TROOPER OF THE YEAR - PAST WINNERS

Past Winners

2011: Sergeant Adam R. Kosheba, Pennsylvania State Police
June 29, 2011: As part of a task force organized to locate and apprehend an individual wanted on a number of serious charges by the Pennsylvania State Police, Sergeant Adam Kosheba was working alongside other state police troopers, deputy U.S. marshals, and the local sheriff’s office in Berks County. After having discharged a firearm during a dispute with family members, the suspect reportedly fled to a family cabin in a rural area. The task force eventually cornered the suspect, who, after refusing to surrender, opened fire on officers. Several rounds struck and downed Deputy Sheriff Kyle Pagerly, and, as exposed officers were coming to his aid, Sergeant Kosheba fired and fatally wounded the suspect before he was able to get off any additional rounds. Sergeant Kosheba and another deputy immediately began to render medical aid to Deputy Pagerly, a task which proved to be very difficult because of a protective K-9 defending his handler. The two were repeatedly bitten by the dog, but with the assistance of other officers were eventually able to get the wounded deputy to a patrol vehicle. Because of the remote location and the difficult terrain, EMS personnel could not be quickly brought on scene. Sergeant Kosheba, a former paramedic, provided aid in the rear of the vehicle before reaching a medical helicopter. Tragically, Deputy Pagerly went into cardiac arrest while being airlifted and was later pronounced dead at the hospital. Sergeant Adam Kosheba displayed unparalleled bravery and commitment during this incident. His selfless and courageous actions undoubtedly saved the lives of other task force members who were ambushed by a dangerous and armed fugitive. In addition, his tireless and heroic efforts to save the life of Deputy Pagerly were beyond reproach and demonstrated his dedication and commitment.

2010: Constable D. W. (Dell) Mercey, Ontario Provincial Police
On March 8, 2010, Provincial Constable Dell Mercey and his partner Provincial Constable Vu Pham were dispatched to a residence in Sundridge, Ontario following a report of a domestic dispute. Finding the property empty, the two left in opposite directions in their respective vehicles searching for the suspect and vehicle in question. Constable Pham soon located, followed, and ultimately stopped the vehicle, with Mercey arriving to provide backup. Upon being pulled over, the suspect emerged from the vehicle with a Browning .270 caliber rifle and immediately pursued Pham who was forced to take cover behind his cruiser. The two exchanged rounds which resulted in Pham being struck in the head. Constable Mercey, after radioing “officer down,” took cover behind his police Tahoe and continued to engage the advancing suspect. The two exchanged fire, and despite the suspect being struck a number of times, he continued to advance on Mercey’s position of cover, eventually forcing him to cross the road and find new cover. The exchange continued until the suspect sustained more shots from Mercey and went down. The subject was struck a total of six times; Constable Mercey sustained no injuries. Unfortunately, despite the remarkable efforts of Constable Mercey, responding officers, civilian communications members, and EMS personnel, Constable Pham had been mortally wounded. Yet ultimately they never gave up hope and performed their respective duties with perfection under the most trying of circumstances.

2009: Trooper Robert Lombardo, Pennsylvania State Police
Trooper Robert Lombardo of the Pennsylvania State Police was named Trooper of the Year for his heroic actions in response to a suspect, who had threatened his wife with a handgun as well as abducted their nine-year-old son. Trooper Lombardo and Trooper Joshua Miller pursued the abductor for approximately 40 miles and brought the vehicle a sudden stop. As the two troopers approached the disabled vehicle and began to shatter the driver’s side window, the suspect opened fire, striking Trooper Lombardo in the left shoulder and Trooper Miller in his neck and right thigh. To secure the safety of the child, Trooper Lombardo—despite knowing that Trooper Miller was wounded and that his own arm was paralyzed from the force of the impact—did not seek cover but instead apprehended the suspect with only one arm. Trooper Lombardo received medical attention for his wounds and Trooper Miller was flown to a local hospital where he was subsequently pronounced dead. Trooper Lombardo is dedicated to the service at Pennsylvania State Police and remains hopeful that he will return to the active duty.

2008: Trooper Justin Mahalik, Virginia State Police
Little did he know that on April 30, 2008, at 12:45 am, Trooper Justin T. Mahalik would escape a fiery crash—despite the fact that half of his vehicle’s rear was obliterated—and become an everyday hero in his community by saving someone else’s life. During the course of a simple traffic stop for a window tint violation on a pickup truck on the shoulder lane of the eastbound I-66 and Route 50 in northern Virginia, Trooper Mahalik’s police car was violently launched into the pickup truck when a 2006 Saab ran off the interstate and rear ended the police vehicle. Trooper Mahalik’s vehicle instantaneously burst into flames from the back which spread to the bottom of the car. Despite receiving multiple spinal fractures and burns to his legs, Trooper Mahalik pulled himself and the unconscious passenger from the burning police vehicle. Had there been further delay, the flames would have reached the ammunition stored inside of the police vehicle and caused it to explode. The driver of the Saab was charged with a DUI. Trooper Mahalik returned to active duty three months after the accident which required numerous hours of therapy and recovery. Trooper Mahalik and Virginia State Police vigorously promote “Slow Down/Move Over—It’s the Law” campaign, which urges motorists to use caution by reducing speed and moving a lane over when emergency vehicles are alongside the road.

