For the 27th consecutive year, the city of Brooklyn Center honored the good deeds and selfless acts of police officers and residents alike at a special commendation ceremony.
The Brooklyn Center Police & Citizens Awards Ceremony, which was held on Tuesday, April 18 in the Brooklyn Center Community Center’s Constitution Hall, recognized numerous public servants and residents for their efforts to maintain the safety and public image of Brooklyn Center during the past year.
“The reason that we’re gathered here today … is to recognize the extraordinary efforts of those first responders and citizens that stepped up to mitigate, safeguard and hold people responsible for their actions,” said Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon. “I hope the takeaway for everybody is that residents of Brooklyn Center are aware that they’re served by a professional, caring and effective police department that’s committed to doing everything they can to keep people safe.”
The first recognitions of the evening were for the Chief’s Unit Certificate of Commendation. Detectives Terry Olson, Brett Vesey, Mona Pearson and Chuck Valleau, Sgt. Pat Toohey, and Officers Keith Carlson, Kim Potter, Kris Stein and Steve Lorentz were honored for their response to a March 2016 shooting outside of a local business, with the investigation leading to the apprehension of two suspects who were later charged with attempted murder, while managing to transport two injured victims to the hospital.
Valleau, Olson and Vesey were then joined by Officers Kate Deering and Brian Burtus to be recognized for their efforts in investigating an April 2016 bank robbery, later identifying a suspect who had committed bank robberies around the metro. The group’s collaboration led to the location and apprehension of the suspect.
Valleau and Olson were once again honored, this time alongside Sgt. Colleen Fricke, for the investigation of a July robbery that led to the eventual arrest of two individuals, one of whom admitted to a series of robberies and crimes in a local neighborhood.
Next, Sgt. Steve Pastor and Officers Brandon Johnson, Mackenzie Smith and Sam Smith II were recognized for their response to a June 2016 911 call from a garbage truck operator who saw a pair of legs sticking out from the truck hopper. The officers immediately crawled into the truck to recover the victim, administering CPR and then transporting the person to a local medical facility. The victim eventually recovered with no long-term complications.
The next round of awards were for the Chief’s Certificate of Commendation, which can be awarded to an officer or a resident for “an act of achievement that is beyond the normal performance required” of that individual. Officer Al Salvosa was awarded for his actions during an April 2016 incident, where he responded to a potential bridge jumper and spent an hour with the person before convincing him to step back from the ledge.
Det. Vesey was honored once more for his response to a January 2017 shooting, where he gathered information via interviews and lead investigations that led to the identification, arrest and charging of a suspect. Vesey’s continued investigation found that a witness assisted in hiding evidence of the aforementioned crime and helped charge them with aiding an offender.
Officer Mackenzie Smith was also recognized for her response to a report of a suicidal teen threatening to jump out of a third-story window, with Smith racing up to the teen’s bedroom and attempting to engage the girl verbally. When that failed, Smith quickly grabbed the teenager and pulled her back into the room. The girl was uninjured and was taken to a local hospital on a health and welfare hold.
A group of officers – Cmdr. Rick Gabler, Sgts. Colleen Fricke and Pat Toohey, Detectives Mona Pearson, Chuck Valleau, Terry Olson and Brett Vesey, Officers Steve Lorentz, Ryan Holgers, Kate Deering and Kim Potter, and Hennepin County Deputy Sean Sweeney – were commended for their response to a July 2016 death, which is currently still under investigation. The group of officers performed lifesaving techniques on a victim while gathering witness testimony, leading to the arrest of a suspect.
Fricke, Toohey, Vesey, Olson, Potter, and Lorentz were joined by Officer Brandon Zabel to be recognized for their response to a September 2016 shooting, where they formed a perimeter, rendering first aid to a victim-turned-suspect and gathering enough data to eventually arrest and charge suspects with felony charges.
Another group of officers – Valleau, Pearson, Holgers, Salvosa, Brandon Johnson, Sgt. Mike Johnson, and officers Jordan Lund, Gregg Nordby, Steve Holt, Angela Benge, Kris Stein, and Josh Wittenburg – were honored for their response to a February homicide, with police surveillance leading to the recovery of firearms, drugs and cash, as well as the arrests of several suspects.
Next, Benge and Officer Jake Wilkins were saluted for responding to two separate incidents involving an individual threatening suicide: one was at a parking ramp in July, and the other on a bridge looking over Highway 100 in October. In both cases, the officers managed to talk down both individuals, who ultimately decided to receive help.
A Chief’s Certificate of Commendation Award was also given to Brooklyn Center Police Department Administrative Assistant Marie Strempke, who was lauded for her management of the department’s social media accounts and providing up-to-date news and information to the public at large.
Another Chief’s Certificate of Commendation Award was presented to the family of resident Jonathan Fajardo, who was unable to attend the event. Fajardo was honored for performing CPR on a woman suffering a cardiac arrest while he was on duty as a security guard. An EMS student, Fajardo told officers that he had never performed CPR before. The woman’s life was saved due to Fajardo’s actions.
Two Brooklyn Center residents were awarded the Citizen Service Medal, described as being given to a resident who “intelligently distinguishes himself/herself by the performance of an act of gallantry and valor.” Residents Kenneth Koenigsfeld and Dennis Hanson were honored for their actions in assisting a woman at a restaurant who was being accosted by a male patron, who was trying to steal her purse. Koenigsfeld and Hanson managed to help the woman get her purse away from the assailant, who fled the scene. The two men then provided information to police on the suspect, who was eventually arrested and charged with aggravated robbery.
Four Brooklyn Center elementary school students were honored with the annual Dennis Winfield Leadership Award, so named after a Brooklyn Center man who was shot to death in 2004 after attempting to thwart the harassment of a woman and a developmentally disabled man from another customer at the gas station where Winfield worked.
The honorees were Garden City Elementary fifth-grader Melika Skaeho, who was nominated by her teachers for her assistance and kindness towards other students; Evergreen Park World Cultures Community School fifth-grader Jayla Castillo, nominated for implementing a “suggestion box” in her classroom to allow other students to share their thoughts in a safe fashion; Northport Elementary fifth-grader Rashawn Young, cited for his positive attitude and efforts to help other students at school; and Earle Brown Elementary fifth-grader Olivia Sackor, nominated for monitoring activities with first- and second-graders during recess, as well as joining her family outside of school to help the people of Haiti.
A special Merit of Achievement Award was bestowed upon retiring Brooklyn Center Police Sgt. Pat Toohey, who was recognized for his “consistently outstanding performance, dedication, and strong work ethic.”
The final citizen award given out was the Norm Arneson Neighborhood Watch Award, which has been given out since 2010 to residents who have committed to maintaining the safety of their respective neighborhoods. The award is named after the late Norm Arneson, a former neighborhood watch captain who was beaten in a 2009 home invasion, and continued to serve as a role model in watch efforts until his November 2010 death.
The 2017 award was given to resident Daryl Graves, who called police last May about his elderly neighbor who had not picked up her mail in several days. After Daryl’s call, police arrived at the woman’s home, where she was found deceased. Graves was honored for his concern of his fellow community member’s welfare.
The final award was the newly minted Phil Cohen Community Engagement Award, named after the former mayor of Brooklyn Center from 1966-1977. Officer Kate Deering was honored for her history of community outreach, including her efforts to volunteer serving lunches to students, engaging with the Access Outreach and Coordination Advisory Committee, the Cornerstone Holiday Shop, the Brooklyn Center High School Paint with a Cop event and coordinating Special Olympics events in the area such as the Polar Bear Plunge and the Special Olympics 5K.
Contact Christiaan Tarbox at [email protected]