Acting New York State Police Superintendent Steven A. Nigrelli commended and recognized 30 individuals and one Division unit for bravery, investigative persistence, police education, traffic safety, community service, and overall exceptional contributions in this year’s New York State Police Annual Awards Ceremony.
This is the 47th year for the awards which pay tribute to the courage and perseverance of non-sworn employees and sworn members of the agency.
Acting New York State Police Superintendent Steven A. Nigrelli said, “Today, we recognize State Police employees, both sworn and non-sworn, who have demonstrated extraordinary commitment to this agency and the people of New York. Our honorees have shown tremendous bravery, dedication, and leadership in all facets of our organization across the state. Every day our employees continue the fine tradition of the State Police, and work to keep New Yorkers safe.”
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 104 times, including 14 times posthumously.
Trooper Francis W. Rush IV – Troop K
On August 17, 2022, Trooper Francis W. Rush, SP Mohegan Lake was dispatched to the town of Fishkill, Dutchess County, for a report of a vehicle submerged in a large pond. He quickly responded to the location and observed a sedan about 40 feet from the shore that was sinking in water estimated to be 15 feet deep. A passerby had already entered the water and advised Trooper Rush there was a person trapped inside. While still wearing his Division-issued body armor and boots, Trooper Rush quickly entered the water and started swimming to the submerged vehicle. Shortly afterward, he was joined by a New York State Fire Protection Specialist assigned to the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. While underwater, Trooper Rush removed the semi-conscious driver through the vehicle’s sunroof and swam back to the shoreline with the driver in tow. Trooper Rush then provided first aid to the 22-year-old male driver. The driver was transported by ambulance for additional medical attention. Trooper Rush helped save the life of the young man who would have otherwise suffered serious, permanent injury or died by drowning. He did so at substantial risk to his personal safety. It is because of his heroic actions on that day that we honor Trooper Francis W. Rush IV with The Brummer Award.
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 Nicholas A. Augliano – Troop B
Trooper Justin M. Seymour – Troop B
On July 16, 2022, Troopers Augliano and Seymour, both of SP Gouverneur (Troop B) responded to the scene of a single-vehicle rollover collision, where the vehicle came to rest on its roof in waist-deep water, trapping five passengers. Both Troopers immediately entered the water to attempt rescue. The first two passengers they retrieved from the car were unresponsive and were administered CPR when they reached land. Once EMTs arrived and could continue life-saving measures, both Troopers returned to the water, and located another victim who was pinned in the vehicle, but alert. The Troopers calmed that individual and stabilized the vehicle until additional rescue teams arrived that could extricate the remaining passengers. Tragically, three passengers died from their injuries. While attending to and consoling the victims’ family members in this very stressful situation, the Troopers still began the difficult work of gathering information for the accident investigation, showing exemplary professionalism, technical proficiency, and compassion in a very trying circumstance.
Senior Investigator Jennifer A. Hahl – Troop C
Senior Investigator Steven G. Hahl – Troop C
Senior Investigators Jennifer Hahl and Steven Hahl, both of Troop C, saved a disoriented elderly man from certain death due to exposure. After completing their respective shifts, they were on their way home when they observed something unusual – a pair of discarded boots alongside a rural roadway. Sensing something was amiss, their keen observation prompted them to exit their vehicle and enter a densely wooded area to investigate. Deep in the woods they discovered an elderly male lying on the ground in a densely wooded area, soaking wet and hypothermic. Had they not observed the boots on the side of the road and taken the additional action to enter the woods to determine if anybody was in distress, this vulnerable adult certainly would’ve perished in the woods that day.
