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Homestead officer awarded for saving woman's life on bridge

| Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, 11:47 p.m.
Homestead police officer Matt Fusco, standing, center, was honored at the 13th Annual Senator John Heinz Law Enforcement Awards Day luncheon on Friday for his quick actions to stop a woman from jumping off a bridge in March. Surrounding him, clockwise, are former county commissioner and Amen Corner chair Larry Dunn, U.S. Federal Judge Mike Fisher, state Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffrey and Amen Corner president Erik Wagner.
Homestead police officer Matt Fusco, far right, was honored at the Amen Corner 13th Annual Senator John Heinz Law Enforcement Awards Day luncheon on Friday for his quick actions to stop a woman from jumping off a bridge back in March. Homestead Mayor Betty Esper, police Chief Jeff DeSimone and police Sgt. Ron DePellegrin also attended the event.
Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, standing at the lectern, received a special award at the Amen Corner 13th Annual Senator John Heinz Law Enforcement Awards Day luncheon on Friday for work his foundation does to supply police departments with police dogs. In front of Roethlisberger are Swissvale police officer Dave Zacchia and Brando and Baldwin police officer Lou Parrotta and Niko.

A woman was on the Homestead Grays Bridge getting ready to jump. She was over the rail and above the water. Death was a motion away.

Police were trying to get to the woman to prevent her from jumping, but it was a tense situation.

Homestead police officer Matt Fusco was approaching her from outside of her field of vision. Perhaps she sensed his approach because, at the last moment, she turned to look at him, then started to push herself away from the rail.

Fusco grabbed her before she could jump, however, saving her life and putting his own in danger while he was at it.

“I just reacted,” said Fusco, who was among 20 police officers honored on Friday at the Amen Corner 13th Annual Senator John Heinz Law Enforcement Awards Day luncheon at Station Square. Sponsored by Amen Corner, the awards recognize officers for outstanding police work.

Police who saved civilians in perilous situations, disarmed gunmen, came to the aid of fellow officers in distress and made significant narcotics arrests were among those recognized.

Fusco said he didn't time to think about what he was doing on that day back in March when the woman started to leap. He just moved to stop her.

“I don't consider it an heroic feat,” said Fusco, who received a To Protect and Serve award. “Any police officer who was in the same position would do the very same thing.”

Hundreds of police officers, legal professionals and civic leaders attended the luncheon.

Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala told police their hard work is appreciated.

“I want to commend you for your bravery and thank you for your humility,” he said.

Zappala also presented a Crime Doesn't Pay to four detectives who made what the DA said was the “largest drug arrest and largest seizure in the history of Allegheny County” in April.

The recipients — district attorney's detectives Ray Bonacci and Pete Grbach, Swissvale police detective Justin Keenan and McKees Rocks police detective Shaun Eisenach — confiscated 21 kilos of cocaine and about $600,000 in cash as a result of the bust, which occurred after the police followed three alleged dealers from a Monroeville motel to a residence in Penn Hills.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger received a special award for work his foundation does to supply specially trained dogs to partner with police departments. Noting that his foundation has delivered dogs to departments all over the country, Roethlisberger said he has been rewarded by thanks he's received from police officers in cities like Baltimore that are well outside Steeler Nation.

The keynote speaker for the day was Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Seamus McCaffrey. He recalled humorously his days as a beat officer in Philadelphia and spoke seriously on the matter of dealing with veterans who run afoul of the law.

McCaffrey urged officers to find out the military status of suspects they arrest. If arrestees are vets, their cases can be referred to special state courts designed to help veterans get back on the right side of the law.

North Versailles police Chief and Allegheny County second vice president of the Allegheny County Fraternal Order of Police Vincent DiCenzo Jr. was one of many police officers who attended the event.

In previous years, he said, “I've been honored and a presenter. This is always a good event. People don't realize what police officers go through every day.”

Other awards presented and their recipients are:

• Negotiator — North Fayette police Sgt. David Sandora

• Shock and Awe ­— Allegheny County police Lt. Michael O'Keefe and Sewickley police Sgt. David Mazza

• Starsky and Hutch ­— McKees Rocks police officers Ryan Coll and David Finerty

• Above and Beyond — Pittsburgh police officers Christopher Kertis and Charles Thomas

• 911 Quick Response — South Park police officers John Booth and Joseph Leonetti

• In Disregard for Their Own Personal Safety — Ohio Township police officers D. Ryan Ging and S. David Rose

• Courageous Act — Allegheny County Deputy Sheriff Sgt. Kevin Faulds

• Honorable Mention — West View police Sgt. Todd Towne and officer Michael Stern, Pittsburgh police officer Corey Harcha

Eric Slagle is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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