Meet the 2023 IACP/AXON Police Officer of the Year Finalists

Meet the 2023 IACP/AXON Police Officer of the Year Finalists

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The IACP/Axon Police Officer of the Year Award is awarded for exceptional achievement. Every day, police officers perform selfless acts in their commitment to public service and community safety. Acknowledging these acts formally provides the opportunity to showcase exceptional work by the profession and provides the ability to emulate these everyday achievements. The IACP/Axon Police Officer of the Year Award elevates the recognition of these acts to the global stage, thereby impacting the profession as a whole by highlighting those who exemplify selflessness, empathy, and strength of character. The lACP/Axon Police Officer of the Year Award represents the best of the police profession.

Fabian Arreola

POLICE OFFICER OF THE YEAR FINALIST 
Officer Fabian Arreola 
Chicago Police Department, Illinois 

On June 5, 2022, Officers Erik Moreno and Fabian Arreola were assigned proactive patrol efforts within a known troubled 7th District violence zone. The officers observed a vehicle in opposing traffic traveling at high speed and being driven erratically. When the officers attempted to conduct a traffic stop, the driver tried to evade the officers and abruptly stopped in a dead-end alley.  

The officers exited their vehicle to make contact. Officer Arreola approached the passenger side, observing only the driver. The officers verbally ordered the suspect to lower the windows of the vehicle as Officer Moreno directed the suspect to stay inside of the car as he approached, converging on the driver’s side. Without warning, the suspect suddenly opened the driver’s door, pointed a pistol toward Officer Moreno, and fired multiple shots. The officers responded by firing toward the suspect and preventing him from harming them further. Officer Moreno noticed he was struck by the suspect’s gunfire, wounding his left arm, and took cover behind a squad car with Officer Arreola. Officer Arreola radioed Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communications to report the incident and called for medical and police assistance. Officer Arreola successfully applied a tourniquet to Officer Moreno’s arm, stopping blood loss while awaiting medical assistance. Once backup arrived, Officer Moreno was successfully taken to the University of Chicago Hospital, where he was immediately treated and stabilized. The offender was subsequently charged with multiple felonies, including two counts of attempted murder of a police officer.  

Nicholas Marks

POLICE OFFICER OF THE YEAR FINALIST 
Deputy First Class Nicholas Marks 
Harford County Sheriff’s Office, Maryland 

On February 16, 2022, Deputy First Class Nicholas Marks observed a vehicle crash in which two of the three vehicles had been involved in a head-on collision and both vehicles were on fire. DFC Marks approached the vehicles to rescue the occupants. After giving directions to those who could self-rescue, he continued his approach and observed both vehicles’ engine bays fully engulfed in flames. Without any regard for his own safety and without the necessary safety equipment, DFC Marks still approached the remaining vehicle to rescue the occupants. 

Upon contact, DFC Marks observed that the driver was disoriented, injured, and unable to self-rescue. DFC Marks was able to safely rescue the driver. As other deputies arrived on scene, it was discovered that there was a child still in the vehicle from which DFC Marks had just rescued the driver. DFC Marks returned to the burning vehicle, located the child, and moved the child to a safe location. Had it not been for the courageous actions of DFC Marks, there would have been a great risk of casualties. 

Nathan Gadson

POLICE OFFICER OF THE YEAR FINALIST 
Officer Nathan Gadson 
Houston Police Department, Texas

On January 27, 2022, Officers Nathan Gadson, Daniel Hayden, and Anthony Alvarez responded to a residence for a domestic threat-to-life call. When the officers arrived, they received the suspect’s name and a description of the vehicle he was driving. The officers spotted the vehicle and attempted to conduct a felony traffic stop. The suspect crashed into a parking lot gate and without warning, using a homemade automatic firearm, suddenly opened fire on the officers, striking Officer Gadson in the heel as he exited his vehicle, Officer Hayden in the right forearm, and Officer Alvarez in the inner thigh, breaking his femur. Officer Gadson immediately engaged the suspect, returned fire and wounded the suspect. The suspect then carjacked another civilian at gunpoint and drove off, still firing at the officers. Officer Gadson immediately rendered medical aid to his fellow officers, applying a tourniquet to Officer Alvarez, all while providing updates to dispatch. 

After a standoff with SWAT officers at the suspect’s home that lasted several hours, the suspect exited the home with his hands raised. The suspect was transported to the hospital where he was treated for his injury. He was charged with three counts of attempted capital murder and two felony charges for possession of a machine gun and being a felon in possession of a firearm. All officers involved were transported to the hospital and successfully treated. Officer Gadson displayed exemplary bravery and valor during this life-threatening incident, rendering aid to his fellow officers, despite being wounded. 

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POLICE OFFICER OF THE YEAR FINALISTS 
Sergeant Joseph Cavestany 
Sergeant Robert Sherock 
Officer Christopher Aboyte 
Officer Damien Castro 
Los Angeles Police Department, California 

On January 9, 2022, a single engine Cessna was taking off from Whiteman Airport when the pilot conducted a forced landing. Sergeant Cavestany broadcasted that a small plane landed on the railroad tracks with one passenger inside and the plane was leaking fuel. Sergeant Sherock and Patrol Officers Christopher Aboyte and Damien Castro arrived at the location, monitored the pilot’s condition, and decided to leave him in place due to visible injuries to his head and face. As the officers awaited the arrival of the Los Angeles Fire Department, the railroad crossing warning lights and bells were activated. Moments later the railroad crossing arms lowered, and a train horn was heard in the distance. Sergeant Cavestany and the three officers realized a Metrolink train was approaching at a high rate of speed and on a direct collision course with the downed Cessna. 

Knowing the life-threatening situation the pilot faced, the officers stayed in the path of the oncoming train while they pulled the pilot from the wreckage. The pilot was extracted seconds before the train collided with the downed plane. If it were not for the heroic actions of Sergeants Cavestany and Sherock and Officers Aboyte and Castro, January 9th could have ended tragically. 

The IACP and AXON look forward to honoring the finalists at the IACP 2023 Annual Conference and Exposition. To learn more about the IACP 2023, visit the conference website

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