Space Coast Public Service Awards To Recognize Distinguished Merit Honorees Sept. 23
By Space Coast Daily // September 15, 2017
at the King Center For the Performing Arts
EDITOR’S NOTE: In every community there are great men and women who have, by their strength of will and character, become ingrained in the consciousness of our society.
They are doers who have made a stand and a commitment for the common good. They are labeled as public servants, but they are truly our natural leaders whose legacies are the milestones of our progress.
Space Coast Daily is pleased to highlight the Distinguished Merit honorees that will be recognized during the 2017 Space Coast Public Service Awards.
The second annual Space Coast Public Service Awards & Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be held Saturday, September 23, inside the Maxwell C. King Center For the Performing Arts. Seating is now available so don’t delay in making your reservations.
Call 321-242-2219 or log on to KingCenter.com for tickets.
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – These Distinguished Merit honorees are public service professionals who have performed with exceptional skill, technical expertise, commitment, dedication and innovation.
The nominee should demonstrate exceptional performance and/or have demonstrated an act of outstanding personal bravery in the line of duty and defense of state and citizens at imminent personal hazard or risk of life.
AGENT MARY ADAMS
Agent Mary Adams began her career with the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office in 1996 as a Corrections Auxiliary Officer. She was promoted to Corrections Deputy in 1998, but her desire to work in investigations led her to become a Patrol Deputy in 2001. She excelled and joined CIS, where she has proudly served in both the Special Investigations and Special Victims Units.
Agent Adams initiated an investigation into allegations surrounding an adult who was sexually molesting a teen. The investigation determined that the suspect was the victim’s recreational league basketball coach. Agent Adams’ investigation led to the interview of the suspect, who did not confess to the crimes, but did make several key admissions. Nearing the end of the investigation, Agent Adams learned the suspect had threatened to leave the area, fearing arrest.
Agent Adams ultimately learned that Texas was a possible destination where he could cross into Mexico. Less than 24 hours later, he was located by the Marshal’s Service in Texas miles from the Mexican border. Once arrested, the Federal authorities located a number of electronic devices that proved useful in Agent Adams’ subsequent investigations into other alleged sexual activities with other juvenile victims. Not only were other victims identified, but significant evidence was recovered.
In all, 14 victims were identified as a result of Agent Adams’ investigation. The suspect is currently facing a total of 75 charges ranging from Lewd and Lascivious Molestation to Possession of Child Pornography.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE ADVOCATE CYNTHIA CARLSON
On June 12, 2016, one of the worst mass shootings to ever occur in the United States happened in Orlando at the Pulse Nightclub. Due to the mass causalities and a very active scene, a response was requested as part of the Florida Crisis Response Team (FCRT).
Cynthia Carlson, a member of the Sheriff’s Office Victims Services team, immediately responded to Orlando to assist with the countless number of survivors, victim’s family members and friends that had gathered to wait and hear about their loved ones.
Cynthia assisted in the death notifications as well as counseling families and friends in what could only be described as a very chaotic time. The Florida Crisis Response Team recognized Cynthia as having selfless dedication and compassion during her efforts serving the victims of the Pulse shooting.
The work that Cynthia accomplished at that incident and for the victims, families and friends is a direct reflection of the incredible work that members of Victim Services do every day helping victims of violent crimes. The commitment demonstrated by Cynthia and everyone who assisted at such a horrific event to help others in such a traumatic time represents the very best of humanity.
CHIEF PILOT JOHN COPPOLA
Chief Pilot John Coppola has been serving the citizens of Brevard County for almost four decades. Starting as a deputy sheriff in 1979, Chief Pilot Coppola was promoted to sergeant then lieutenant assigned to patrol operations.
Recognizing the need for expanded aviation operations, John was assigned to the Aviation Unit. Working from an abandoned warehouse at the Merritt Island Airport, Chief Pilot Coppola slowly began building a unit from the ground up. Utilizing decommissioned military aircraft, John began developing a user’s group to trade surplus equipment and resources to keep the aircraft flying.
Over the past decade John has developed the Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit into a model for other law enforcement agencies across the nation to follow.
Known as S.T.A.R. (Sheriff’s Tactical Air Response), the Aviation Unit is operational 24 hours per day flying multiple aircraft missions assisting in criminal apprehensions, missing persons, rescue and even firefighting.
Chief Pilot Coppola remains actively involved in the units operation flying missions on a routine basis. Considering the cost of modern aircraft, suffice is to say the cost savings to our citizen’s is staggering.
Chief Pilot Coppola has saved the citizens of Brevard County millions of dollars in aircraft and aircraft parts. Backed by a talented staff, the unit is sustained with a meager annual budget subsidized with a resourceful and thrifty manager in Chief Pilot Coppola.
