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McKeesport, White Oak officers among honorees

| Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, 1:17 a.m.

A McKeesport and a White Oak police officer were among those honored Friday at the Amen Corner 12th annual John Heinz Law Enforcement Awards Day luncheon at the Sheraton Station Square hotel.

McKeesport officer Steve Kondrosky and White Oak officer Jeff Haynes received the “Courageous Act Award” for apprehending homicide suspect Vondre Griffin, 23, of Braddock, after a fatal shooting in McKeesport.

Griffin allegedly shot Tameko Wall, 37, of McKeesport, on Aug. 5 at approximately 3 a.m. outside Pav's Bar.

WPXI anchor David Johnson presented the award to the officers for identifying and chasing down Griffin after he fled down Fifth Avenue. Griffin is awaiting trial for the homicide.

“These two brave officers displayed incredible heroism,” Johnson said.

McKeesport police Chief Bryan Washowich and White Oak police Chief Joe Hoffman said the departments work well together.

“The collaborative effort and communication between the police departments is important,” Washowich said. “Criminals don't recognize jurisdictional barriers.” He said White Oak and McKeesport police departments are fortunate to have each other for assistance.

“McKeesport and White Oak police departments back each other up every day,” Hoffman said. “There's mutual respect between both police departments.”

The “To Protect and Serve Award” was given to Pittsburgh police officers Matthew Smith and Angie Lane for their efforts to save an 11-year-old boy who allegedly was assaulted by his mother's boyfriend on Feb. 11 in Beltzhoover. While the boy died, the officers' actions allowed him to say good-bye to his family.

Monroeville police detectives James Hredzak and Jonathon Pawlowski received the “Crime Doesn't Pay Award” for their investigation of a large-scale cocaine ring in Monroeville commencing in early 2011. The investigation led to 20 kilograms of cocaine and $440,000 being seized. Four arrests were made.

The “Above and Beyond Award” was presented to New Kensington police officer Anthony Grillo for directly engaging fugitive Charles Post after he fatally shot Lower Burrell police officer Derek Kotecki on Oct. 12, 2011. He pressured Post to surrender until other officers arrived.

Kotecki, 40, formerly of Lower Burrell, was killed when he responded to the Dairy Queen parking lot along Greensburg Road in Lower Burrell to arrest Post, 33, of Lower Burrell. Post fired shots through his SUV as Kotecki approached, fatally wounding the officer on Oct. 12, 2011.

Pittsburgh police officers Lawrence Connolly and Brendan Nee were given the “Starsky and Hutch Award” for saving a man after he jumped from the Birmingham Bridge into the Monongahela River on Aug. 5.

The officers asked a boat operator to use his boat to rescue the man.

The “911 Quick Response Award” recipients are University of Pittsburgh police officers Lt. David Basile, Sgt. Dan Papale, Joshua Acre, Ron Bennett, Guy Johnson, Tom Lasky, Stephen Tomovich, Brian Turac, Brian Veze and Joseph Washinski for their response to the March 8 shootings at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic.

John Shick was killed by police after he fatally shot therapist Michael Schaab, 25, and wounded five people.

Honorable mention awards went to State Police Troopers Thomas Plunkard and Edward Joyner for delivering a baby on Interstate 79 in Franklin Park on March 6.

Allegheny County Sheriff's office Cmdr. Michelle Terry and Lt. Leo O'Neill received an honorable mention award for moving out hundreds of protestors without incident this year at BNY Mellon.

East Washington police officer John David Dryer, county Sheriff's Cmdr. James Ricupero and Kotecki were inducted into the Amen Corner Law Enforcement Hall of Fame.

Dryer, 46, formerly of Claysville, was shot in the line of duty on Dec. 19, 2011, by Eli Franklin Myers III, 58, during a traffic stop on Interstate 70. Meyers was killed by state police hours later at his home during a shootout.

The late Ricupero was honored in the Hall of Fame for his many accomplishments including the 45 years he was employed by the Allegheny County Sheriff's office, starting the State Deputy Sheriff's Association and becoming its president in 1985, being promoted to deputy of the Fugitive Squad from 1997-2005, and being undercover security for U.S. presidents visiting the area.

The civic and social organization Amen Corner began its law enforcement awards in 2001.

“We wanted to make sure police officers get the credit they deserve for keeping Western Pennsylvania safe,” law enforcement awards committee chair Larry Dunn said.

He said the awards demonstrate how the officers protect the public and put their lives at risk.

Stacy Lee is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1970, or slee@tribweb.com.

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