Trooper Timothy W. Murray – Troop C
Trooper James C. Wamsley Jr. – Troop C
On August 1, 2022, Trooper Murray was working out of SP Margaretville clearing from another service call when he observed a garbage truck off the road’s shoulder, partially stuck in a drainage ditch, facing in the wrong direction. As he approached the truck to investigate, he heard somebody crying out for help, and located an adult male pinned under the garbage truck’s rear wheels. After radioing for EMT and fire assistance, he summoned the assistance of a nearby highway department crew working with a road grader. They transported the grader and a heavy chain to the scene, where both were used to stabilize the truck. Trooper Wamsley then arrived on scene, and together, without regard for their own safety, both Troopers began using shovels and their bare hands to free the trapped victim. The victim was immediately transported to the hospital with trauma to his lower extremities and other serious injuries. While the victim sustained serious traumatic injuries, he most likely would have perished had it not been for the quick thinking and tireless efforts of these two Troopers.
Trooper Andrew J. Gorinshek – Troop D
On July 22, 2022, Trooper Gorinshek of SP Herkimer was dispatched to a campsite in the town of Newport, Herkimer County, for a report of an adult female and a three-year old child clinging to a rock in the middle of a swift-water creek. The pair had been tubing on the creek when they lost their tube and could not make it back to shore. Upon arrival, Trooper Gorinshek and another Trooper observed that the victims had been in the water for an extended period of time and undertook immediate rescue efforts. Each Trooper retrieved rescue ropes from their patrol cars, with Trooper Gorinshek acquiring a life vest and an additional tube from bystanders. Assisted by two Troopers and several bystanders controlling the rope tether they’d constructed, Trooper Gorinshek entered the water upstream and positioned himself on the tube, navigating his way to the victims. He secured the victims in the tube so they could be pulled safely to shore, ending the frightening ordeal.
Trooper Christopher J. Hardy – Troop D
In May 2022, Trooper Hardy of SP North Syracuse responded to the call of a vehicle partially submerged in a town of LeRay, Jefferson County, retaining pond. Working with the Assistant Fire Chief already on scene, Trooper Hardy swam to the vehicle, which had started sinking further, trapping the driver underwater. Recognizing the increased urgency, Trooper Hardy broke out the vehicle’s sunroof, enabling him and the Assistant Fire Chief to extricate the female driver, and bring her to shore where they rendered first aid. After being treated and released from the hospital, the driver was charged with Driving While Intoxicated.
Trooper Eric M. Hudson – Troop D
Trooper Dominic H. Williams – Troop D
In early 2022, Troopers Hudson and Williams of SP North Syracuse responded to a call in the town of Salina, Onondaga County, regarding an unconscious person observed in a vehicle on I-81. Upon arrival, they removed the unresponsive female from the car, administered CPR, applied the Automated External Defibrillator, and continued with chest compressions until EMTs arrived. The victim regained a pulse, began breathing, and was transported to the hospital, where she learned she had suffered a “widow maker” heart attack, which only has about a one percent survival rate. Troopers Hudson and Williams’ quick action to resuscitate the driver undoubtedly saved the woman’s life.
Senior Investigator Karl D. Stonebarger – Troop D
Early in March 2022, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement – Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI) arrested an individual on child pornography charges. ICE-HSI requested investigative assistance from Senior Investigator Stonebarger of the Troop D Computer Crimes Unit to review and analyze evidence from their case, which consisted of the analysis of literally thousands of images and videos containing child pornography. Focusing in on several photos and videos that caught his attention, Senior Investigator Stonebarger identified a child victim not previously known in any law enforcement database. Participating during the interview of the arrested individual, further leads were developed to identify the child victim, and it was revealed the child was in imminent danger. Senior Investigator Stonebarger worked tirelessly to chase down every investigative lead. This led to the identification of a potential suspect residing in Virginia and revealed that the victim strongly resembled the Virginia suspect’s own daughter. Senior Investigator Stonebarger accompanied federal investigators to execute the search warrant in Virginia, where the suspect was located, and admitted to abusing the child, and producing and distributing child pornography. As a direct result of Senior Investigator Stonebarger’s determination and persistence, a child victim was identified and rescued, and a dangerous predator was arrested.
