Director of Public Information
New York State Police Acting Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen commended and recognized 20 individuals and one Division unit for bravery, investigative persistence, police education, traffic safety, community service and overall exceptional contributions at the New York State Police Awards Day Ceremony.
The 45th year for the awards, held at the New York State Police Academy in Albany, again paid tribute to the courage and perseverance of employees and sworn members of the agency.
Today’s awards ceremony immediately followed the State Police’s Annual Memorial Day Service to honor the memory and service of deceased members of the State Police.
This year, the State Police will recognize four members: Sergeant/Station Commander Jeffrey M. Cicora, Investigator Ryan Fortini, Trooper Jennifer M. Czarnecki and Trooper Joseph J. Gallagher.
On August 10, 2019, Sergeant Cicora passed away from an illness stemming from his assignment at the World Trade Center site following the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001.
Investigator Ryan Fortini died from cancer stemming from his 9/11 assignment on January 1, 2020.
Trooper Czarnecki died on December 5, 2020, from an illness stemming from her assignment to the World Trade Center site following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.
Trooper Joseph J. Gallagher, 38, died on March 26, 2021, three years after being struck by a distracted driver.
Acting Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen said, “Every day, the men and women of the State Police perform selfless acts of courage, heroism and bravery. Our troopers are committed to ensuring the safety and security of all New Yorkers. At the same time, the civilian employees of the State Police are dedicated and committed to public service, demonstrating outstanding qualities daily. Today we recognize those troopers and employees who have shown an extraordinary commitment to the people of the State of New York. It is because of their work that the New York State Police is among the most well-respected law enforcement agencies in the world.”
The following awards were presented:
Brummer Award – Highest Award for Heroism
The Brummer Award, established in 1968 by Wall Street financier and philanthropist Bertram F. Brummer, represents valor, heroism, and outstanding performance of duty by members of the New York State Police. Inclusive of this year, the Brummer Award has been presented 106 times, including 14 times posthumously.
Investigator Michael C. Grogan – Troop NYC
Investigator Brandon M. Levanduski- Troop NYC
On December 4, 2020, the U.S. Marshals New York/New Jersey Regional Fugitive Task Force was attempting to locate a suspect wanted for the attempted murder of a Massachusetts State Trooper two weeks prior. Task force members developed a lead that the wanted subject may be inside a Bronx apartment. Investigators Michael Grogan and Brandon Levanduski, members of the Violent Felony Warrant Squad, were outside the apartment door when task force members were let into the home by a resident. As task force members entered, the wanted subject emerged from a back bedroom and began firing at them with a handgun, shooting two Deputy U.S. Marshals. Without hesitation, Investigator Grogan engaged the subject by returning gunfire while Investigator Levanduski removed an injured Deputy U.S. Marshal, who had been shot in the leg and was unable to move. Both investigators courageously entered a deadly scene and took action, ultimately saving the lives of their law enforcement partners.
Superintendent’s Commendation Awards
The recipients of the Superintendent’s Commendation Awards were selected from the many members who have received Letters of Commendation from the Superintendent during the past year. The awards presented today recognize the recipients’ outstanding performance of duty and exceptional contribution to the New York State Police.
Trooper Adam P. Duquette – Troop B
Trooper Christopher L. Markwica – Troop B
On May 9, 2020, Troopers Adam Duquette and Christopher Markwica responded to a home in the town of Moriah where a victim had received threats from a suspect believed to be on the way to the residence. After Trooper Duquette interviewed the victim, he observed the subject approaching in a vehicle. In a matter of seconds, the vehicle accelerated and came directly toward the troopers. The suspect attempted to run over both troopers several times, hitting both patrol cars and driving through the front yard of the victim. The suspect continued despite Troopers’ verbal commands to stop the vehicle, and the members fired at the car. Both troopers started treating the now wounded suspect, directing responding patrols, and calling for EMS. The actions of Trooper Duquette and Markwica no doubt saved the victim from harm and protected anyone else that may have crossed the path of the suspect.