2007: Trooper Amanda S. Reif, New York State Police
On June 18, 2007, Trooper Reif was at Canton-Potsdam Hospital investigating a complaint involving a canine when the radio-dispatcher reported a domestic incident close by. Upon contacting the 911 dispatcher for more information, she learned the case possibly involved a gun and the dispute was between a male and female. Arriving first at the scene, Trooper Reif boldly approached the house. What she did not know was that 45-year-old Steven W. McUmber, a convicted rapist with a significant criminal record, resided inside. After announcing herself at the door and determining that McUmber was hostile and would not easily exit, she began to move away from the door when a shot form a .50 caliber black powder rifle was immediately fired, hitting her on the left chest/shoulder area. She positioned herself against the house for safety as other patrol officers arrived. When McUmber refused to surrender and charged the officers from a prone position, Trooper Reif in a shooting position fired a single round, killing her assailant. Trooper Reif placed her own life in danger in order to assist the female victim and prevented further hostile acts from the assailant against the responding officers while sustaining an injury.

2006: Trooper Kelly A. Kalmbach, Washington State Patrol
On the evening of June 28, 2006, Trooper Kalmbach made a traffic stop on a possible impaired driving suspect. After administering the Standardized Field Sobriety tests, Trooper Kalmbach determined that the suspect was, in fact, impaired and attempted to place him under arrest. As she attempted to take the suspect into custody, a struggle ensued, and the suspect broke free and ran back to his vehicle. There he retrieved a pistol and began firing at Trooper Kalmbach, striking her a total of five times. Trooper Kalmbach returned fire, wounding the suspect. The suspect returned to his vehicle and fled the scene. The suspect was later stopped by local officers, and was mortally wounded when he produced a weapon.

2005: Sergeant Kirk Van Orsdel, California Highway Patrol
On the morning of July 21, 2005, Sergeant Kirk Van Orsdel was on patrol on I-10 in Riverside County, East of Los Angeles, when he received a report of a gray Lincoln sedan pursuing a black Toyota and shots being fired. Shortly thereafter, Van Orsdel saw the two vehicles exiting the freeway at his location. In the following minutes, Van Orsdel engaged the suspect, Gustavo Sanchez, in three pursuits and four separate exchanges of gunfire. In addition, the suspect, armed with a fully automatic AK-47 assault rifle, also tried to execute his female victim, who was able to escape into a convenience store to avoid certain death. Finally, while suffering wounds from bullets fired into his vehicle and broken glass, Van Orsdel was able to wound the suspect and take him into custody. Sergeant Van Orsdel’s actions resulted in the saving of one life and possibly many others, as well as taking a wanted felon off the streets.

2004: Trooper First Class Darren G. Wilson, South Carolina Highway Patrol
On December 27, 2003, TFC Wilson was on patrol in rural South Carolina. At approximately 8:50 pm, he received a radio broadcast from his supervisor, Sgt. James Sinkler, urgently requesting assistance. TFC Wilson immediately responded. On arriving, he observed a suspect with a handgun standing next to the sergeant’s vehicle. Sgt. Sinkler, who had received gunshot wounds to the chest and left hand, had taken a defensive position several yards away. Wilson drew his service weapon, and ordered the subject to drop his gun. The subject pointed his weapon at TFC Wilson, at which time Wilson fired several times, striking the subject in the upper body. Wilson then rendered aid to Sgt. Sinkler and the suspect until additional officers and EMS personnel arrived.

2003: Investigator Alan Eberle, Nebraska State Patrol
On February 24, 2003, Nebraska State Patrol officers in Omaha arrested two suspects transporting five kilos of cocaine to Saginaw, MI. The next day, Investigator Eberle flew to Saginaw to execute a controlled delivery of the cocaine, in cooperation with Michigan State Police and federal agents, resulting in a third arrest. Following the arrest, Investigator Eberle and two agents from the DEA and the Michigan drug task force performed a search of the suspect's home. Upon entering the house, 3 suspects ambushed the officers, severely wounding the DEA and Michigan officers. Investigator Eberle returned fire, fatally wounding two of the suspects, while dragging the wounded officers to safety. Both officers survived their wounds. Investigator Eberle's quick thinking and calm actions under fire not only stopped three dangerous felons, but likely saved the lives of two fellow officers.

