Updated, 3:20 p.m.: NPD list of honorees.
NORWALK, Conn. – The fourth annual Norwalk Police Department Awards Ceremony honored 25 officers Monday evening in City Hall.
“The officers here put themselves in harm’s way every time they put on a uniform,” Mayor Harry Rilling said. “It gives us great pleasure to be able to recognize the work that they do on a daily basis.”
A summary of honorees, provided by the Norwalk Police Department:
CHIEF’S LETTER OF RECOGNITION
Detective John Sura, Officer Kyle Lipeika, Officer David Geismar
Armed Robbery Arrest
On May 16, 2016, then Officer John Sura and Officers Kyle Lipeika and David Geismar were dispatched to the report of an armed robbery which had just occurred on Broad Street. The victim stated that he had been robbed of his cell phone at gunpoint and he provided a detailed description of his assailant. Officers Lipeika and Geismar, who were assigned to the Strategic Narcotics Enforcement Team, observed a person fitting that description on School Street, stopped that suspect and interviewed him. In the suspect’s pocket, the officers found the victim’s cell phone. Upon further questioning, the suspect revealed that he had in fact robbed the victim at gunpoint using a realistic looking BB gun and had thrown the weapon in the river near the site of the robbery. These officers are being cited for their quick response and ability to elicit pertinent information from the victim enabling fellow officers to readily locate the suspect and recover the stolen item.
CHIEF’S LETTER OF RECOGNITION
Officer Andrew Mancini, Officer Gabriel DeMott
Arrest of a Stabbing Suspect
On June 8, 2016, Officers Andrew Mancini and Gabriel DeMott were dispatched to a report of a stabbing that occurred at a housing complex on Main Avenue. Upon arrival, the officers obtained a description of the suspect and began searching the wooded area around the housing complex. They located the suspect hiding in the woods behind a fence. The officers confronted the suspect, detained him and questioned him. The perpetrator ultimately informed the officers that he had just stabbed someone and led the officers and detectives to the location where he threw the knife and the officers were able to recover it. These officers are being recognized for their swift response and effective questioning of the suspect.
Sgt. Salvatore Calise, Sgt. David Orr
Sgt. Joseph Dinho, Sgt. Ryan Evarts, Det. John Taranto
Bomb Threat & Stalking
On January 20, 2016, a retail establishment on Connecticut Avenue reported receiving three phone calls from the same individual who threatened to detonate bombs he had placed at the establishment and shoot employees and customers in the store if the management of the store did not immediately fire his girlfriend. NPD Detectives and Stamford Bomb Squad responded to the scene and determined that no bombs were at that location. Then Detective Ryan Evarts and Detective John Taranto contacted the girlfriend in question and took her to a safe location. The suspect was identified and it was determined that he was enroute to Norwalk from his residence in New Jersey. The two detectives staked out several locations and observed the suspect hiding in a wooded area behind the girlfriend’s home. They approached the suspect with guns drawn, subdued him and took him into custody. Sergeants Calise, Orr and Dinho and Detectives Evarts and Taranto are being recognized for their roles in this investigation. Most notably, for their ability to gather all the necessary information and coordinate the police efforts to ensure the safety of the girlfriend, to maintain surveillance of all the potential sites that were threatened and then to effectuate the apprehension of the suspect who was determined to cause serious harm to innocent victims.
Officer Richard Montanez
Illegal Firearms Recovery & Arrest
On July 3, 2015, Officer Richard Montanez was assigned to investigate the report of an incident of threats made with a firearm on Commerce Street. The victim provided limited information because of fear of cooperating with the police. Officer Montanez searched the immediate area and found clothing possibly belonging to the suspect, two handguns and ammunition outside of an abandoned building nearby. Officer Montanez turned the items over to the ID Bureau for processing and submitted DNA evidence to the Connecticut State Forensics Lab. The Lab determined that the DNA material on the two firearms matched the DNA profile of a convicted felon whose DNA information was on file in their computer system. Officer Montanez immediately filed for a search and seizure warrant for a DNA sample from the identified suspect. Along with fellow officers, Officer Montanez contacted the suspect and obtained buccal swabs, taken from the mouth from the suspect and submitted those samples to the State Lab for comparison. The State Lab examined the samples and established a DNA match. With this information, Officer Montanez applied for an arrest warrant and served it on June 23, 2016. Officer Montanez is being recognized for his innovative police work utilizing cutting edge DNA technology and his diligence and perseverance in following a serious investigation to its successful conclusion.