Zone Sergeant Jason A. Cawley – Troop C
On December 17, 2020, Zone Sergeant Jason Cawley was on-duty during a massive snowstorm that dumped almost 45 inches of snow in Tioga County within a short period of time. At the start of his shift, Zone Sergeant Cawley contacted the 911 Center for any pending emergency calls. Zone Sergant Cowley was told there were numerous 911 calls from a subject who had run off the road, his car was disabled and he needed assistance. Zone Sergeant Cawley responded to the area and checked the seven-foot-high snowbanks every 30 to 40 yards eventually locating a larger snowbank he believed might be covering some mailboxes. He reached into the snowbank, hoping to find a numbered mailbox, and hit the windshield of the car, occupied by the stranded motorist. The victim’s car was buried in over four feet of snow and had no heat due to a mechanical failure. The operator was suffering from hypothermia and frostbite with a body temperature of less than 92 degrees. He was transported to the hospital, received medical attention and survived. Zone Sergeant Cawley’s commitment to his mission, perseverance, and public service put him in position to save this man’s life.
Investigator Justin H. Wilt – Troop C
On Friday July 24, 2020, Investigator Justin Wilt was on his way home from the Troop C VGNET office when he heard a 911 call for a domestic dispute with shots fired in the town of Newark Valley. Investigator Wilt and patrols from multiple agencies responded to the scene, where a male subject under the influence of narcotics fired multiple rounds at his mother. Investigator Wilt arrived and tried to talk with the suspect while he was holding a long gun, threatening himself and other responders. Just as it appeared the negotiations were effective, the subject suddenly got up, approached the perimeter, and pointed the weapon at Investigator Wilt. Investigator Wilt fired one shot from his patrol rifle, striking the subject, then immediately secured him and began lifesaving efforts. Investigator Wilt made every effort to resolve this situation without force and took immediate and decisive action necessary to save others from harm.
Trooper Gary M. Novotny – Troop D
On May 26, 2020, Trooper Gary Novotny and other law enforcement responded to a domestic disturbance in the town of Manlius. At the scene, every effort was made to try to negotiate with the subject, who was armed with a long gun, threatening law enforcement, and acting erratically. After several hours of negotiations, the suspect approached law enforcement while threatening with the weapon. Trooper Novotny fired, striking the subject with one round, immediately disarming him, and then assisted with lifesaving efforts. Trooper Novotny’s quick thinking and action likely saved lives at the scene.
Trooper Matthew J. McKinney – Troop E
On December 23, 2020, Trooper Matthew McKinney responded to a report of a man who had fallen through the ice on Loon Lake in Cohocton while ice fishing. Troopers Rocky Cerretto, Jason Allison, and Investigator Jeremy Hagadone arrived to assist. On the shore, other members fastened a rope to Trooper McKinney to prevent him from falling through the ice. Trooper McKinney eventually ran out of rope but continued another 100 to 150 feet further to reach the man and pull him from the water and onto a ladder. Fire department personnel arrived and Trooper McKinney, along with the other members, were able to get the subject safely to land. Trooper McKinney put his life at risk that day, but his brave actions ultimately saved a life.
Trooper Nicole C. Claus – Troop G
On August 30, 2020, the Montgomery County 911 center received a call reporting a structure fire with entrapment at a six-unit apartment building in the village of Fultonville. Thirteen occupants were reported to be inside the building when first responders arrived. Trooper Claus, along with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and the Burtonsville Fire Department Chief, arrived saw fire coming from the back of the building. They entered and discovered three children were trapped in a first-floor apartment. Their rescue efforts were made difficult by a locked, metal framed, commercial door. Through the thickening smoke, they could see the children inside. Trooper Claus and the other responders began kicking the door. Once breached, there was enough space for the three small children, their father, and family dog to escape. The remaining residents were saved by fire department personnel from a porch roof. Tragically, two people were killed.
Trooper Robert R. Turnbull – Troop T
Trooper Erik Lippassaar – Troop T
On March 25, 2020, Trooper Robert Turnbull was assigned to a work zone detail on I-90 when he heard a report of a subject aiming a shotgun with a laser pointer at other vehicles. Trooper Turnbull located and stopped the subject in the work zone and attempted to place the subject under arrest. The subject was violently resisting as Trooper Erik Lippassaar arrived to assist. Both members were injured, but, with the help of three construction workers, were able to subdue the suspect. The subject was armed with two knives, a loaded shotgun, a rifle, a pipe bomb and two ballistic vests. A search warrant was executed at the suspect’s home in Niagara Falls where numerous explosives were located.