2002: Lieutenant Carl M. Harrison, Jr., Pennsylvania State Police
On October 24, 2001, Lt. Harrison was traveling on Interstate 81 when he came upon the scene of a traffic crash that had just occurred. On his arrival, a minivan was on fire and resting atop a barrier wall. Lt. Harrison ran to the van and gained access by climbing on top of the barrier wall and breaking a rear window. Lt. Harrison fought flames and smoke to locate and free three women and three children from the burning van. Lt. Harrison then learned that there was one person still inside the van. He again entered the van and located the unconscious woman, who was pinned behind the driver's seat. Lt. Harrison worked by feel in the thick smoke to free the seventh victim and carry her to safety. Within seconds after freeing the woman, the van exploded in flames. Lt. Harrison's actions, at great risk to himself, saved seven lives.

2001: Trooper Larry Erickson, Alaska Department of Public Safety
On the night of July 6, 2001, Trooper Erickson was on his way home after his shift, when he was advised that a car had been driven into a local river. Trooper Erickson was the first officer to arrive at the scene, where a vehicle driven by a woman, with a small child as a passenger, was partially submerged in the muddy, fast moving water. Erickson entered the near-freezing water and fought the current to enter the submerged vehicle. Working by touch, Erickson found a small child, still strapped in her child seat. Because he could not unfasten the seat, Trooper Erickson had to return to the surface where he obtained a knife from a second trooper. Returning to the vehicle, Erickson was able to free the child, and bring her to the surface. Upon reaching the shore, Erickson realized the child was not breathing. He immediately began administering CPR to the lifeless child. Within minutes, the child revived and began breathing on her own. After treatment at a local hospital, the child was released with a prognosis of full recovery. Trooper Erickson’s decisive actions and disregard for his personal safety are responsible for the saving of a life.

2000: Trooper Dean A. Kerklo, Pennsylvania State Police
On September 30, 1999, Trooper Kerklo was called to a residence on a report that a woman’s estranged husband had broken into their home and was going to kill her. On arrival of the officers, the husband locked himself and his wife in a bathroom. Trooper Kerklo forced his way into the bathroom, and was faced with and armed suspect. In attempting to disarm the suspect and free his hostage, Trooper Kerklo was shot in the face. Though seriously wounded, Kerklo managed to free the hostage, but before she could reach safety, the suspect shot and wounded her. The suspect then turned his weapon on himself, committing suicide. Trooper Kerklo’s actions undoubtedly saved the life of the hostage.

1999: Trooper Neil P. Moore, Florida Highway Patrol
On October 21, 1998, Trooper Moore came upon the scene of a traffic crash, which had resulted in a vehicle coming to rest fully submerged in a canal, with the driver still inside. Trooper Moore dove into the water, and after several attempts, was able to break a window and pull the unconscious driver to the surface. After reaching shore with the driver, Moore realized the driver was not breathing and had no pulse. After initiating CPR, the driver’s pulse and breathing were restored. If not for the efforts of Trooper Moore, the driver would surely have lost his life.

1998: Trooper Rocky Northcutt, Oklahoma Highway Patrol
On January 20, 1998, Trooper Northcutt was assisting a fellow trooper with a traffic stop, when a passenger in the vehicle drew a weapon. As Trooper Northcutt tried to assist his fellow trooper struggling with the passenger, the driver of the vehicle drew a weapon and pointed it at Trooper Northcutt. Trooper Northcutt drew his weapon and fired at the driver, wounding him. The driver returned fire, seriously wounding Trooper Northcutt. Although wounded and lying on the ground, Trooper Northcutt saw that the passenger and the other trooper were still struggling for control of the passenger’s weapon. Trooper Northcutt fired one time, striking and killing the passenger, and saving the life of the other trooper.

1997: Trooper Ted Grigson, Arkansas State Police
When Trooper Grigson’s neighbor was injured in an accident on his farm, Trooper Grigson and his family took it upon themselves to care for their neighbor and his farm during his recovery. Trooper Grigson, in addition to his duties as a trooper, and his responsibilities on his own farm, maintained his neighbors farm for several months, until his neighbor had recovered.

1995: Tpr. Carlos Velasquez, Florida Highway Patrol
Trooper Velasquez was directing traffic at a traffic accident when a vehicle conataining a family became stuck straddling an adjacent railroad track. With a train rapidly approaching, the family members panicked and were unable to exit their vehicle. Trooper Velasquez rushed to the door of the vehicle and managed to unlock and open it. Trooper Velasquez helped the family members from the vehicle and got them to safety an instant before the train struck the vehicle, destroying it.

Contact:

For more information, contact Michael Wagers.

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