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by Judith Hruz
A county sheriff’s deputy and a county police officer earned the Citation for Bravery in the Rockville Public Safety Awards for their efforts to prevent a gunman from shooting and killing any other people after he went on a rampage in the Sunshine community last year.
Sgt. Steve Austin of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and Sgt. Christopher Fumagalli of the Montgomery County Police Department accepted the award, the highest handed out at the 30th annual awards program, on June 12.
On May 7, 2018, shortly before 4 p.m., units from the Montgomery County Police Department and the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office responded to Brown Farm Way in Sunshine for the report of domestic violence and a possible shooting.
A caller told the Emergency Communications Center that he was a contractor working at the house and that a woman who lived nearby ran to the house and said her husband was trying to kill her. She said her husband owned a lot of guns and had military training.
Several minutes later, the same person called the Emergency Communications Center again and said the neighbor’s husband was now inside the house and was armed with an AR rifle and a handgun. The emergency call-taker heard several gunshots in the background. The caller suddenly stopped talking and it became apparent to the call-taker that several people had likely been shot — and possibly killed.
Numerous county police officers and K9 units from the police department and sheriff’s office arrived and set up a perimeter.
Three officers entered the residence, where multiple shooting victims were found. Officers also saw a woman run out of the house where the shooting had occurred. She disappeared from view.
Officers did not know where the shooter was feared that he could be on foot, attempting to shoot other people. Despite not knowing where the shooter was nor the exact location of the woman — later identified as the wife of the shooter — Austin and Fumagalli asked county police Sgt. Sunyoung Kim, a tactical medic, to drive the team towards the area where the woman was last seen running.
The three got into a marked police SUV. Kim drove, Fumagalli was in the front seat with a long gun at the ready, and Austin was in the back cargo area with a handgun at the ready. Kim drove them away from the safety of cover, potentially exposing all three officers to the shooter.
Fumagalli and Austin got out of the SUV with guns drawn, announced their presence and scanned the scene. They found the woman, who was distraught and in shock, and escorted her to the police vehicle
Officers eventually learning that the suspected shooter was inside his residence and had rifles, handguns and possibly explosives. All patrol officers were evacuated from the inner perimeter.
Fumagalli, Austin and their two K9’s remained by the house adjacent to the shooter’s residence, providing information to the command post.
After several hours, officers entered the residence and found the shooting suspect. He was dead.
Fumagalli and Austin received the Citation for Bravery for putting the safety of others before their own.
Other award recipients included:
Officer Brandon Thomas of the Rockville City Police Department received the Citation for Bravery for preventing a suicidal man from jumping off the ledge of a parking garage in a high-rise building.
Lt. Andy Taglienti, Cpl. Normal Paul and Cpl. Eddie Roman of the Rockville City Police Department received the Citation for Bravery for preventing a knife-wielding 74-year-old woman in a nursing home from hurting herself or anyone else.
Cpl. Keith Brooks and Cpl. Anthony Schmidt of the Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation received a Distinguished Service Citation for preventing an inmate in the county Correctional Facility from committing suicide. She had attempted to tie socks around her neck and attach them to an air vent.
Officer Lindsay Fader of the Rockville City Police Department received a Distinguished Service Citation for tracking down a missing suicidal woman who had gone to Great Falls Park and told a friend she had taken an overdose of pain medication.
The Criminal Section of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office — commonly known as the Fugitive Section — received the Distinguished Unit Citation for its diligent and effective work closing 100 percent of the warrants for defendants who failed to comply with the conditions set by the courts or absconded from programs to which they were assigned.
Thomas Good, Chris Hallock and Fatima Resendiz-Zavala of Rockville Volunteer Fire Department received the Meritorious Service Award for logging the most volunteer hours last year. Good logged 2,483 hours, Hallock logged 2,371 hours and Resendiz-Zavala logged 2,052 hours.
Guy Poirier of the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department received the Lifetime Achievement Award for making a substantial commitment to serve the community since joining the department in December 1977. He was a home responder and a live-in at Station 33 on Falls Road for many years, and became a lieutenant in 1982 and a captain in 1983. Poirier was elected as president of the department from 1991 to 1993 and served on the Board of Directors for over 11 years. He oversaw the department’s fundraising efforts that have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars — money used to support the purchase of state-of-the-art equipment — and was appointed to the county’s Fire and Rescue Commission for eight years.
Larry Berger, who has been a volunteer with the Rockville City Police Department since April 2018, assisting with fingerprinting services and other administrative-related tasks, received the Community Service Award.
The Rockville Public Safety Awards were founded as a way to honor the sustained and heroic deeds of members of the Rockville City Police Department, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation and Rockville Volunteer Fire Department. Since its inception, the program also has honored civilians and first responders from other agencies.
The program has always been sponsored by the service organizations in Rockville. This year’s sponsors included Montgomery-Cornerstone Masonic Lodge 195, Rockville Kiwanis Club, Rockville Lions Club, Rockville Rotary Club and Washington Rockville Elks Lodge 15, with support from the City of Rockville and the Rockville Chamber of Commerce.
Corporate sponsors included Choice Hotels, Edward Jones, Home for Heroes, Montgomery College, PEPCO and Westat.
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