Some in the audience had entered a burning building in Spotsylvania County to get two people to safety or risked their lives in the middle of a blizzard to get a bleeding pregnant woman from King George County to hospital.
Others have spent thousands of hours investigating what has been described as ‘one of the most gruesome crimes’ Spotsylvania has ever seen, or led efforts to find the man who attempted to abduct a 9-year-old girl from Stafford County.
The efforts of local men and women in uniform, along with those of two citizens who sprang into action to help an assaulted Fredericksburg police officer, were honored Wednesday by the Fredericksburg Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Virginia Lieutenant Governor Winsome Earle-Sears was the speaker at the sixth annual First Responders Appreciation Breakfast and Awards, held at the Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center. She told those gathered that when they see images of people smashing windows or burning down businesses in other areas – and they feel the world has turned upside down – they can ask themselves: “Is- this the country I’m fighting for, is it worth it?”
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“I’ll tell you, it’s worth it, America is worth fighting for,” she said. “What you are doing, first responders, is not in vain. We see it and we are happy that you are here because when you run towards violence, towards fire, and we run the other way.
Earle-Sears said she didn’t know what made them decide to be the one to save others “but we’re so grateful you chose to do this.”
About 300 people from Fredericksburg and surrounding counties gathered for the two-hour program which included breakfast, speeches, presentations and a regional honor guard whose members carried some of the most brilliant axes ever made.
Although the awards are designed to honor special achievements, House Speaker Susan Spears admitted that most people will never understand what first responders face.
“In our daily lives, we’ll never know all the terrible things you see, the near misses, the things that keep you up at night,” she said.
Elected officials from local and state offices, along with area law enforcement and fire and rescue organizations, gave each of the following honorees a standing ovation.
EXCELLENCE IN CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION
Fredericksburg Police Detective Patrick Lamb was assigned to investigate a suicide and noted suspicious and conflicting statements from the victim’s boyfriend, Police Chief Brian Layton said. Evidence discovered by Lamb determined that the victim did not die by suicide and that the boyfriend was charged with murder.
Lamb received several accolades from the family “during what I would imagine to be the worst time of their lives,” Layton said, because Lamb was able to bring a balance of investigative skills and compassion to the case.
Spotsylvania detectives Jesse Hanrahan and Jim Herdman had never investigated a homicide before responding to a call in May 2019 from a shocked father who found his 14-year-old son dead. The teenager, his mother and another person were found bound and gagged with their throats slit – “one of the most horrific crimes” ever committed in the county, said Capt. Liz Scott of Spotsylvania.
Detectives discovered that the mother’s deceased boyfriend was a reputable drug dealer and they used cellphone records to determine that five Philadelphia men were in the area. Hanrahan and Herdman devoted more than 4,500 hours to the 18-month investigation and made 10 trips to Pennsylvania.
“Without the tremendous work ethic and dedication to duty, this heinous crime may never have been solved,” Scott said, adding that the five suspects were charged and convicted on three counts of murder and other counts.
Detective Nicholas D. Ridings was the lead investigator in a Stafford case involving an attempted abduction of a 9-year-old girl from Embrey Mill. The child was able to escape the would-be abductor, her father said, and after the 911 call, Stafford officers packed the area. Precincts accepted the award on behalf of everyone involved, both in the search and in the subsequent confrontation with the suspect.
“Through exceptional investigative efforts and teamwork, this dangerous offender has been apprehended and removed from the streets,” said Sheriff David Decatur.
Also from Spotsylvania, Detective Renee Jacques was honored for her continued work in criminal investigations, including serving as the Sheriff’s Office “expert” on fingerprint evidence.
King George County Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services Chief David Moody described a heartbreaking scene from the January blizzard. A woman with a high-risk pregnancy had developed bleeding and needed to go to hospital, but power lines, trees and snow blocked the roads.
Responders from the sheriff’s office and fire and rescue services worked together to get the patient from one outpost to another and, at one point, put her in a motorist’s Jeep that ‘they saw along the way when responders couldn’t get around a downed tree. . Once she was able to get into an ambulance, the county brush truck got ahead of the rescue team, plowing the road from King George to Mary Washington Hospital.
“Along the way, they were presented with wrecked and stranded vehicles, a knife-edge tractor-trailer truck and had to detour through downtown Fredericksburg to eventually get to the hospital” where the patient was delivered baby Maddie, Moody said.
The effort involved team members from all law enforcement and fire and rescue departments, the chief said, stepping aside to give the limelight to central figures in the rescue operation who stood behind him on stage.
They included: Lt. James Simmons of the Sheriff’s Office; EMS members Shawn Simmons, Christina DeGruy and Kevin Cook; firefighters Kameron Henderson and Rodney Ash; and 911 Center agents Rhonda Goddard and Madison Kerns.
An equally extraordinary call came in December 2021, when firefighters encountered a fiery blaze at a house on Gordon Road in Spotsylvania. Upon entering the house, they found two victims on the floor and were able to get them out and into the hands of medics within 5 minutes, said Spotsylvania Division Chief Chris Lonzo.
“This is a very rare event for us to arrive on scene, to have significant fire conditions and for our staff to be able to shoot two casualties, provide care and have a positive recovery. full,” Lonzo said.
Those involved were Captain Andrew Pullen, Lieutenant Gregory Fleck, Firefighter Joshua Murdock and Technician Nathan Ogden.
An incident with Virginia State Police Trooper Adam Burrows illustrated “the many dangers the men and women in blue face on a daily basis,” Sgt. Keith Hairston told the audience. He described Burrows’ pursuit last month of a driver who clocked over 100 mph on Interstate 95. The chase began in Spotsylvania and continued through northern Virginia, where the driver was been apprehended and imprisoned – and that’s when “the incident becomes unique”. Hairstone said.
Burrows learned the suspect was wanted in Richmond for a shooting that left at least one dead and several injured.
PRIZE OF CITIZEN VALUE
Layton presented the Citizen Valor Award to “two amazing people, Robin King and Daniel Rasul.” The city’s police department received a call last summer about a suspicious person searching through unlocked vehicles in the Walmart parking lot.
Constable FP Murphy responded and located the suspect. King and Rasul were also in the parking lot and noticed how uncooperative the suspect was.
It turned out that, according to the police, the suspect had been trained in martial arts and began to tackle Murphy to the ground and hit him in the head. King and Rasul came to Murphy’s aid and pulled the man off him. When the suspect fled, the two joined the chase and helped Murphy take him into custody.
The audience erupted in applause at that moment.
“I can’t thank them enough for their bravery, for putting themselves in harm’s way,” Layton said. “It shows that we are stronger when we work together.”