Sgt. Garrett Kruger, Officer Gabriel DeMott
On June 27, 2016, Sergeant Garrett Kruger and Officer Gabriel DeMott responded to a report of an armed robbery which had just occurred at a delicatessen on Connecticut Avenue. The officers responded to the store and quickly obtained a description of the perpetrator. They then checked the immediate area as the suspect had fled on foot. Officer DeMott observed an individual fitting the description near the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Van Buren. Officer DeMott engaged in a foot pursuit of the suspect and deployed his taser but one of the prongs of the taser missed the target. The suspect stopped and turned and faced Officer DeMott and as the suspect reached into his waistband, Sergeant Kruger arrived and deployed his canine, PSD Kimbo. The Police Service Dog engaged the subject and took him to the ground and the suspect immediately yelled “I give up”. The money stolen during the robbery was recovered from the suspect. These officers are being recognized for their speedy response and quick apprehension of a potentially dangerous felon.
Officer Steven Luciano
Sexual Assault Warrant Arrest
On October 28, 2016, Officer Steven Luciano was assigned by his immediate supervisor to make an attempt to execute two arrest warrants charging the suspects with Sexual Assault in the first degree. These warrants were issued in connection with an investigation of a sexual assault committed upon a juvenile. Within an hour of receiving his assignment, Officer Luciano had both suspects in custody in the holding facility of the Norwalk Police Department. This investigation was especially significant because the victim in the case was still being intimidated by her assailants. Officer Luciano is being recognized for his quick response and his resourcefulness in taking these two suspects into custody.
Officer Brian Barrett, Officer David Geismar
Possession of a Stolen Firearm
On November 2, 2016 while operating as part of the Special Services Strategic Narcotics Enforcement Team, Officers Brian Barrett and David Geismar observed a subject walking on Bayview Avenue smoking a large marijuana cigar. As they approached him on foot, the individual ran and after a foot pursuit of approximately a half a mile, the officers were able to apprehend the suspect. A search of his backpack uncovered $2,631.00, 36 grams of packaged marijuana and a Beretta semi-automatic 9mm handgun stolen out of Darien. These officers are being cited for their keen observations and physical ability in pursuing and apprehending an armed fleeing suspect.
Officer Owen Lee, Officer Richard Holmes
Drugs and Illegal Possession of a Handgun
On November 23, 2016, Officers Owen Lee and Richard Holmes, members of the Special Services Strategic Narcotics Enforcement Team, also known as SNET were in a police vehicle in the area of Oxford Street when they observed a sedan pass them at a high rate of speed. The officers were able to pull the vehicle over in front of the police station and after a brief interview of the operator, the officers observed a marijuana blunt in the ashtray of the car. Upon searching the vehicle they discovered 14.88 grams of marijuana and hidden in a secret compartment in the steering column was a loaded semi-automatic Kel Tec 9mm handgun. These officers are being recognized for their attention to detail and specialized knowledge in uncovering “traps” or hidden compartments in vehicles for the purpose of secreting firearms.
LIFE SAVING AWARD
Det. Brendan Collins, Officer Daniel Vazquez
Motor Vehicle Accident Water Rescue
On March 6, 2016 at 0124 hours, Police Dispatch received a call of a car that had broken through a barrier in the intersection of Wall & Main Street and plunged over a 30 foot high man made concrete embankment into the Norwalk River. Then Officer Brendan Collins and Officer Daniel Vazquez arrived to find the vehicle partly submerged and upside down in the middle of the river which was swollen with rushing ice cold water. The officers could see that the operator of the vehicle was trapped inside. Working together with firefighters and paramedics, the officers secured a rope to the vehicle and by attaching themselves to it, the officers and firefighters were able to make their way to the vehicle through the rushing water, pry the driver door open, extract the operator and carry him to the riverbank. Their actions were recorded on their body camera and captured an extremely dramatic and perilous rescue operation. The air temperature at the time of the rescue was a reported 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and it is quite probable that if not for the swift and courageous actions of the emergency personnel, the survivor may have suffered to a much greater extent. Norwalk Fire Deputy Chief Stephen Shay described the rescue as “miraculous”. Officer Collins and Officer Vazquez are being recognized for their courage and self-sacrifice and going above and beyond the call of duty in this life saving incident.
LIFE SAVING AWARD
Off. Robert Castaldi, Officer Paul Wargo
Vehicle Pursuit & Life Saving Actions
On July 9, 2016, at approximately 0230 hours, the State Police notified NPD that they were in pursuit of a speeding tow truck on I-95 headed in a northbound direction. The tow truck had allegedly been involved in a hit and run accident involving a pedestrian in White Plains, New York. The tow truck exited I-95 in Norwalk at Exit 14 and headed towards the southbound entrance of I-95 on Connecticut Avenue. Lieutenant Thomas Roncinske and Officers Robert Castaldi and Paul Wargo joined the pursuit which ended on I-95 in Greenwich with the tow truck striking an unoccupied state police vehicle and exploding into flames. Officers Castaldi and Wargo ran towards the tow truck, smashed out the window, released the driver’s seatbelt and pulled the operator out of the truck through the driver’s side window. The officers then handcuffed the operator and attempted to extinguish the fire with one of their fire extinguishers. However, the intensity of the fire was so great that they were unable to put out the fire. The Greenwich Fire Department with the use of a fire engine put out the flames. Officer Castaldi and Wargo are being recognized for their bravery and determination to save the life of another by putting their own lives at risk.