Trooper Benjamin J. Strickland – Troop F
On August 18, 2022, Trooper Strickland of SP Kingston responded to a 911 call at Williams Lake in the town of Rosendale, Ulster County. An elderly female swimmer had submerged in the water and did not resurface. Upon Trooper Strickland’s arrival, he quickly gathered information about where the victim was last observed in the water, to narrow down her possible location.
Despite the depth and poor visibility in the water at that location, Trooper Strickland utilized his Underwater Recovery Team experience and entered the water. After several attempts, he located the victim in about 15 feet of water, 30 feet from shore. He brought her to shore and administered life-saving measures, which were continued by EMTs. After a significant time, the victim regained a pulse and was transported to the hospital. Despite these heroic measures, the victim, unfortunately, succumbed to her injuries 12 hours later. Trooper Strickland’s immediate and decisive action upon arrival at the scene and never give up attitude gave the victim her best chance of survival.
Trooper Joseph A. Edinger – Troop K
In December 2022, Trooper Edinger of SP Kinderhook, along with his assigned Recruit Trooper, responded to a Village of Valatie, Columbia County, structure fire where occupants were trapped inside. Arriving on the scene within two minutes of receiving the call, the Troopers accessed the front upstairs apartment where they observed smoke. There, they located a resident who positioned herself near a window but was unable to escape the smoke-filled room. Trooper Edinger exited the structure, gained access to that same window from the outside, and guided the resident through the window to safety. Trooper Edinger then ascertained from the woman that there were other residents still inside and obtained details about the layout of the building. Looking out for the safety of his Recruit, Trooper Edinger directed the Recruit not to make further entry. Trooper Edinger then proceeded to the back of the property where he devised an escape for two trapped residents through a second-floor window, hoisting them onto his shoulders as he stood on a plastic table he deployed as a makeshift ladder. Running back to the front of the building, he learned there was a seven-member family still inside their first-floor apartment. Entering the structure one more time, Trooper Edinger reached the family, which included several small children, and calmly instructed them to exit quickly. He then worked with the Recruit Trooper and other first responders on the scene to clear the building, even rescuing a family cat hiding in the laundry room. It should be noted that these actions transpired in less than eight minutes. The quick, decisive actions and bravery demonstrated by Trooper Edinger undoubtedly prevented a catastrophic loss of life.
Trooper James P. Flynn-Kocourek – Troop K
Trooper Michael J. Winkelman – Troop K
In September 2022, Troopers Flynn-Kocourek and Winkelman were at the SP Wappinger barracks when they heard what sounded like a vehicle crash on a nearby roadway. They immediately patrolled to the location and discovered a minivan had struck a utility pole and barn, and that there were live utility wires strewn across the roadway. Both the vehicle and barn were on fire. The teenage driver was unconscious. The Troopers’ efforts to awaken the driver and extinguish the fire were unsuccessful, forcing them to quickly extricate the driver through the front passenger window before the vehicle became fully engulfed. Investigation revealed the driver had been intoxicated when he drove off the roadway. The Troopers’ keen observation from within their barracks, immediate response to the scene and actions to extricate the driver saved this young man’s life.
Sergeant/ Station Commander Donald L. Kinne (Ret.) – Special Operations Response Team
Technical Sergeant Sean P. Kelly – Special Operations Response Team
Technical Sergeant Thomas M. O’Connor – Special Operations Response Team
Trooper Eric J. Abruzese – Special Operations Response Team
Trooper Brian E. Lekhmus – Special Operations Response Team
Trooper Christopher B. Sierra – Special Operations Response Team
On March 4, 2022, the Special Operations Response Team (SORT) was requested by Troop F to respond to a motel room in the town of Ulster, Ulster County, where an adult male, who indicated he was armed, was threatening to drown three small children. When crisis negotiators on the scene lost telephonic contact with the suspect, coupled with the male subject having barricaded himself in the motel room bathroom with the children, the SORT Members acted without hesitation to rescue the hostages. Despite the risk to their own safety, the SORT Members breached the bathroom door, and found the suspect using the children, all under the age of four, as human shields. They quickly apprehended the suspect, and evacuated the children to safety, successfully ending the standoff without any injury to the children, the suspect, or any responding officer.
