When people see fires, they usually don’t think of the New York Police Department. Yet, it was the bravery and courageous efforts during an early-morning inferno that netted five members Police Officer of the Year honors during the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce’s annual festivities Thursday at LiGreci’s Staaten.
Sgt. Hassan Darwiche and Police Officers Anthony Ruggiero, Michael Murante, Bryan Pizzimenti, and Joseph Wall from the 122nd Precinct were named Police Officers of the Month for May 2017. However, the quintet’s actions saving numerous people from a dangerous blaze on May 21 was so heroic it received top honors in the ceremony that was attended by over 300 people, including New York City Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill.
“The biggest priority was to preserve life. Blatantly putting it, just getting the people out of there any way we could in a safe manner,” said Darwiche about the rescue.
After receiving reports around 4 a.m. of a fire in an apartment building on Mill Road in New Dorp, the five officers entered the building and quickly assisted three elderly individuals via the fire escape. They proceeded to the fourth floor from the fire escape and aided an elderly couple through their smoke-filled apartment and down the inner stairwell.
Lastly, the officers helped a female occupant and her disabled mother stranded in their fourth-floor apartment.
“The hardest part was the lady that was immobile so we had to carry that wheelchair down four flights of stairs,” said Darwiche. “It’s easy to be honest now, but it was scary. I don’t know how some of the firefighters do it all the time, but it was scary for us. I’m glad all my guys were OK and I’m glad everyone came out OK.”
“It was just a crazy scene. People were running around so we had to make sure we did our duty and rescue all the people we could,” said Murante.
The luncheon, which was co-sponsored by Gerald Amerosi Sr. (Gerald Peters Inc.) and Salvatore Sottile (Sottile Security International), honored 28 members of the NYPD selected as Police Officers of the Month for 2017. After receiving those awards, the prestigious Police Officer of the Year winners were announced.
“It felt great. It was a shock. I wasn’t expecting it. It just shows all the hard work we do,” said Wall.
“It was very surprising. We all had no idea,” said Ruggiero. “It feels great. We work really well as a team. It felt good for everyone to be together.”
During his keynote speech, Commissioner O’Neill discussed how all the honorees exemplify the NYPD’s devotion to safety.
“The main reason why we’re here this (afternoon) is to celebrate the great work that gets done each and every day by the people who truly, truly every day make the city safe. And that’s the police officers, sergeants, lieutenants, and people in the precincts,” he said.
“They do it because they want to do it. They want to make a difference. They want to do good. They want to keep their neighbors safe,” added O’Neill.
Staten Island District Attorney Michael E. McMahon recalled how a recent incident at the Staten Island Courthouse displayed when there’s trouble, most people think about getting out to safety. Meanwhile, members of the NYPD are heading into that danger.
“That’s what police officers do every day. At a moment’s notice, they can be called into harm’s way. They have to risk their lives to protect us,” he said.
Several other speakers took the time to show gratitude to the assembled officers and their families.
“For those being honored today, we offer our thanks and our gratitude for a debt we could never repay,” said Sottile.
“As community-oriented people in this room, we really thank you for all the work that you do. A lot of times you’re not told that, but here on Staten Island, we really do appreciate you keeping us safe,” added Amerosi.
“On a personal note, I would like to thank all the men and women of the New York Police Department for taking care of our families, our friends, our community, and our city,” said Staten Island Chamber of Commerce Chairman of the Board Glen V. Cutrona, AIA.
Attending the annual affair included Assemblyman Matthew Titone, Assemblyman Ronald Castorina Jr., and Deputy Borough President Ed Burke.
In addition to the May winners, also honored during the event as Police Officers of the Month were:
- Jan. 2017, Police Officers Christopher Brook and Asmir Dragovic, 120th Precinct.
- Feb. 2017, Police Officers Stephen D’Amico and George Aguilar, 122nd Precinct.
- March 2017, Police Officers Craig Spataro and Robert Martino, 120th Precinct.
- April 2017, Police Officers Christopher Tulloch and Anthony Robles, 122nd Precinct.
- June 2017, Police Officers Maureen Borg and Nicholas Rutigliano, 121st Precinct.
- July 2017, Sgt. James Hansen and Police Officers Vincent Giuliano, Adam McNab, Ronald Capursi, 120th Precinct, and Sgt. Michael Callahan, Midtown South.
- August 2017, Police Officer Nikolas Quintero, 120th Precinct.
- September 2017, Sgt. Robert Turbiak and Police Officer Robert Martino, 120th Precinct.
- October 2017, Police Officers Yevgeniy Belov and Angelica Ring, 120th Precinct.
- November 2017, Police Officers Patrick Lenza and Luke Feliciano, 121st Precinct.
- December 2017, Police Officer Vincent Casaletto, 123rd Precinct.