Trooper Michael S. Crosier – Troop E
On June 19, 2020, Trooper Michael Crosier responded to a domestic disturbance involving an armed suspect with an extensive mental health history in the town of Sodus. The victim in the dispute was able to safely escape, and the subject remained inside as Trooper Crosier attempted to communicate with him from the outside. The subject appeared in a window two times, firing a shotgun at Trooper Crosier and other members of law enforcement. Trooper Crosier returned fire, and the subject went further into the residence. The suspect appeared in the window a third time, Trooper Crosier told him again to drop his weapon, but the subject fired again at law enforcement. Trooper Crosier again returned fire, striking the suspect. Trooper Crosier’s attempts to reach a peaceful solution throughout the incident, and his bravery in the face of immediate danger are commendable.
Trooper Brian J. Brass – Special Operations Response Team-West
Trooper Shaun P. Fallon - Special Operations Response Team-West
Trooper Joshua A. Jones - Special Operations Response Team-West
On June 1, 2020, the Special Operations Response Team - West was deployed with the Mobile Field Unit to the city of Buffalo to protect citizens and property from protests that had become violent. Tensions near the Buffalo Police Department E District Headquarters were very high, when a vehicle drove through the police line, striking and seriously injuring a State Trooper and Buffalo Police Officer. Trooper Brass, along with Trooper Jones, responded to the deadly vehicular assault preventing the escape of the assailant and vehicle. Trooper Brass, along with Trooper Fallon, then turned to their training as Emergency Medical Technicians and rendered medical aid to the injured Trooper and Police Officer to stabilize them for transport to the hospital.
Trooper Kevin P. Dobson Traffic Safety Award
The Traffic Safety Award recognizes a member’s commitment to saving lives and reducing accidents through public education and enforcement. This award is made possible with the help of the New York State Trooper Foundation. The award is named in honor of the late Trooper Kevin P. Dobson who was killed on March 26, 2011 on Interstate 290 in the Town of Tonawanda, Erie County. While outside his patrol vehicle conducting a vehicle and traffic stop, Trooper Dobson was struck and killed by a passing motorist.
Trooper Christopher J. Esposito – Troop G
Trooper Esposito is assigned to the SP Wilton Interstate Highway Patrol. While Trooper Esposito led SP Wilton in vehicle and traffic law enforcement, he also contributes greatly to the safety of the roadways in the area he patrols through education. As a radar and lidar instructor, he also conducted certified lidar training for several members of SP Wilton in 2020. Arming other members with this tool better enables the team to handle the volume of traffic they encounter on the interstate, while promoting safety. As an interstate highway patrol member, he represents one of the positions of highest visibility for Division members. His work ethic can, and should, instill confidence in the public traveling through the SP Wilton patrol area.
George M. Searle Memorial Award
The George M. Searle Memorial Award, established to honor the late Deputy Superintendent George M. Searle, is presented to individuals who have distinguished themselves in training and education.
Technical Sergeant Ronald S. Cardis Jr. – Academy
In 2020, Sergeant Ronald Cardis continued to fully dedicate himself to the New York State Police training mission, while being tasked with additional responsibilities and duties. During 2020, he oversaw the Academy’s breath test program, radar, and emergency vehicle operator training. Sergeant Cardis played a key role in preparing for new instrumentation training for the Division, including body worn cameras. In addition, Sergeant Cardis organized and ran several ATV, UTV, and snowmobile training courses throughout the state. Sergeant Cardis helps illustrate the tremendous dedication of the Academy training staff in a challenging year; but also assisted with the agency’s mission to assist at COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites, airport security and during civil unrest throughout the state.
Trooper William V. McDonagh Award
This award was established in honor of the late Trooper William McDonagh, who was killed in the line of duty on December 14, 1975. Trooper McDonagh actively participated in community events and this award recognizes State Police members for their exceptional community service efforts.