LT. MIKE DELLATORE, SGT. ALLEN WORTHY, DET. MATT RUSH and RN DORA DELLATORE
Cocoa Police Department’s Detective Matt Rush, Sgt. Allen Worthy and Lt. Mike Dellatore responded to the Indian River in the area of the Hubert Humphrey Bridge in August 2016, relating to an overturned vessel with several people in the water.
When officers arrived they immediately called for the Police Department boat. Lt. Mike Dellatore, who was out with his wife Dora, immediately responded with the boat. The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Aviation Unit additionally provided direct support.
It was learned that a family of four was returning home by boat after having dinner at a waterfront restaurant. According to the father, the boat hit a guide-wire, which caused the vessel to flip. The mother, father and an infant who was being held by her mother, were all ejected from the boat and safely located. However, the couple’s 23-month-old daughter was unaccounted for.
As they actively searched, Worthy heard the girl crying and together with Rush located the girl trapped underneath the boat in a small air pocket. The two stripped off their Police Department gear and took turns diving underneath the boat to rescue her.
She was found wearing a life jacket, which likely saved her life. Dellatore, who was in the Department’s boat with his wife, Dora, an emergency room charge nurse, took the toddler from the officers in the water and immediately began to render first aid until they were met at the shore by Cocoa and Brevard County Fire Rescue.
The group to include the child was taken to the hospital for evaluation and released. There is no doubt that without the timely response and lifesaving efforts by all involved, there may have been a life ending result.
SGT. MICHAEL INGRAM
As a retired, highly-decorated Air Assault soldier with the US Army and a former Corrections Officer with the Department of Corrections, Sgt. Ingram has utilized his leadership skills daily since he began his career with the Sheriff’s Office in 2006.
In addition to his day-to-day duties of scheduling, coordinating and supervising over 80 personnel on his shift, Sgt. Ingram’s technical expertise and superior performance led to his being named as the Commander of the Corrections Response Team.
In this capacity, Ingram was responsible for the scheduling and coordination of over 3,000 training hours for 31-member team, which has directly resulted in the successful execution of multiple cell block searches to remove weapons and other harmful contraband and escort of high risk inmates outside of the facility.
Ingram’s outstanding intelligence gathering techniques and interpersonal skills led to an inmate providing information that resulted in the recovery of a stolen firearm hidden near a major shopping mall and skate park frequented by children. Further investigation led to the recovery of stolen property connected with a robbery.
Additionally, Sgt. Ingram witnessed a vehicle overturned in a ditch and stopped to render aid. Once on scene, he noticed the person had exited the vehicle and was standing off the shoulder of the road and was acting suspiciously by attempting to conceal an object. When MPD Officers arrived, Ingram informed the officer who discovered the individual was attempting to conceal a firearm.
Ingram organized a 15-member team and participated in the Jail Complex’s involvement in Special Olympics Events, where he personally raised $1,200 in donations that will be used to sponsor Florida’s Special Olympic athletes in competitions.
He is also actively involved in the Sheriff’s sponsored Brevard Attitude Modification (BAM) Program, where he has mentored over 50 high-risk children in learning life skills, coping strategies and consequences of their actions.
LT. STEVE FERNEZ , SGT. TYLER WRIGHT, OFFICER MARK JENNINGS and OFFICER JAMES GIBBS JR.
In early 2017, the Titusville Police Department and the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office received a call that a vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed crashed into a concrete barrier. The impact caused the vehicle to flip over the concrete barrier onto its roof and ignited a fire.
Sgt. Tyler Wright of TPD was the first law enforcement officer on scene followed by Lt. Steve Fernez of the BCSO. Believing an occupant was trapped inside, Sgt. Wright ran back to his vehicle to retrieve tools to enter the car while Lt. Fernez retrieved a shovel and ran to the burning vehicle.
Fernez then used the shovel to break the rear window of the vehicle and looked inside for survivors. As he was checking the vehicle, he heard an individual yelling for help in the surrounding wooded area. Fernez and Wright then ran into the wood line 10 feet from the burning vehicle and located the victim who due to his serious injuries, was unable to move.
(Story continued below)
After assessing the victim’s injuries, the officers realized that they needed to move him to a safer location to render aide. As they began to carry the victim out of the woods, they realized that the point where they entered the woods was now completely engulfed in flames forcing them to create a new path out.
After exiting the woods they set the victim on the ground to further asses his injuries and render aide. When they did, the burning vehicle’s gas tank failed, causing an explosion of large flames and intensifying the fire.
Fernez and Wright, who were now joined by Officer Mark Jennings and Officer James Gibbs, carried the severely injured victim to a secondary position of safety.
