KENT COUNTY DEPUTIES MIKE HOPKINS, MARIO MOREY AND CHRIS HAWLEY
With an armed gunman on the loose, back-up officers can make the difference between life and death. But reinforcements were a luxury time wouldn’t afford to three Kent County deputies last summer. The three deputies — Mike Hopkins, Mario Morey and Chris Hawley — cover a full 288 square miles in Northern Kent County. But on June 24, 2008, their lives hinged on what went on in one small trailer on a private lot. At about 8 p.m., a woman called dispatch to report that her boyfriend had beaten her and then shot her in the abdomen in the trailer they shared. She said she was badly injured and unable to move from the living room floor — and that her boyfriend, still armed with the shotgun, was in the bedroom. Fearful for the woman’s life and with no way to predict what the armed gunman might do next, the three deputies decided they had no time to await reinforcements or a Tactical Team. They’d have to move in on their own. Deputies Hopkins and Morey entered the trailer as Deputy Hawley covered them. Well aware that the hidden gunman could attack them or his injured girlfriend at any moment with a fully loaded weapon, they quickly located the woman and moved her to a just-arrived cruiser, which whisked her away to medical care. The deputies then maintained surveillance until the Tactical Team responded to clear the residence. Opening the door of the bedroom, where the victim said her boyfriend was hiding, they found the gunman — dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The victim, the deputies later discovered, was a 911 Central Dispatch operator for neighboring Montcalm County. Deputies Mike Hopkins, Mario Morey and Chris Hawley entered that trailer knowing they might face a volatile gunman who had just shot and seriously wounded an unarmed woman. Since waiting for reinforcements would have risked even graver injury to the woman, they bravely put their own lives on the line to carry her to safety. For their heroic actions, the Police Officers Association of Michigan presents Deputies Hopkins, Morey and Hawley with the 2009 Police Officer of the Year Award.
2009 TAYLOR POLICE LT. JOHN BLAIR AND CPL. JON GERSKY
Law enforcement involves many weapons, but not one of them is more powerful than intuition. The incident that landed two hit men in jail for life began with a routine traffic stop at about 4 p.m. on March 11, 2008, when Taylor Police Cpl. Jon Gersky stopped a green Chrysler Sebring, traveling west on I-94 near Beech-Daly Rd., after he observed three separate violations. Gersky approached the car, which had tinted windows and Texas plates, and spoke with both men inside. Already wary because the car came from a state known as a narcotics source, he questioned the two using well-honed interview techniques effective in unearthing suspects hiding drugs or money. The more he heard and saw, the more suspicious he became. Not only did the passenger seem inordinately shaken, but the men’s stories were suspect: They both told Gersky they had come to Detroit to find a truck, but when he asked if they’d found a truck, one said “yes” and one said “no.” The two claimed they were headed back to Texas, but they were far off the proper path. Growing ever more suspicious, Gersky returned to his car to run an EPIC check to determine whether the two had drug histories. Not surprisingly, the database showed Texas law enforcement currently investigating an open narcotics case against the passenger. Gersky requested and waited for a back-up officer to arrive before asking the men whether they had drugs, weapons, alcohol or large sums of money in the car. Not satisfied with their denials to each question, Gersky asked the men for permission to search the car, and they agreed. When a pre-search pat-down yielded one pocket knife from each man, the officers placed one man in the rear of each patrol car and began their search. In no time, they discovered a silver semi-automatic handgun — still warm to the touch — under the front seat floor mat. Returning to their police cars, they handcuffed and arrested both men for carrying concealed weapons, had the car towed to the evidence garage and took the men to be booked. But Gersky was