public safety employees were recognized at Tuesday’s 17th annual Valor Awards luncheon.

"We are proud to sponsor this luncheon each year because everyone of us in this room feels safer because of our fine fire, police and sheriff’s department personnel,” said John Redmon, the chairman of the Alexandria Chamber Board of Directors.

Jim Vance, anchor of Washington' NBC4 News, agreed. “Thank you for allowing me to participate in this recognition today,” Vance said. “As a journalist, let me assure you, that all of you brave public safety officers make our lives much easier and safer every day.”

Amy Bertsch, a spokesperson for the Alexandria Police Department and the department’s liaison with the Alexandria Chamber, expressed the gratitude of the public safety community. “We are so grateful for the support of the Chamber and the business community,” she said. “Each year, we think that it can’t get any better and it does.”

There were 430 people at this year’s luncheon to applaud the stories of heroism as each recipient was honored.

CITY POLICE AND SHERIFF'S OFFICE

Police officers Nancy Everard and Numa Landry received gold medals. In the spring of 2002, a 9-11 operator received a call from a distraught mother who said that her son was tearing up the house and that her disabled husband was still inside the home with him. Everard responded to the home. When the mother opened the door, Everard smelled a strong smell of gas and saw a disabled man struggling to reach his wheelchair. The son was in the kitchen trying to light a cigarette lighter and threatening to kill everyone by blowing up the house. Landry arrived on the scene and assisted Everard in getting the parents out of the house. The son closed the doors and windows and continued to try and light the lighter. Eventually, he attempted to leave the home and was arrested. Everard and Landry evacuated nearby homes but Washington Gas shut off gas service to the street and no one was hurt.

Police officer Jeffrey Ash received a silver medal. On Feb. 1, 2002, Ash was shopping at the Food Lion in Woodbridge when a man entered the store, grabbed a customer and demanded that a cashier give him all of the money in her cash register. Both the hostage and the cashier got away from him and screamed that he was trying to rob the store. Ash chased the man from the store and into the parking lot, where the suspect headed for a crowd of people entering a K-Mart. Ash, who was in plain clothes but had his service revolver, ordered the man to stop and was able to get him on the ground before he could bring harm to anyone. Prince William police arrived and arrested the suspect who was wanted in a string of similar robberies at grocery stores along Route 1.

Three other police officers also received silver medals. Investigator Ned Thompson was working the night shift on Jan. 8, 2002, when he decided to purchase some doughnuts and coffee at the Dunkin' Doughnut store on Duke Street. Thompson, an identifications technician, got to the store and saw a clerk with his hands in the air and another man in front of him. As he watched through the window, he saw another store employee approach with his hands also in the air. Understanding that he was witnessing a robbery in progress, he radioed for assistance. Officers Douglass Serven and Seth Weinstein arrived at the store and the three decided to enter the building at once. The suspect had taken both employees into the back of the store. When the suspect refused to come to the front of the store as the officers requested, they went to look for him. They found him hiding under a table. On their orders, the suspect crawled out from under the table and was taken into custody. The two employees came out of the walk-in freezer as soon as the suspect was taken into custody. The gun that the suspect used and the money from the cash register were found under the table.

Husband and wife team, Sgt. Janice Parker and Deputy Sheriff John O’Hara also received silver medals. On Feb. 9, 2002, Parker and O’Hara were working at a child safety seat inspection event at Jack Taylor Alexandria Toyota on Route 1. Both responded to a motor vehicle accident at the intersection of Route 1 and the north entrance to Potomac Yard that involved several vehicles. Three males, who were involved in the accident, left their car and rant toward Potomac Yard. Parker and Alexandria police officer Mark Bergen, apprehended the first suspect almost immediately. O’Hara and Alexandria Police Officer Torchiani, followed the second suspect and quickly took him into custody. The third suspect fled through the parking lot of the shopping center and went into the Barnes and Noble bookstore. O’Hara waited for backup and then entered the store with several other officers. During the search for the suspect inside the store, O’Hara helped evacuate customers. O’Hara assisted one customer who didn’t understand what was happening, to the floor to keep him out of harm’s way. The man, a customer in the store, was blind. The third suspect was eventually found in the rear of the store. All three suspects were wanted for committing several robberies in Arlington County.

