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Public safety officers honored for service in 31st annual awards –

by Judith Hruz


They saved lives, guided women caught in a human-trafficking ring to get help, protected a student who was scheduled to testify in court, and provided countless other duties.

They are the men and women of the Rockville City Police, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Rockville Volunteer Fire Department and Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation who received the 2020 Rockville Public Safety Awards, presented in early September.

The 31st annual awards event would have been held in June with hundreds of guests in attendance, but was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic in favor of a modest presentation in the courtyard between Montgomery County Circuit Courthouse and the Executive Office Building. It was taped for a virtual viewing.

“Everything that we do each and every day and the foundation of everything that we do is to protect our community and communicate effectively with them as we protect our community and as we serve our community,” said Rockville City Police Chief Victor Brito.

The event is presented by the Kiwanis Club of Rockville and the Rotary Club of Rockville, in cooperation with the City of Rockville and the Rockville Chamber of Commerce. It is sponsored by Westat, Marstudio, Pepco and ComForCare.

Sheriff Darren Popken thanked the event sponsors for moving forward with the award presentation so that the public safety organizations could thank their members for their hard work and valor.

Award recipients include:


Distinguished Service Citation


Rockville Volunteer Fire Department – Unit Citation — Lt. Alex Cederbaum, Master Firefighter Bryan Rojtas of Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, Master Firefighter Jesse Kelleher of Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, EMSP2 Johnny Hsiung (PM), EMSP2 Eric Damtoft, EMSP2 Alex Jin and Firefighter II Christopher Price of Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service — On Aug. 22, 2019, while returning to Station 3, the crew of RS703 came across a Metro Transit Police officer attempting to detain a person in the middle of Hungerford Drive. The crew saw that the person was on top of the officer, had been able to remove the officer’s Taser and was attempting to stun the officer while punching the officer in the head. The crew from RS703 stopped their unit to block traffic and — at great risk to themselves — removed the man from the officer without anyone being stunned by the weapon and without further injury to the officer. The crew then assisted the Metro Transit Police officer, whose backup had still not arrived, to detain and handcuff the man. The officer sustained several cuts and a contusion above the left eye. The crew of RS703 immediately treated not only the officer’s injuries, but also the then-detained man’s injury, who had also sustained injuries.

    Rockville City Police Officer Ronnie CroweOn Jan. 15, Officer Ronnie Crowe arrested a person on open warrants and transported him to the Central Processing Unit (CPU) at the Montgomery County Detention Center. While there, Crowe saw the subject in the holding cell lying on his side with his head resting on the bench. He banged on the cell and yelled to get his attention, but saw the subject was not breathing. Finding no pulse, the officer began CPR and called for assistance. The subject finally regained a pulse and began breathing. Fire and Rescue transported the subject to the hospital, where he recovered.

    Rockville City Police Officer Jeremy Ziegler On May 8, 2019, Officer Jeremy Ziegler answered a call at a Rockville home and saw the caller beginning to perform CPR. Ziegler took over and the person regained consciousness, but still had a weak pulse. Ziegler learned that the subject was a heroin user and he quickly administered a dose of Narcan, which took effect and the subject became fully conscious.

    Rockville City Police Officer Brandon Thomas — On Dec. 12, 2019, Officer Brandon Thomas responded for a person not breathing at a fast-food restaurant. Upon arrival, Thomas determined that the patient had no pulse. He began performing CPR and continued CPR for approximately seven minutes until Fire and Rescue arrived and took over.

Rockville Volunteer Fire Department – Unit Citation — Lt. Robert Cousins, EMSP2 Alison Griner, P/M Intern Razan Humeida (WVRS), Master Firefighter Lukas Bastien, EMSP2 Alexander Markenson, MA2 Dylan Leonard, Master Firefighter Christopher Hallock. Firefighter III Alain Pankopf, Firefighter III Mark Livingstone and Firefighter II/Paramedic Joshua Cook of the Montgomery County Fire & Rescue — On April 1, units from Rockville Volunteer Fire Department Station 3 in downtown Rockville were dispatched on a call for a person having difficulty breathing. The 21-year-old man, who was suffering from kidney failure, was struggling to breathe and subsequently went into cardiac arrest. The Station 3 crews, both volunteer and career personnel, resuscitated the patient on the scene and transported him to the hospital for further treatment. Approximately three weeks later, he was discharged from the hospital and returned home. He has fully recovered.


     Meritorious Service Citation


    Rockville City Police Cpl. Jon Lee — On July 24, 2019, Cpl. Jon Lee assisted with serving a search warrant in reference to a human trafficking investigation. Lee is a patrol officer, but he was requested for the assignment because of his Chinese-language translation abilities, and without hesitation he agreed to assist. In many of such cases, human trafficking victims are in fear and do not trust authority or the services the government. It is rare that victims agree to use services. Lee provided translation while interviewing six victims. Two of them chose to get help as a direct result of Lee building a rapport with them and helping them understand that police were there to help them.

    Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff II Karen PerezIn September 2019, Deputy Sheriff II Karen Perez was temporarily assigned from the Court and Transportation Section to assist the Sheriff’s Office School Resource Officer (SRO) at a Montgomery County high school. The assignment was based on information provided to the Sheriff’s Office regarding a threat on a female student. The student had alleged that she had been assaulted by several members of a gang and was scheduled to testify in court. In response to the threat, Montgomery County Police mobilized several units, including the Gang Unit and Repeat Offenders Unit.

The primary SRO, Deputy Jason Cupeta, was tasked with working with those units and implementing a plan to keep the victim safe while she attended school. The Sheriff’s Office temporarily assigned Perez to assist. Perez, who speaks Spanish, was responsible for direct communication with the victim’s mother and worked with the victim to ensure her safety over the course of several weeks. In addition, she mediated several conflicts in the school, ranging from social media posts to bullying incidents in which the victims spoke only Spanish.

    Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff III Christopher Kendall — On the evening of June 23, 2019, Deputy Sheriff III Christopher Kendall received a voicemail on his personal phone while on his way to his scheduled shift in the Domestic Violence Section. The message was from a family friend who told him “there were a number of men wearing camouflage clothing” in his backyard. Kendall contacted the friend, who reiterated that there were men in his backyard clad in camouflage clothing, in addition to making rambling statements. Kendall urged the friend to contact on-duty law enforcement if he was concerned for his safety; however, the friend continued to state that he had notified the police about his concerns and was worried he would be taken away.

Another person got on the phone and said there was another neighbor in an adjacent property who was picking up yard debris. The subject’s daughter stated her father’s mental health had significantly deteriorated over the last couple weeks and he was experiencing delusions. Kendall explained the process to file an emergency evaluation petition if she felt that he was suffering from a mental illness and was a danger to himself or others.

After arriving for his shift at the Sheriff’s Office, Kendall was informed that the daughter and her husband had gone to check on her father and that he was armed with a pistol. The deputy immediately notified the Emergency Communication Center (ECC) and directed the daughter and her husband to leave the house and wait for police units. Kendall and other deputies quickly responded to the man’s residence. where he met with Montgomery County Police Department officers and gave them background information. Kendall made contact with his friend in crisis via telephone and convinced him to leave all firearms inside and leave the residence, which he did without incident. He then convinced his friend to turn over his firearms, which included three handguns, one .22-caliber rifle and one pellet rifle. The man was transported to the hospital for an emergency evaluation petition.

    Montgomery County Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Cpl. Norman Pyles

Cpl. Keikeia Frazier, Cpl. Jesse Rouzee, Cpl. Alexander Baker and Pvt. 1st Class Jonathan Portocarrerro — Since 2012, the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation has been providing officers and equipment to the City of Rockville in a program that diverts individuals from incarceration and uses the labor to reinvest into the community through service projects. The officers have taken on the responsibility, in addition to their roles as correctional officers, to supervise work crews of up to 15 people each. The work crews have removed trash, maintained the cleanliness of bus stops and removed significant amounts of graffiti. The crews have also been responsible for landscaping chores, such as brush removal and lawn mowing. The crews were responsible for collecting 6,148 bags of trash and provided 7,751 man hours of labor, all while diverting 968 offenders from incarceration.

    Rockville Volunteer Fire Department firefighter Arash Kamali, Christopher Hallock and Lukas Bastien — The life of a volunteer at the Rockville Volunteer Fire Department is both rewarding and demanding. All riding volunteers have a minimum standby or on-duty requirement of 600 hours per year in addition to extensive training. In 2019, RVFD volunteers provided area residents with over 111,000 hours of staffing. It is not unusual for some volunteers to go beyond the minimum and give over 1,000 hours per year. Firefighter-Rescuer II Arash Kamali had 3,207.5 hours in 2019; Master Firefighter Christopher Hallock had 3,364.1 hours, and Master Firefighter Lukas Bastien had 3,8993.

    Jason Ng, Police Information Technology — Jason Ng handles all of the IT support for the Rockville City Police Department. He is directly involved in managing the body camera system, police computers and every aspect of information technology support. He makes himself available day and night, and always resolves issues quickly.


    The taped presentation is or will be available on the websites of the City of Rockville, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Rockville Volunteer Fire Department, Montgomery County Department of Correction and Rehabilitation and the Rockville Chamber of Commerce.

    Some of the men and women of the public safety agencies live in the greater Olney community.

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