not yet ready to let the case lie. Investigating further, he discovered that the narcotics case against the passenger involved hidden car compartments. Armed with this information, Gersky and three fellow officers searched the car thoroughly. That search produced: Two blood-speckled latex gloves A knit hat with a fold-down mask A blood-smeared file envelope with two names and a Troy address Three pieces of paper. One bore the same name and directions from Detroit to the Troy address. One was a color copy of a passport with one of the names on it. And one held a detailed residential floor plan. During the booking process, the officers also found blood on the passenger’s money. Sgt. Blair, one of the three officers working with Cpl. Gersky, was convinced that a crime had been committed and promptly briefed Troy police. It didn’t take long for Troy officers to visit the address on the envelope and report back to Blair that they’d found a middle-aged couple shot to death in separate bedrooms. Had Gersky not trusted his instincts, this could have been no more than a simple traffic stop. And had he and Blair— who was promoted from sergeant to lieutenant after this event — not continued to follow their intuition after the arrest, a horrendous crime might well have gone unsolved. The murdered couple’s nephew, a San Francisco police officer, was so impressed with their police work that he sent a handwritten letter to both Blair and Gersky. It read, in part, “We sincerely thank you for being the diligent and dedicated professionals that you are. We thank you for placing yourself in harm’s way to protect the innocent…Without your due diligence, these men may have never been brought to justice.” Thanks to the professional instincts, thoroughness and attention to detail of Lt. John Blair and Cpl. Jon Gersky, two dangerous hit men, who could easily have escaped and lived free in Texas, are now serving life sentences in prison. We thank them for their outstanding work by honoring them with the 2009 Police Officer of the Year Award.
SAGINAW POLICE OFFICERS JOAQUIN GUERRERO, DENNIS HOWE, JEFFREY MADAJ AND STEPHEN SCHIRMER
In the movies, even the most harrowing gun pursuit ends with a win for the “good” guys. Although no such guarantees exist in real life, four Saginaw police officers played the scene to perfection on a dark winter night last December 17. It was about 10 p.m. when calls about a man with a shotgun pursuing a bleeding woman flooded dispatch. Callers reported that the man had fired at the woman, but no one knew whether the bullet had struck its target. The woman was hiding in the driveway of her townhouse. The man was on foot. Officer Joaquin Guerrero and his K9 Rookie arrived first, just moments before Officer Jeffrey Madaj. On foot, with the dog at heel, the two officers worked their way through the neighboring duplex towards the venue.
Before long, Guerrero spotted a man matching the suspect’s description standing by the passenger side of a white van parked in a driveway. The van was facing towards the rear of the duplex. He noted the shotgun in the man’s hand and heard him rack a round into the chamber. Taking cover with the dog behind a car in the next-door driveway, the two watched him get into the passenger seat. Saginaw Officers Stephen Schirmer and Dennis Howe, plus a Michigan state trooper, joined Guerrero and Madaj. Their plan was to have Madaj, Howe and Schirmer work their way around the neighboring duplex towards the rear portion of the duplex where the van was parked in the driveway. This would have allowed officers to view the suspect from both the front and the driver’s side of the van. As they moved Guerrero and the trooper covered them. Always aware of potential danger to innocent neighbors, Guerrero called for reinforcements to clear surrounding houses. As the officers watched, the gunman moved to the driver’s seat and now held a small handgun rather than the shotgun. Three times the man raised the gun to his head, near his ear, and then lowered it. Several times, officers ordered the gunman to drop his weapon. Several times he ignored them. Suddenly, the gunman opened the driver’s door and began to exit, this time with shotgun in hand. Again he ignored all orders