Pittsburgh region's officers honored

Heinz awards are distributed for bravery in the line of duty


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In a 24-hour span from Thursday into Friday, suspects opened fire on police in Hempfield, in New Castle and in Stanton Heights, where a city officer's protective vest saved his life.

Those incidents drove home the dangers of police work for officers, and community leaders gathered Friday at Station Square for the annual John Heinz Law Enforcement Awards.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said it's never good news when he gets a call from Mike Huss, the city's public safety director, especially at 5:30 a.m.

But in this case, he said, it turned out well, because Officer Andrew Baker was unharmed after taking a slug to the chest.

Mr. Ravenstahl thanked the region's officers for their efforts in protecting the community and said it was their "work ethic" that keeps the region among "the safest in the country."

Most of the officers who collected awards won for pulling off heroic rescues or responding to harrowing incidents such as the Western Psychiatric Institute shootings in March.

But two won for the kind of clandestine operation that doesn't normally make the TV news.

James Hredzak and Jonathan Pawlowski, two veteran Monroeville detectives, won the "Crime Doesn't Pay" award for their roles in a major federal cocaine investigation spearheaded by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The two detectives, as part of the U.S. attorney's Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, helped develop the case against Darnell Edge and his cohorts in a Mexico-to-Pittsburgh drug ring.

The investigation led to the indictments of 10 people, and U.S. Attorney David Hickton said the arrests helped disrupt the cocaine supply chain in the region.

The Monroeville detectives developed information about Mr. Edge and his confederates and took it to the DEA, which had its own informants working on the case. After weeks of surveillance and cell phone taps, authorities made their move and recovered 44 pounds of cocaine from Mr. Edge of Monroeville and $450,000 from another conspirator, Kurt Maxshure of Charlotte, N.C.

"Those guys have years of experience," Monroeville police Chief Doug Cole said of his officers. "They did an outstanding job."

The case is pending in U.S. District Court; Mr. Edge and another Monroeville defendant, Dion Griffin, have pleaded guilty.

These were the other award recipients:

• Steve Kondrosky, McKeesport police, and Jeff Haynes, White Oak police, won the "Courageous Act" award for pursuing accused gunman Vondre Griffin after the killing of Tameko Wall outside an after-hours club Aug. 5.

• Matthew Smith and Angie Lane, Pittsburgh police, won the "To Protect and Serve" award for trying to save 11-year-old Donovan McKee, who was beaten to death by his mother's boyfriend in their Knoxville home in February, police said. Mayor Ravenstahl said the officers performed CPR on the boy and kept him alive long enough for his family to say goodbye to him. They then helped the homicide squad develop the case against Donovan's mother, Cynthia McKee, and her boyfriend, Anthony Lee Bush. Both are awaiting trial.

• Anthony Grillo, New Kensington police, won the "Above and Beyond" award for cornering and pinning down gunman Charles Post after he had killed Lower Burrell Police Officer Derek Kotecki on Oct. 12, 2011. Post killed himself.

• Lawrence Connolly and Brendan Nee, Pittsburgh police. They won the "Starsky and Hutch" award for rescuing a man who jumped off the Birmingham Bridge in August.

• University of Pittsburgh police Lt. David Basile, Sgt. Dan Papale and officers Joshua Acre, Ron Bennett, Guy Johnson, Tom Lasky, Stephen Tomovich, Brian Turak, Brian Veze and Joseph Washinski. They won the "911 Quick Response" award for responding to the March shooting rampage at Western Psych by John Shick. Pitt police killed Shick after he had killed one person and wounded five others.

In addition to the award, three deceased officers were inducted into the law enforcement hall of fame: Kotecki; East Washington Officer David Dryer, who was shot and killed in December after a traffic stop; and James Ricupero, a deputy commander in the Allegheny County Sheriff's Office who died in August.

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