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, Troop A, 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 Logan D. O’Connor – Troop F
During 2022, Trooper Logan D. O’Connor of SP Kingston issued 700 traffic citations and made more than 250 arrests while conducting highway interdiction. Of the 700 traffic citations Trooper O’Connor issued, 124 resulted in arrests for Driving While Intoxicated or Impaired by Drugs. During the same time period, he also seized illegal firearms connected to violent crimes in other regions of the state. Trooper O’Connor consistently looks past the ticket to enforce not only the vehicle and traffic law but the penal law as well. In the last quarter of 2022, Trooper O’Connor stopped two separate vehicles, interviewed the operator and occupants, and seized two illegal handguns. One of these handguns was linked to shootings and attempted murder in the Capital District. Trooper O’Connor received more than 25 Troop and Zone Commander commendations during 2022 for his focus on traffic safety and highway interdiction. In addition, Trooper O’Connor has been recognized by the Ulster County District Attorney’s Office for presenting thorough and professional documentation of his enforcement actions, which leads to higher-than-average successful prosecutions. His supervisors describe him as an asset to the agency and a consummate professional. Trooper O’Connor can often be seen helping fellow Troopers around the station, mentoring them in traffic safety and teaching interpersonal interviewing techniques to help them successfully investigate crimes. Trooper O’Connor’s success can be attributed to his tenacity for traffic safety and keeping the highways in his patrol area safe. His work ethic and the resultant impact on traffic safety merit receipt of the Trooper Kevin P. Dobson Traffic Safety Award.
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.
Chief Technical Sergeant Michael J. Kovarovic – Division Headquarters
In Chief Technical Sergeant Michael J. Kovarovic is a 27-year Member of the New York State Police and an Air Force veteran having served in Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the Persian Gulf Conflict. He is the Chief Technical Sergeant for Division Firearms Administration, and holds the designated specialties of Senior Firearms Instructor and Patrol Rifle Member. Chief Technical Sergeant Kovarovic has been instrumental to the evolution of the Statewide Division Firearms Training Program, modernizing the way that Members are educated, trained, and equipped. His recent contributions to training encompass the testing and evaluation of a new undercover carry gun, along with creating a training and qualification program for ensuring that the Members carrying it are proficient in drawing the weapon. Police vehicle-based engagements are increasing, from ambushes to traffic stop encounters. Chief Technical Sergeant Kovarovic coordinated the certification of 26 instructors in Vehicle Close Quarters Battle so that Troopers across the state receive this essential training as quickly as possible. This training is the national standard, and is currently being used by the FBI, Texas Department of Public Safety, NYPD, Michigan State Police and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He is also standardizing all State Police rapid response training to the new Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response model, ultimately making all Troopers better equipped to handle the complex and intense active shooter events they may be called to respond to. This model is both highly regarded and recognized within the law enforcement community. For his expertise and lasting contributions to modernize the training of these essential skills, Chief Technical Sergeant Kovarovic is honored with receipt of the George M. Searle Memorial Award.
Trooper William V. McDonagh Community Service Award
This award was established in honor of the late Trooper William McDonagh, Troop F, 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.