to drop his weapon. With the van door wide open, he leveled his shotgun directly at Guerrero, who now stood only 25 feet away. Not only was Guerrero’s life at stake, but so were the lives of his fellow officers and the surrounding public. Knowing the gunman would not hesitate to use his weapon, they could not hesitate either. Simultaneously, all four Saginaw officers fired at the gunman. The gunman ducked back into the van, appearing to be taking cover. Guerrero, K9 Rookie and the trooper approached the van’s driver’s side. Howe, Madaj and Schirmer approached the front of the van. But the gunman wasn’t done. Shotgun in hand, he again made movements towards the officers. Again the officers fired at him. The suspect then fell back into the van still armed. As Officers Madaj, Schirmer and Howe inched toward the van, calling for a cease fire, the gunman again started to move. Once more shot rang out. The gunman grew still. Unsure of the gunman’s condition, Guerrero sent the well-trained K9 into the van. The officers knew that if the man remained a threat, he would either react to the dog or surrender. He did neither. Approaching the van, Howe could see only the suspect’s left hand — but not his critical right hand. At gunpoint, Howe reached into the van and pulled the gunman’s right hand into view, observing that he was seriously wounded and no longer armed. The .22-caliber semi-automatic handgun lay on the floor, the shotgun at his feet. The gunman was pronounced dead at the hospital. Police eventually found the gunman’s bleeding victim hiding in a nearby home. Before police arrived, the man had hit her several times with one of the weapons and then shot at her through a neighbor’s vehicle as she stood on the opposite side of it trying to escape. She received on-the-scene medical attention but did not need hospitalization. For their unbelievably cool bravery and professionalism under fire and for risking their own lives to save an innocent victim, bystanders and their own fellow officers, we present the 2009 Police Officer of the Year Award to Saginaw Police Officers Joaquin Guerrero, Dennis Howe, Jeffrey Madaj and Stephen Schirmer.
BROWNSTOWN TOWNSHIP POLICE LT. STEVE NEMETH
Just after 11 p.m. last July 29, several Brownstown police officers responded to a fast-moving, four-alarm fire in a large apartment building. The dense smoke and flames shooting 50 feet in the air allowed little time to knock on doors and evacuate residents, many of them soundly asleep for the evening. The officers quickly but methodically roused apartment residents and shepherded them to safety. Thinking they’d successfully evacuated all apartments, Lt. Steve Nemeth and a fellow police officer paused in the parking lot, catching their breath and assessing the situation. Just then, a frantic woman approached them. She told them she noticed a parked car belonging to an older handicapped man and was sure he was still trapped inside his apartment. She explained that, without help, he would have absolutely no way to escape the deadly smoke and flames. The two officers dashed to the man’s apartment, banging on his doors and windows, calling his name. But they heard no response. Finally, peeking through a small crack in the curtains, they spotted a man lying on a bed, frantically calling for help. Disregarding their own safety, the two officers ran to the apartment’s front door, kicked it open and weaved through the burning, smokefilled apartment into the bedroom where they found the terrified naked man. Knowing he no time to spare, Nemeth — with his fellow officer’s assistance — covered the helpless with a sheet and quickly carried him outside to safety. Within minutes, flames engulfed his apartment and the entire building was totally destroyed. “I have never seen anything like it except in the movies,” observed one witness. “I still think about how that man would have burned alive in that building if they had not gone in there.” Lt. Steve Nemeth’s calm courage and heroism lies within the highest traditions of police work. Without his actions, a handicapped man would have suffered a horrific death. Lt. Steve Nemeth, please accept our recognition as we present you with the 2009 Police Office of the Year Award.