Sgt. Steven Carr received a silver medal and three other police officers received bronze medals. On Aug. 14, 2002, four officers saw thick black smoke in the evening sky. Carr was patrolling in Arlandria with Officer William Mayfield and Officer Jeffrey Stovall while Officer John Lytle was also on patrol by himself. As the officers headed toward the smoke, Carr alerted the dispatcher. As the officers crossed into Arlington County, they saw a house on fire on S. Glebe Road. A volunteer firefighter stopped and offered his help. The top floor was completely engulfed in flames and the officers could not tell if anyone was inside. Carr, Mayfield and the volunteer firefighter headed toward the garage. Officer Mayfield began evacuating nearby homes. Carr and the volunteer entered the home on the middle level where they found smoke and fire. The floor above them was completely ablaze. They also found a couple frantically trying to rescue their pets. Windows began to explode and they told the couple to leave immediately. Lytle and Stovall ran to the front of the house. They broke windows and urged the residents to leave the house immediately. Finally, Carr and the volunteer got the residents, their dog and birds out of the home. Arlington County firefighters arrived on the scene and extinguished the blaze and no one was injured.

Officers Brian Fromm and Kurt Dove received certificates of valor. On Jan. 14, 2002, Officer Brian Fromm was called to Inova Alexandria Hospital to search for a suicidal man who had walked away from the emergency room. By the time he arrived, the man had returned and was lying in an examination room. Dove had also arrived. While Fromm was talking to a physician about the patient, he heard a nurse scream. Both officers ran into the room and discovered the disturbed patient hanging from an overhead light fixture. The man had tied a bed sheet to the light and wrapped it about his neck. When the officers arrived, the man’s face was blue. Dove grabbed the man and held his body up so that the taut bed sheet would slacken. Fromm cut through the sheet with a knife, releasing the man. Doctors examined the man and determined that he was not critically injured. He was committed to the hospital for further mental health treatment.

FIRE DEPARTMENT

Lieutenant Wayne Bryant, Engine 205, B Shift, Alexandria Fire Department, received a Gold Medal for his heroic efforts to save a four year old boy from the second story of home engulfed in flames.

On September 14, 2003, shortly after 1 a.m., Lt. Bryant responded to a call at 24 West Masonic Ave. Upon arrival he was informed by a resident of the home that a child was unaccounted for. He also learned a police office had already attempted to enter the building but was driven back by the intense heat.

Lt. Bryant grabbed a ladder and, with the aid of another firefighter, climbed to the second story, his nomination stated. The hose line was not yet set up to protect him from the heat. He broke the window with his helmet and climbed inside to search for the child.

While crawling across the floor and feeling for the child, the intense heat burned his ears, it was recounted. He continued on his mission knowing time was running out for both of them. "Feeling a leg in the dense smoke he grabbed the child, pulled him from the burning house, and headed down the ladder to awaiting medics," according to the report.

The entire time Lt. Bryant struggled inside the burning structure, he had no back up protection, no hose line, and no other firefighters with him. He had only his fire gear. But, he brought the child to safety.

Jeannine Robinson and Khoa Tran, Emergency Rescue Technicians II, with the Alexandria Fire Department, both were honored with Lifesaving Awards for saving the life of another firefighter thrown from an Engine on its way to the scene of a natural gas leak.

Traveling behind Engine 206 on January 28, 2002, in Medic 206, Robinson and Tran witnessed Firefighter John Vollmer fall from the Engine as it turned onto Kenmore Avenue. He bounced onto the hard pavement and came to rest unconscious in the street.

Robinson and Tran immediately requested a helicopter and additional personnel to the scene, according to department reports. Although Tran, at the time, was only a probationary recruit technician, he and Robinson adeptly administered patient care while keeping the chaotic scene under control, their nomination explained.

"Together they administered aid to their colleague and assigned meaningful ways for others at the scene to contribute to the rescue," the record stated. In recognition of the leadership, courage, and "clear thinking under fire" they were nominated to receive the Valor Award. Vollmer has fully recovered and returned to duty.