LIFE SAVING AWARD
Sgt. Peter LaPak Sgt. Richard DeLallo
Marine Unit Water Rescue
On September 10, 2016 at 1400 hours, Sergeant Peter Lapak and then Officer Richard DeLallo were on routine patrol as members of the Marine Division in the area of Sheffield Island when they came upon a man overboard and in distress. The man had been struck in the head by the boom of his sailboat and ejected into the water without a life jacket. Sergeant Lapak maneuvered the police boat into a rescue position and threw a life line with a life ring attached to the end of it to the subject in the water. Due to the severity of the head injury, he was incapable of grasping onto the life ring. Officer DeLallo immediately dove into the water but his life vest, designed to inflate upon contact with the water, failed to do so. As Officer DeLallo attempted to control the victim and bring him to the safety of the police boat, a passerby in another boat also dove into the water and rendered assistance. The victim had suffered a serious gash to his head from the boom of the sailboat which he had been operating. Sergeant Lapak, Officer DeLallo and the Good Samaritan were able to get the victim on board the police boat and take him to shore where there was an ambulance awaiting their arrival. Sergeant Lapak and now Sergeant DeLallo are being recognized for their extraordinary efforts in rescuing a sailor who was in extreme distress and a possibly life threatening situation.
POLICE SERVICE CROSS
Off. Anthony DePanfilis Off. Matthew Nyquist Off. Jose Silva
Encounter with an armed and emotionally disturbed person
On May 12, 2016, Officer Anthony DePanfilis while on routine patrol, was driving near the intersection of Main and New Canaan Avenue when he observed a man standing in the middle of the intersection brandishing a large knife. Officer DePanfilis called for back-up and confronted this individual who appeared to be under the influence of some kind of narcotic. The subject refused to comply with Officer DePanfilis’s command to drop the weapon at which point, Officer DePanfilis drew his service weapon. Officer Matthew Nyquist arrived at the scene and fired his taser at the suspect without any effect. Officer Jose Silva also arrived and deployed his taser. The first shot had no effect. But the second shot of the taser struck the suspect and incapacitated him causing him to fall to the ground and drop the knife. The officers were able to handcuff the suspect and take him to the hospital for evaluation. While at the hospital, the subject continually stated that he had wanted to kill someone. These officers are being recognized for courage in the face of extreme danger and the use of restraint when confronted by a potentially life threatening adversary.
2016 OFFICERS OF THE YEAR
Off. Anthony DePanfilis Off. Matthew Nyquist Off. Jose Silva
Officer Anthony DePanfilis was born and raised in Norwalk. He joined the department on February 26, 1999. During his tenure at NPD, he has served in the Patrol Division, Special Services and in the U.S. Marshals Violent Fugitive Task Force. Over the course of his career, Officer DePanfilis has garnered numerous awards, medals and citations to include a Police Service Cross, Medal of Merit and four Officer of the Month awards for outstanding and courageous police work. Officer DePanfilis is married and has 2 children.
Officer Matthew Nyquist joined the department on July 25, 2013. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from the University of Scranton and a Master of Science Degree in Criminal Justice from Long Island University. Officer Nyquist is married to fellow Norwalk Police Officer, Georgia Lazarides Nyquist and they have one young child. Officer Nyquist is currently assigned to the First Platoon.
Officer Jose Silva joined the Norwalk Police Department on March 26, 2015 after working at Pratt & Whitney United Technologies building jet engines for U.S. military fighter planes. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Finance from Central Connecticut State University. Officer Silva is originally from the Cape Verde Islands off the northwest coast of Africa and is a native speaker of Cape Verdean Creole and Portuguese. Officer Silva is currently assigned to the First Platoon.
Officers DePanfilis, Nyquist and Silva are receiving the highest awarded medal that is bestowed upon an officer on an annual basis. They are receiving it for their courage, dedication and professionalism in connection with their arrest of a violent knife wielding criminal in May 2016. The individual they arrested had an extensive criminal history which included eleven arrests in Connecticut and one in New York. The officers were able to take this individual into custody without incurring any injury to him and while safeguarding their own personal security. Their actions truly exemplify the highest qualities and ideals that we hope for in all police officers. Their performance on that night displayed what it means to be a true police officer.