OTTAWA COUNTY DEPUTY BRENT BROWN
When Ottawa County Deputy Brent Brown reported for work on a cold winter night last Feb. 22, he had no idea how much heat he’d face before his shift ended. It was just about 9 p.m. when the call came through. A man had viciously stabbed his estranged wife at the convenience store where she worked and then robbed the store. Stopping briefly at the crime scene, Ottawa County Deputy Brent Brown drove directly to the suspect’s home, about a half mile away. No street lights broke the deep darkness where an open field, rather than neighboring homes, surrounded the suspect’s residence. Parking at the driveway entrance, Brown activated his spotlight on the home, noting fresh car tracks behind a Monte Carlo parked on the home’s east side. After reporting to dispatch, Brown grabbed his patrol rifle and took cover on the far side of his car. He watched the house. Nothing moved. Two additional deputies arrived. Moving closer to the house, one of them noticed a small fire inside the home. It was the same spot where Brown thought he’d seen a light minutes before. After calling the fire department, Brown approached the home. Peering through a window, he too saw the fire as well as a candle burning on the landing of the basement stairs. He also noted bloodlike smears on the floor near the fire. Moving to the kitchen window, he noticed even more blood-like residue on the floor. Brown, who had 21 years experience as a paramedic, suspected it came from a victim who had been dragged. He knew it was a significant amount of blood, enough to be life-threatening. Looking up, he now saw flames pouring from upstairs windows on both sides of the house. Although they recognized that a desperate assailant and a potentially deadly fire awaited them inside the house, the officers decided they had no choice but to enter. As soon as they kicked in the basement stairwell window, Brown and the four deputies he led, whiffed the unmistakably deadly odor of gas. A few steps inside confirmed Brown’s worst suspicions. The red he’d seen was blood — and a truly significant amount. By now the house was filled with billowing smoke, limiting visibility to just a few feet. With the gas smells signaling a possible and instantaneous explosion, the deputies decided to leave the house but still provide cover while the fire department, who had just arrived, worked to control the smoke and fumes. To avoid potential danger in case the assailant was indeed in the house, the firefighters worked only from the exterior, breaking open windows and activating blower fans for ventilation. Before long, five deputies with Brown again in the lead, re-entered the pitch dark home. The light on Brown’s AR-15 was their only guide. This time they went in through the door leading to the living room and then moved to the kitchen, where Brown saw large splotches of blood leading into a hallway. Following the bloody trail along the hallway, he saw more blood on the stair wall leading to the second floor. Extensive smoke and fire filled the upper level. Deciding to momentarily focus on the first floor, Brown continued down the hallway, which jogged left past three closed doors. Smoke and falling water that the firemen had sprayed on the upper floor drastically hampered visibility. Brown covered the unsecured hallway while his fellow deputies cleared the first room. Nothing there. Then the sound of breaking glass in the next room shattered the silence. Was it the firefighters? Or was it the man who had stabbed his estranged wife? While Brown covered the door to the second bedroom, another deputy attempted to open the door. It was locked. Kicking the door multiple times before it yielded, the deputy found himself facing the suspect, who crouched in the center of the room with his hands hidden. Without warning, the man jumped up and charged at the deputy, who was moving backwards, holding his flashlight in front to defend himself. After a brief hand-to-hand battle, the attacker fled the room, racing down the hallway into the first room the officers had cleared. Yelling incoherently, he ran toward a deputy, who had ducked into another room for cover. Knowing that the suspect was capable of gruesome violence and fearful for his fellow deputy’s life, Brown fired two rounds from his AR-15. The suspect fell to the floor. After handcuffing the man and moving him from the smoky home, the deputies stayed to clear the last bedroom, which proved to be empty. It was only later that Brown discovered that the suspect had boobytrapped the house by cutting the basement gas line and starting several small fires — including the candle and small fire Brown had first spotted — in an attempt to blow up the house with natural gas. The blood they’d found on the floors and walls was from the suspect’s wrists, which he had sliced as a suicide attempt. It was clear he knew the officers would come after him, and he was planning to kill himself and as many of them as he could. Although the suspect did die, his estranged wife recovered and none of the officers was hurt.Ottawa County Deputy Brent Brown took a true leadership position in a lethal situation. His bravery and professionalism saved the lives of his fellow deputies and put a deranged attacker behind bars. We are proud to honor him with the 2009 Police Officer of the Year Award.