Trooper Ryan F. Holohan – Troop G
For the past seven years, Trooper Ryan Holohan has helped organize a holiday fundraiser to benefit both staff and sick or injured children at the Albany Medical Center’s Pediatric Care Unit. Trooper Holohan works hard each year to solicit donations, which are then used to buy gifts for children and support the unit and its staff, demonstrating appreciation for the care and attention these children receive. Prior to 2020, the fundraising culminated in an event for the children, attended by Division members. During the height of the pandemic in 2020, Trooper Holohan was fearful the event would not take place, at a time when the children may have needed more attention due to the inability of families to visit and be together. Trooper Holohan developed a plan that allowed the event to continue, while maintaining compliance with the necessary pandemic guidelines.
Superintendent’s Unit Citation Award
This award was established to recognize the outstanding efforts made by members of a particular unit or detail.
Mobile Field Unit (MFU)
In May 2020, the in-custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis initiated protests in every major city in the country. In many cases, individuals and groups capitalized on these events as opportunities to engage in violent and destructive criminal activity. Virtually all cities in New York State were the site of civil disturbances and riots, and uniform and BCI personnel of the Mobile Field Unit (MFU), supported heavily by the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) and members of the Bomb Disposal Unit (BDU), were deployed. In many cases, protests that began peacefully devolved into civil disturbances, where members were subjected to violence and assault. MFU members endured attacks with rocks and bottles, fireworks, and even random gunfire. One of the worst of these incidents occurred in the city of Buffalo, where a driver drove into police and seriously injured a trooper and Buffalo police officer. At each event, MFU members were heavily engaged, and without exception, acted professionally to protect life and property in what were amongst the most challenging deployments the unit has ever faced.
Supervisor Recognition Award
This award recognizes the outstanding work ethic demonstrated by both sworn and non-sworn supervisors who coordinate and oversee various units within the State Police.
Senior Investigator Stephen M. Hikade – Troop F Major Crimes
During 2020, Senior Investigator Stephen Hikade personally earned five Troop Commander Letters of Commendation for outstanding performance of duty. Senior Investigator Hikade was responsible for the investigation of ten homicide investigations during the year, many conducted under hostile conditions due to social unrest. During his tenure as Senior Investigator, the Major Crimes Unit has investigated 78 homicides and a multitude of high-profile cases including public corruption, official misconduct, and a correctional facility escape. Senior Investigator Hikade’s skill and ability as a criminal investigator, combined with his sound leadership and determination, have resulted in numerous commendations and recognition from the State Police and many outside law enforcement agencies. Senior Investigator Hikade has shown a distinct ability to make those around him better. With his approachability and communication style, young investigators are quick to learn and made to feel “like part of the team”, while seasoned investigators have shown a renewed vigor and motivation after working a significant case under his guidance.
Tracy L. Beckett - Project Manager III
During 2020, Ms. Tracy Beckett was responsible for the supervision of the implementation of the Division’s Body Worn Camera Program. As a result of legislation signed by Governor Cuomo in June 2020, the Division was required to have body worn cameras deployed by March 31, 2021. Ms. Beckett organized and prioritized the project to get the program up and running, including selecting a vendor, estimating costs of the program, organizing policy meetings, gathering input, and managing implementation of the program which went operational on March 29, 2021. Also in 2020, Ms. Beckett and her staff of four project managers were responsible for implementing the Discovery program, the ongoing Record Management System buildout, the Windows 10 rollout, the new in-car tablet program, and the new intoxilyzer program for Division.
Civilian Employee Recognition Award
The Civilian Employee Recognition Award is presented to civilian employees who have made significant contributions to the Division of State Police.
Marco A. Alvarado- Aircraft Mechanic
Mr. Marco Alvarado was hired as an Aircraft Mechanic in June 2018. Mr. Alvarado’s work history was limited to fixed wing aircraft, but he has proven himself to be a valuable member of the Aviation team in all areas. Mr. Alvorado identifies problems, is able to fix them, and shares his technical knowledge with everyone. He came to the Aviation Unit with significant avionics experience. This experience, combined with his work ethic and personable demeanor, have proven to be a winning combination. His ability and willingness to share his avionics knowledge with others has improved the ability of the maintenance section of the Aviation Unit to accomplish their mission. Mr. Alvarado has demonstrated his abilities and willingness to share help make everyone around him more efficient and the entire unit more effective.
For further details regarding any of the incidents depicted in the narratives above, please contact the respective Troop Headquarters and Troop PIO.