Forensic Scientist III Kimberly A. Stoddard – Forensic Investigation Center
Senior Laboratory Technician Lynda K. Niles – Forensic Investigation Center
Throughout 2022, as part of an annual tradition, Forensic Scientist Kimberly Stoddard and Senior Lab Technician Lynda Niles, both from the NYSP Forensic Investigation Center (FIC), organized multiple collections for the Schenectady-based charity, Things of My Very Own (TOMVO), which provides crisis intervention services for children. These collections began during the summer of 2022 with a back-to-school supply drive. Many of the children TOMVO serves, because of their dire circumstances, do not have access to basic necessities which are all too often taken for granted – backpacks, lunch boxes, school supplies (crayons, markers, paper, folders, notebooks, pencils, etc.). Often times, these children also need clothing, footwear, personal hygiene products, and items to sustain them throughout the day like bottled water and snacks. Through the efforts of FS Stoddard and SLT Niles, vast quantities of all these items were collected at the FIC and donated to the TOMVO charity. Following in October, TOMVO conducted a “Socktober” drive. As the name implies, this drive aims to restock the charity’s sock supply for those in need. In this campaign, local businesses compete for bragging rights for collecting the greatest quantity of socks. Under the leadership of SLT Niles and FS Stoddard, FIC staff donated 1,344 pairs of socks, earning the New York State Police first place in this worthy effort. Finally, every holiday season, TOMVO conducts an “adopt a child in crisis” tag program. Each tag represents TOMVO clients who are unable to provide basic needs for children in their care. Tags have a varying degree of urgency (clothing, diapers, hygiene products, bedding, etc.). Some tags may also include a child’s wish such as a toy. In 2022, the FIC adopted 125 children. In this extraordinary collection effort, not only did each child receive everything they needed, but every child also received at least one wish item, even if no wish items were listed on the tag. SLT Niles and FS Stoddard ensured that every child who is “adopted” has a bag to open of “needs” and “wishes.” For their enduring commitment to and demonstrated compassion for children in crisis, FS Stoddard and SLT Niles are highly deserving of the Trooper William V. McDonagh Community Service Award.
Superintendent’s Unit Citation Award
This award was established to recognize the outstanding efforts made by members of a particular unit or detail.
Community Stabilization Unit (CSU) – Troop D
The mission of the Troop D Community Stabilization Unit (CSU) is to patrol the highest crime areas in their area of responsibility and combat increased gun violence by investigating gun, drug, and human trafficking, and related violent criminal activity. The specialized skills they bring to investigations are sought by local police departments to supplement their own department’s resources, and provide rapid responses to homicide, assault, and robbery investigations. In 2022, the Troop D CSU seized 81 illegal firearms, made 101 felony arrests, 144 misdemeanor arrests, arrested 21 wanted individuals, and recovered 6 stolen vehicles. Of the Unit’s most noteworthy 2022 accomplishments was the conclusion of a months-long, multi-jurisdictional investigation into a series of Syracuse-region armed robberies plaguing convenience stores. Once the investigation identified possible suspects, it was also revealed that one of them had become a homicide victim, now connecting both of those major crimes investigations. In addition, the Unit’s long-term investigation into several Onondaga county spas suspected of being fronts for prostitution activities concluded with the shutdown of each establishment, and associated arrests of the employees participating in the activity. Recognizing the complexity of this kind of situation, and that many of these employees were also victims of the prostitution ring’s criminal enterprise, appropriate referrals were made to the victims’ services section within the District Attorney’s Office. The dogged determination and hard work of the members of the Troop D CSU are a credit to the law enforcement profession and make them worthy of this year’s Superintendent’s Unit Citation Award.
Supervisor Recognition Awards
These awards recognize the outstanding work ethic demonstrated by both sworn and non-sworn supervisors who coordinate and oversee various units within the State Police.
Supervisor Recognition Award (Sworn)
Staff Inspector James M. Hall – Division Headquarters
Major Eugene J. Staniszewski – Troop A
In 2022, the Western New York region experienced several high-profile tragedies and natural disasters. These incidents required a significant State Police response, to include a mass deployment of personnel possessing a broad array of expertise, as well as management of equipment deployment logistics in, at times, horrific weather conditions. One readily apparent theme, and paramount to the successful management of each incident, was the leadership displayed by Staff Inspector James Hall and Major Eugene Staniszewski.
On May 14, 2022, a racially motivated violent extremist murdered 10 people, and wounded three others, in a targeted attack at the Tops Supermarket in the city of Buffalo. On August 12, 2022, author Salman Rushdie was viciously stabbed at a Chautauqua Institution event. Both incidents immediately triggered criminal and terrorism investigations, requiring careful coordination amongst dozens of federal, state, and local law enforcement personnel spanning several states.