ST. CLAIR COUNTY DEPUTY TIM O’BOYLE
Law enforcement officers executing a traffic stop can never be sure what awaits them. Capac Police Chief Ray Hawks was well acquainted with the man he’d spotted driving recklessly last April 16, and he knew the stop could mean trouble. What he didn’t know is that he’d soon be lying in critical condition at a Port Huron Hospital and his deputy would take a bullet in the head. The incident began about 2:15 p.m. in Capac, a tiny farming community about 60 miles north of Detroit. Chief Hawks had tried to stop the reckless driver, with whom he’d had previous run-ins, but the man ignored the chief’s attempts to pull him over. Fearing yet another confrontation, Hawks first called for back-up and a tow truck and then followed the driver who sped toward his home, ducked inside and reappeared with a .22-caliber rifle. As St. Clair County Deputy Tim O’Boyle and the tow truck driver arrived on the scene, the suspect drew his weapon and fired several times at all three men. One shot tore through chief’s right arm and into his chest. Another struck O’Boyle in the head. The gunman then disappeared. Although bleeding from his head wound, O’Boyle managed to take cover and give dispatch a clear, precise report about what had happened. He also provided a detailed description of the suspect. He then helped get Chief Hawks the medical care he urgently needed before turning the scene over to reinforcements responding to his call. O’Boyle’s comprehensive report to dispatch allowed officers from neighboring districts to quickly respond. The vital information he provided helped protect them from injury and death as they arrived on the scene. And it guided them in their efforts to protect innocent bystanders. Aided by O’Boyle’s cool assessment, back-up officers promptly and professionally surrounded the gunman’s split-level home, escorted residents from nearby houses to safety and put the nearby elementary school and high school on lockdown. Thinking they had the gunman trapped inside, they continued to watch the suspect’s home for five hours after the shooting. But when they stormed the home with an armored vehicle after dark, the home was empty. An all-out search by more than 50 law enforcement offers from every surrounding jurisdiction and the Michigan State Police found the gunman the next day. He was hiding on the floor of a pickup at a business near the shooting scene. He was arrested without further injuries and charged with three counts of assault with intent to commit murder and one felony firearm charge. Meanwhile doctors found Hawks had suffered serious injuries. The gunman’s bullet had punctured his lung, hit his liver and wedged into his diaphragm. He underwent surgery, spent nearly a month in a medically induced coma and depended on a ventilator to help him breathe. His long recovery continues today. Fortunately, although the bullet had grazed O’Boyle’s head, his wound was not serious. The tow truck driver escaped injury. The gunman remains in prison. St. Clair Deputy Tim O’Boyle saved countless lives by maintaining his professional cool in the most stressful circumstances. The Police Officers Association of Michigan commends him for his gallantry and fine example of what it means to be a law enforcement officer. We proudly present him with the 2009 Police Officer Association of the Year Award.
GRAND TRAVERSE COUNTY SHERIFF’S DETECTIVE TODD HELLER
Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Detective Todd Heller had put countless frustrating hours into unearthing enough crucial evidence to convict an elusive sexual predator who had been molesting underprivileged boys for many years. He thought his routine court appearance at the trial would be the easy part of the case. But he was wrong. For several years, the sexual predator, a state employee and karate instructor, had targeted young boys with questionable backgrounds and credibility issues. He had been arrested many times, but lack of evidence and victim reliability issues produced only acquittals and dismissals. Detective Heller had joined the case several months after the original investigator, Heller’s colleague and friend, was severely injured in a motorcycle accident. Heller promised his friend he’d bring the man to due justice. And that’s exactly what he did. The court had earlier dismissed allegations by one of the man’s victims because there was some question about where and when the sexual assault took place. Heller, however, found the key that cracked the case when he recalled another similar incident that helped him locate the exact venue in Montmorency County, northeast of Grand Traverse, where the boy was molested. That fateful day in court, Heller’s testimony and work with the prosecutor’s office in Montmorency and Grand Traverse counties brought the very first guilty verdict against the predator — criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. As the jury announced its verdict, Heller breathed a sigh of relief. But the molester had other plans. Before coming to court, he had loaded a 20-guage pump shotgun with .5 Magnum shells, chambered one