Miami County law enforcement honored


By Sheryl Roadcap

[email protected]

TROY — Law enforcement officers from agencies around Miami County were honored at the eighth annual Law Enforcement Awards ceremony at the Arbogast Performing Arts Center (APAC) on Tuesday evening, April 4.

Jack Hoekstra vice president of the FOP Lodge No. 58, opened the ceremony in the absence of FOP President Jeff Waite.

The evening of honoring county law enforcement officers began with Covington Police Chief Lee Harmon, representative for the Miami County Police Chief’s Association, presenting retired Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSP) Piqua Post Lt. Joseph Gebhart with the OSP Service Award.

“I first met Joe, it was probably about 26 years ago … he was a young trooper and I was a patrolman, had just started full-time with the village of Covington, and got to be friends. And we all think very highly of Joe. He has done a lot for our law enforcement community and Miami County, and glad to call him a friend and we hate to see him go. We are sure he is going to be around and we wish him the best in the future with his further endeavours,” Harmon said.

Gebhart thanked Harmon and Miami County Sheriff David Duchak for their support over the years, but also their friendship.

“I was very blessed — 34 years — the last 10 or so to be back in Miami County among friends. I can’t tell you how I have been and continue to be an advocate for the fine work each and everyone of them do. Thank you and I love you all. God Bless,” Gebhart said when receiving his Service Award.

As he was about to present awards to members of the Miami County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), Duchak said it is always an honor and privilege to be at the annual county-wide ceremony to recognize those who “go above and beyond, but to (also) let the community and elected officials know of the sacrifices and heroic actions of law enforcement officers perform on a daily basis.”

Duchak presented certificate of merit awards to Detective Steve Hickey, and Deputies Travis Boggs and Robert Novellino.

Hickey responded to Bradford in September 2021 on a report of an unresponsive 1-year-old child. The child passed away at the hospital and the case was ruled a homicide. Hickey quickly identified the suspect, who later plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter, child endangering, tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice and theft and was sentenced to 18-23 years in prison.

Boggs and Novellino responded to Bethel Township in April 2022 on the report of a male making homicidal and suicidal threats with his two grandchildren inside the residence at the time of the incident. The man exited the residence with a pistol and knife. Novellino was able to distract the man and then Boggs was able to disarm him.

Deputies Sgt. Randy Slusher, Jeffrey Hodges and Justin Miller were also presented with Certificate of Merit awards for their work in September 2022 at Upper Valley Medical Center when they responded to a report of a patient who assaulted campus officers and attempted to carjack a vehicle in the parking lot. The deputies were able to take the man into custody.

Life Saving Awards were presented by Duchak to Deputy Shane McGlinch and Sgt. Nate Jessup after they responded to help an unresponsive male from suspected drug abuse on state Route 55 in Troy in April 2022. The deputies provided Narcan and then medics arrived on scene.

Duchak presented Sheriff’s Office Commendation Awards to Deputy Lt. Jason Moore and Det. James Wysong for their work and design to improve the office’s firing range. The Sheriff’s Office Commendation Awards were also presented to Deputy Sgt. Randy Slusher, Law Enforcement Technology Administrator Steve Dever and Assistant Miami County Jail Administrator Nate Collett for their work to get the field officers training program to a digital software platform.

Duchak also recognized Deputy Lt. Chris Bobb, Dr. William Cole and Deputy George Adkins on their retirement and thanked them for their service. Bobb served 23 years in Miami County and with the sheriff’s office; he is being hired back to help with the courts after a short break. Duchak praised Cole, who was not present, saying he did not have one malpractice brought against him during his time working with the sheriff’s office as the jail physician for over 30 years. Adkins was also honored for his 57 years of service to Miami County as a patrolman with the sheriff’s office, which he began in 1965.

On behalf of the MCSO, Duchak presented the Distinguished Service Award to StoryPoint of Troy, The Mercer Group, and Miami County Operations & Facilities Department for these entities’ support of and renovations for the sheriff’s office.

