Police awards recognize bravery by officers in Allegheny County

| Friday, Oct. 25, 2013, 10:19 p.m.

Thinking about his family and colleagues gave Pittsburgh police Officer Christopher Kertis the adrenaline he needed when a gunman fired bullets into his legs.

Disabled by two broken wrists, Kertis knew he had reasons “to get back up and keep fighting,” he said on Friday on receiving an award for heroism stemming from the March 17 arrest of Dante Bonner.

“There's a lot of stuff in life that makes you do unbelievable things,” said Kertis, who fired back at Bonner, as did his partner, Officer Charles Thomas.

Kertis and Thomas received the “Above and Beyond” award at the 13th annual Amen Corner Senator John Heinz Law Enforcement Award ceremony at the Sheraton Station Square. The event honors Western Pennsylvania officers with awards carrying names such as the “Starsky and Hutch” and “Crime Doesn't Pay.”

Bonner, 19, is awaiting trial on charges of attempted homicide, assault of a law enforcement officer and other crimes.

Kertis spent two months recovering but said he will return to the Zone 5 station in Highland Park. Six officers from that zone have been shot since April 2009.

Kertis said almost all officers on his shift beat the ambulance to the shooting scene that day, even though the ambulance was only three blocks away.

“The way the guys are at Zone 5 makes you depend on them and count on them,” Kertis said. “I trust my life with those guys.”

The “911 Quick Response” award went to South Park police Officers Jon Booth and Joe Leonetti. They rescued a woman from her car on July 10, when Piney Fork Road flooded.

“We got her to put the window down, and we got her out through the window and walked her to dry land,” Leonetti said. “We did what we had to do to make sure she was all right.”

South Park police Chief Dennis McDonough said watching them wade into waist-deep water made him nervous.

“It wasn't on the top of my list of things I wanted them to do,” McDonough said. “But time was of the essence, and I'm extremely proud of them.”

Margaret Harding is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach her at 412-380-8519 or mharding@tribweb.com.

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