Charles County Sheriff's Office Honors Retirees, Awards Recipients at Banquet

LA PLATA, Md. (Oct. 21, 2008)—The Charles County Sheriff’s Office honored 6 retirees and 39 award recipients at a banquet held Oct. 17 at the Waldorf Jaycees Community Center.

Retired Capt. William Saunders served as master of ceremonies. Pat Collins, a reporter for News4 in Washington, D.C., was the guest speaker. Officer Jonathan Maynard of the La Plata Police Department performed the National Anthem and the Charles County Detention Center’s Honor Guard presented the colors. Sheriff Rex Coffey, Commissioners Edith Patterson, Reuben Collins and Sam Graves, Delegate Murray Levy and Charles County State’s Attorney Len Collins also shared remarks with the award recipients, retirees and guests. John Lewis, the chaplain for the Detention Center, delivered the invocation and benediction. The Jaycees provided both the venue and the meal.

The following retirees were honored for their years of service:

-- Cpl. Jeffrey Merchant, who served from June 28, 1999 to Nov. 30, 2007. Cpl. Merchant was injured in an on-duty motor-vehicle crash and retired on disability. He immediately returned to the Detention Center — and remains there — as a civilian employee.

-- V. Lee Gardiner, a civilian in the Corrections Division who served from March 16, 1987 to Jan. 18, 2008

-- Inge Kovacs, a station clerk who served from May 22, 1989 to July 16, 2008

-- Cornelious Johnson, a civilian in the Corrections Division who served from Sept. 25, 1995 to July 31, 2008

-- Sgt. Joseph “Mel” Harmon, a police officer who served from Feb. 18, 1988 to Sept. 16, 2008

-- Janice Rathell, a police communications officer who served from July 1, 1983 to Sept. 30, 2008

Police and correctional officer retirees received a bronze statue and civilian retirees received a framed certificate and Sheriff’s Office patch.

In addition to recognizing retirees, medals of valor, meritorious awards, Sheriff’s awards and certificates of commendation and appreciation were presented at the banquet.

Officer John Riffle received a silver medal of valor for his heroic response to a house fire. Facing intense smoke, Officer Riffle belly-crawled through the home and led a woman trapped inside to safety. When he learned the woman’s son was also in the home, Officer Riffle made several attempts to re-enter the house but because of worsening smoke he was unsuccessful. Despite his best efforts, the woman’s son perished in the fire but the officer’s heroic and unhesitating actions saved the woman’s life.

Sgt. Jason Stoddard received a bronze medal of valor for his response to a call involving shots fired at other police officers. Sgt. Stoddard observed the suspect vehicle, notified other officers and followed it into a nearby neighborhood. Once the vehicle stopped, Sgt. Stoddard — still the lone officer on the scene — held five armed suspects inside the car and waited for his backup to arrive. Cpl. David Willis and Officers Reginald Forbes and David Foster, who received certificates of commendation, responded to assist Sgt. Stoddard. They immediately organized, searched the area and recovered the weapon used in the shooting.

Officers Roger Kimble, Rochell Williams and Joseph Hudson and three citizens, Joannie Farrin, John Bilinski and Douglas Wynkoop received bronze medals of valor for their response to a crash scene involving a vehicle that was submerged upside down in four feet of water, trapping its occupants. When the officers arrived, the citizens had already stopped and were attempting to free the victims. The officers immediately entered the water and they and the citizens managed to life the truck onto its side and break a window to free the occupants. One of the four victims died but the lives of the three others were saved because of the quick and brave actions of the officers and citizens.

Officers David Benthin and John Riffle received meritorious service awards and Charles County resident and registered nurse Agnes Towne received a Sheriff’s Award for their actions involving an elderly woman who had lost consciousness and stopped breathing in her home. Towne, who was summoned by neighbors, performed one-person CPR until officers arrived to help. Because of their efforts, the woman’s life was saved.

Sgt. Scott Grove, Corporals Daniel Bell and Mark Davidson and Officers Brock Virts, John Long and Stephen Miller received meritorious service awards for their response to a hit-and-run crash in Welcome. They soon discovered a man had been robbed and the suspects had engaged in a mobile gun battle, attempting to shoot the victim before their vehicle crashed and was disabled. The suspects fled on foot but the officers quickly found them hiding in a remote area near a barn. The officers apprehended the suspects and, during a search of the area, found a loaded handgun and large quantities of marijuana and crack cocaine. Because of their efforts, the suspects were apprehended and charged with several felonies including attempted murder.

Lieutenant Robert Studds and Jennifer Rawlings received meritorious service awards for performing CPR and ultimately saving the life of an inmate who had stopped breathing and had no pulse.

Detectives John Robert Elliott and Harry Ivers and Criminal Drug Analyst Barry Fink received Sheriff’s Awards for their efforts in a complex, three-year-long drug investigation. They gathered evidence, analyzed phone call records, obtained search warrants and seized crack cocaine, $17,000 in cash, 10 vehicles, three handguns, a rifle, nine shotguns, documents, photographs, digital scales, packaging materials and cell phones. Seven people were arrested on state and federal charges as a result of the thousands of hours of work in the investigation.

Sgt. Jason Stoddard and Cpl. David Willis received Sheriff’s awards for researching and planning a more effective method of patrolling their district.

PFC Charles Gass received a certificate of commendation for his role in apprehending four suspects who had fired shots in the parking lot of a Waldorf restaurant. Officer Gass had recently gone off-duty when he heard the call being dispatched. He strategically positioned his unmarked cruiser and when he saw the suspect vehicle, he followed it to an area in Largo where a felony traffic stop was coordinated. Two loaded handguns and other evidence linking the suspects to the shooting was recovered.

Officer Brock Virts received a certificate of commendation for his role in apprehending two suspects in the burglary of a business that had experienced other recent burglary attempts. He arrested one of the suspects at the scene and provided information that allowed other officers to recover the suspects’ vehicle. Officer Virts continued his investigation, which included obtaining search warrants, and ultimately identified the other suspect. His efforts resulted in two arrests and sufficient evidence to provide for a formidable prosecution.

Cpl. William Jackson received a certificate of commendation for his role in the arrest of a teenager for a series of arsons in Waldorf. Cpl. Jackson had arrested two suspects in a theft when, after recalling the arson investigation, he developed information about the fires and provided it to the Fire Marshal’s Office, who arrested the suspect and recovered evidence. The officer’s knowledge of crime trends in his beat and his ability to develop a rapport with his community helped solve more than 40 arsons.

Sgt. Jason Stoddard, Corporals David Willis, Michael Clark and Jason Hopkins and Officers Darryl Almassy, Calvin Roberts, Melanie Tyner and Reginald Forbes received certificates of commendation for their response to a burglary involving stolen ATVs. Together, they apprehended the suspects and recovered thousands of dollars worth of stolen property.

Correctional Officers William Poole and Tracy Wright received certificates of commendation for their role in preventing a juvenile from hanging himself at Court Holding.

Sgt. Scott Grove, Cpl. Timothy Huntt, Officer William Dennin and Maryland State Police Trooper Joseph Wilson received certificates of commendation for their role in the apprehension of a bank robber. The man had robbed the bank at gunpoint and fled. Officers found his vehicle and stopped it. They arrested the man and recovered a handgun, disguise and money from the bank. They prevented the man from escaping to his home, which was only 50 feet from the bank.

Regan Henehan and Carol Davis received certificates of appreciation for providing invaluable administrative assistance during an assessment of the Agency by the Commission on the Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA). Their efforts helped ensure the Agency maintained its accreditation.

Source: Charles County Sheriff's Office

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