round, unlatched the safety, duct-taped a dime to the action button to speed reloading with additional rounds and stashed the weapon in the backseat of his car in the courthouse parking lot. As the judge remanded him to prison, he jumped from his seat, shouted “No!” and ran to his car — with Heller and the bailiff in pursuit. The suspect opened the driver’s door, grabbed his loaded shotgun and turned the barrel directly into Heller’s chest — which was only inches from the barrel — and fired. Heller heard the click but realized the shotgun had somehow malfunctioned, so he grabbed the barrel with one hand and the shotgun slide with the other hand to prevent the man from loading another round and firing a second time. Heller continued to hold both the barrel and the lever while the two struggled down to the ground. The fight continued until the bailiff arrived and Tasered the suspect, who released the shotgun. Heller fell backwards, shotgun still in hand. The two officers handcuffed the man who had meant to kill them both. Heller later learned that the click he heard when his assailant fired was the shotgun trigger hitting the bullet. But, because his attacker had not fully racked the shell in the chamber, the round never discharged. The sexual predator was later charged with attempted murder of a police officer. For this new court trial, the witnesses included the sexual predator’s defense attorney, the prosecuting attorney on the sex charge and the judge who had presided over the molestation case. The suspect who got away with so much by counting on the questionable credibility of his young victims didn’t count on the heroic actions of his last intended victim, Grand Traverse Sheriff’s Detective Todd Heller. With a courtroom of innocent civilians and a parking lot filled with even more people, Detective Heller demonstrated bravery in the face of death. He saved not only his own lives but the lives of several other people. For unbelievable heroism with all the odds stacked against him, The Police Officers Association of Michigan proudly names Grand Traverse Detective Todd Heller a 2009 POAM Police Officer of the Year.
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD TAYLOR POLICE CPL. JEFFREY ADAMISIN
When it came to drug trafficking, Taylor Police Cpl. Jeffrey Adamisin wanted to do more than just say “No!” He decided to wage an all-out war on anyone associated with drugs — from dealers and users to money handlers and transporters. Adamisin, a Taylor police officer for eight years, works midnight to 8 a.m., but his war on drugs is without time limits. Last year alone, Adamisin’s keen sense and uncanny ability to find people possessing illegal narcotics and drug money has made him directly responsible for clearing the streets of well over $2 million in illegal drugs, including: 926 lbs., 4.35 oz. of marijuana 27.7 pounds of heroin 48 grams of cocaine 1 gram of crack cocaine 1,050 Ecstasy pills And that’s not counting the $900,000 and 20 lbs. of marijuana he pulled out of the drug market in December 2007. In addition, the traffic stops Adamisin initiated last year were directly responsible for the forfeiture of nearly $1.1 million in drug money — not to mention the dozen or more forfeited cars drug dealers used to ply their trade. These are remarkable numbers for any drug enforcement unit, but Adamisin has capably juggled drug interdiction with many other jobs — from answering radio calls to working on a variety of incidents and crimes — during his regular midnight shift. His overall productivity on the job has been prodigious. In 2008, for example, he wrote more than 130 reports, the majority of them from his own self-initiated stops. Since he usually works paired with a fellow officer in the same car and only the non-driver writes the reports, he might have racked up double the number had he worked alone. Adamisin’s success in drug interdiction began with his own self-initiated quest to locate drugs and drug money passing through Taylor via the city’s two major freeways, I-75 and I-94. On his own initiative â€• without formal drug interdiction training, he used diligence and intuitive observational skills to turn traffic stops into drug arrests whenever things slowed on his midnight shift. By the end of last year, Adamisin’s uncanny knack for ferreting out drugs and drug money earned his department’s praise and landed him in formal workshops and classes to better hone his skills in spotting drug traffickers. Although he has made several traffic stops for the local FBI/Michigan State Police task force and has developed valuable information for them, Adamisin does not get credit for those cases because he is not a member of the task force. Today we want to give him the recognition he deserves for his longstanding professionalism, self-initiative, skill and tenacity in removing illegal drugs and the people who deal them from the streets. We thank him for making a substantial impact on drug trafficking in the Taylor area and throughout the state by presenting Cpl. Jeffrey Adamisin with the 2009 Police Officers Association of Michigan Distinguished Service Award.