Duchak also thanked Rena Gumerlock, administrative assistant, for all she does for the sheriff’s office.

Several Miami County corrections officers were presented with the Miami County Sheriff’s Office’s Commendation Award; they include, Amanda Truman, Lt. Tiffany Upham, Sgt. Jack Synder, Ericka Perkins, Lt. Kenneth Welbaum, Bill Nix, Taesha Nix, James Burch, Jennifer Kimmel and Lt. Lee Larimore.

Three Miami County corrections officers were presented with Life Saving Award for their efforts to save inmates in the jail who had ingested fentanyl that had been smuggled in; and these officers are Lt. Tiffany Upham, Taesha Nix and Mark Larger

The Troy Police Department handed out several awards Tuesday night also, including the 2022 Officer of the Year to Officer Joe Wilhelm.

Troy Police Chief Shawn McKinney honored Sgt. Matt Mosier, Sgt. Zac Bettelon and Officers Nate Wise, Lucas Morton, Laura Blankenship, Dan Guillozet, Lucas Schlumpf and Preston Hinger, who was not present, with the Chief Commendation Medal for their work to help a woman held captive by her ex-boyfriend at her apartment in January 2022. The female was rescued safely and the male suspect was found hiding under a bed.

Det. Joe Wilhelm, Officers Joe Gates, Detectives Josh Deal, Sgt. Nick Freisthler and Sgt. Matt Mosier, and retired Capt. Jeff Kunkleman were also honored with the Chief Commendation Medal. These officers were honored for their work to obtain justice in the murder of Easton Ho in April 2022.

“For their dedication, skills and organization to obtain justice for Mr. Ho’s family, they are being awarded the Chief’s Commendation,” said McKinney.

Retired Capt. Jeff Kunkleman and Det. Joe Wilhelm, who both have left the department, received the Meritorious Service Award. Kunkleman has retired and Wilhelm is going to work for the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigations.

Also awarded the Chief Commendation Medal were Sgt. Dominic Burnside and Officer Kyle Knoop for their work on a wellness check in April 2022 to help a 74-year old-male who had fallen at home and was severely dehydrated. They saved the man’s life by getting him medical attention.

Sgt. Joel Misirian was also awarded the Chief Commendation Medal for performing CPR on a man experiencing cardiac arrest.

Officers Scott Gates and Kyle Knoop were also honored with the Distinguished Service Medal for rescuing a female from a house fire.

Representing the Miami County Park District, Executive Director J. Scott Myers, presented Outstanding Service Awards to Det. Steve Hickey and Deputy Sgt. Robert Morando, of the MCSO for their work on a breaking and entering, damage and theft at a building at one of the Miami County parks in December 2022.

The following law enforcement personnel were nominated by their peers to be recognized by their superiors for their leadership and dedication in the respective departments:

• Piqua Police Department Chief Rick Byron presented Officer Philip D. Crusey with the 2022 Officer of the Year and a Special Recognition Award for his “excellent” and “selfless” work with the department as the longest serving patrol officer for over 30 years at Piqua PD.

• For the Covington Police Department, Harmon honored Sgt. Timothy R. Cline as 2022 Officer of the Year.

• Duchak presented Deputy Jeffrey Hodges as the 2022 Deputy of the Year, and honored Corrections Officer Zachary Sedarat, who was not present, as the 2022 Corrections Officer of the Year.

• Tipp City Police Department Chief Greg Adkins presented Officer Phil Osting Jr. as 2022 Officer of the Year.

• West Milton Police Department Chief Doyle Wright presented Officer Cody Stemley as 2022 Officer of the Year.

OSP was scheduled to present the 2022 Post Trooper of the Year award to Trooper Eric Devers and the Piqua Post Dispatcher of the Year award for 2022 to Dispatcher John Clemmer, but the representatives and recipients were not present at the ceremony Tuesday.

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