On November 17, 2022, the Buffalo region was pounded by a lake effect snowstorm that amassed up to six feet of snow in some areas, resulting in widespread road closures and related difficulties. On December 23, 2022, the Buffalo region experienced another lake effect snowstorm that has since been described as the region’s worst winter storm in decades. This storm, which ultimately claimed 47 lives, created whiteout conditions for more than 38 hours, resulted in the complete shutdown of all major roadways in the area, hundreds of disabled vehicles, numerous trapped motorists, and thousands of power outages. Both Staff Inspector Hall and Major Staniszewski led the storm response from the front, continually monitored progress, and personally deployed to locations needing additional resources. The State Police support they facilitated was instrumental in locating and rescuing stranded motorists, and getting the Buffalo region’s roadways cleared and reopened soon after the storms ceased. It is for their leadership and steadfast command during each of these critical incidents that both Staff Inspector Hall and Major Staniszewski are honored today with the Sworn Supervisor Recognition Award.
Supervisor Recognition Award (Non-Sworn)
Corey J. Hovak – Intelligence Analyst II – New York State Intelligence Center
In each of the roles he’s served within the State Police the past 18-plus years, Mr. Hovak consistently led from the front. He is currently the New York State Intelligence Center’s (NYSIC) lead cyber Intelligence Analyst and has been the guiding force for the NYSIC Cyber Analysis Unit since its inception. Much of CAU’s success comes from IA2 Hovak’s dedication to outreach and solidifying partnerships with public and private sector entities to forge a strong communication network. Mr. Hovak effectively maneuvered the Cyber Analysis Unit through the unprecedented challenges to election safety and security that emerged in 2020. In a post-January 6th environment, the threat landscape further expanded to include multiple prominent nation-state actors and politically-motivated malicious actors, actively threatening to subvert future election processes. In response, Mr. Hovak initiated, and continually improved upon, a structured monitoring system to support the NYS Elections Working Group. This endeavor not only solidified the Cyber Analysis Unit’s status as a threat intelligence leader, but it also guided the state safely through the primary elections and will stay in place for future general elections. Mr. Hovak is also the ranking chair of the National Fusion Center Association’s Cyber Intelligence Network, where he moderates a quarterly meeting of more than 500 cyber analysts across the US that discusses current threat intelligence, and develops policy and program solutions. In addition to the state and national leadership roles he holds, Mr. Hovak encourages the professional growth for each member of his unit. He is highly thought of by subordinates, peers, and supervisors alike for his dedication and selflessness. He is also widely recognized for his mentorship within the NYSIC, both in and outside of the Cyber Analysis Unit, striving to ensure the legacy of the cyber security structures he established will carry forward.
Civilian Employee Recognition Award
The Non-Sworn Employee Recognition Award is presented to non-sworn employees who have made significant contributions to the Division of State Police.
Ms. Michele A. Melton– Program Associate – New York State Intelligence Center
Ms. Melton has worked at the New York State Intelligence Center (NYSIC) for more than 18 years. As a tenured and valuable member of the NYSIC Command Staff, Ms. Melton is tasked with ensuring mission completion for a variety of operationally essential projects. Her proactive approach and knowledge of day-to-day operations, as well as her keen understanding of the NYSIC and New York State Police missions, has made her indispensable and elevated the fusion center’s utility and relevance to our federal, state, and local homeland security and law enforcement partners. Whether it be supporting the identification and testing of new technology, acquiring funding supporting NYSIC operations and coordinating management of that funding, ensuring new NYSIC personnel receive federally mandated trainings, coordinating the NYSIC team that completes the US Department of Homeland Security’s annual fusion center assessment, assisting with fusion center outreach to and training of federal, state, and local Field Intelligence Officers across the state, or participating on the National Fusion Center Association’s FEMA Grant Recommendations Task Force, Ms. Melton works diligently to ensure all missions are met. Ms. Melton’s contributions to her profession are outstanding, as she continues to uphold the Core Mission and Values of the New York State Police that include serving, protecting, and defending the people, while preserving the rights and dignity of all.