The victim was transported to Parrish Medical Center by fire rescue, then to Holmes Regional Medical Center after it was learned he had suffered a broken neck, the most serious of many injuries sustained. The victim, who sustained serious injuries, survived only due to the actions exhibited by the officers.
In-car and body-cam video show how these officers acted without hesitation as they placed themselves into a very dangerous situation. The recordings allow the viewer to hear Sgt. Wright and Lt. Fernez console the victim as he screams in pain while being carried.
DEPUTY TANER PRIMMER and CANAVERAL PILOT CAPTAIN DOUG BROWN
In March 2017, Deputy Taner Primmer was assigned to afternoon shift in Port Canaveral. Deputy Primmer is assigned to the Sheriff’s Agricultural Marine Unit and is responsible for ship escorts and waterside Seaport security within the port.
An incident took place when two young vacationers were enjoying Spring Break and operating a Jet Ski in Port Canaveral. One of the riders fell from the Jet Ski and upon trying to climb back onboard, the Jet Ski flipped upside down. As the two frantically tried to right the Jet Ski, the wind and current pushed them into the Port channel; directly into the path of an outgoing cruise ship.
Due to the width of the Port’s channel, there was very little room to maneuver the ship; however, the experienced Canaveral Harbor Master Pilot, Captain Doug Brown, veered the ship slightly when Deputy Primmer steered his boat into the path of the ship and quickly pulled the two girls onboard the Sheriff’s Office Port Security Safe Boat.
Once safely onboard, Primmer immediately backed the Safe Boat out of the Ship’s path as the ship was within feet of the deputy’s boat. Were it not for the quick actions of both Primmer and Brown, the girls could have been pulled under the ship causing potentially serious if not fatal injuries.
The actions of Deputy Primmer, a member of the SeaPort Security Marine Unit placed his life in peril without hesitation to rescue the Port visitors. Captain Brown not only maintained communication with Deputy Primmer, but was able to safely veer the ship, which provided Deputy Primmer the extra seconds and distance needed to save the young girls.
DET. BEN ERSKINE and AGENT ALEX SOROKIN
In February 2016, Detective Ben Erskine with the Cocoa Police Department contacted Sheriff’s Office Agent Alex Sorokin regarding a possible sexual offense regarding a 16-year-old victim.
According to Detective Erskine, a source had contacted the Cocoa Police Department regarding a male trying to prostitute a female, and when the female arrived at the source’s room, he realized that she was a juvenile and possibly a runaway.
The Cocoa Police Department responded to the location where the juvenile was located, as was the male who allegedly was trying to market her for prostitution. The detectives were able to identify the female and her status as a runaway juvenile.
The suspect was arrested on unrelated drug charges and Detective Erskine learned from the victim that the suspect has been using her to have sex with men for money. The victim also advised that the suspect threatened her life should she tell anybody about the arrangements.
During this interview, the victim stated she had recently had sexual relations with a second suspect, an older male in the jurisdiction of the Sheriff’s Office. Agent Sorokin then made arrangements for the child to be interviewed forensically as well as a sexual assault examination.
The Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit secured the crime scene and identified the suspect through his credit card receipt. Additionally, the juvenile’s purse was located in the room where she had sexual relations with this most recent male suspect. With this information in hand, the victim was able to positively identify the second suspect.
Agent Sorokin was then able to obtain search warrants for the suspect’s cellular telephones. This data helped to confirm the fact that the suspect was indeed prostituting the juvenile via internet sites.
Based upon the thorough investigation by Agent Sorokin and Detective Erskine, the suspect prostituting the child was federally indicted for trafficking of a minor and child enticement.
In May, he was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison with a lifetime probation to follow. Both agents have been awarded the United States Attorney’s Office 2016 Outstanding Law Enforcement of the Year award for their outstanding efforts.
SGT. THOMAS RIBNICKY
In August 2016, the Palm Bay Police SWAT team was called out in reference to a possible armed hostage/barricade situation. Upon arrival, attempts to contact anyone inside had negative results.
Sgt. Thomas Ribnicky then moved up to the living room window, which was breached in an effort to make contact. With the arrival of the Sheriff’s Office Robot, Ribnicky led his team to the front door to breach so the Robot could enter. Once the front door was opened, a very faint female voice could be heard from inside.
SWAT then began dialogue with her, but could not see her. The female victim advised she had been shot and was begging for help. She said she was in the bathroom and her husband was with her. The husband was asked to surrender and he responded that he was armed with an assult rifle and numerous other guns, and then demanded the team to come in and get him.
As the conversation was ongoing, Sergeant Ribnicky and his team moved inside and prepared for a hostage rescue. As the Rescue Team moved up to the hallway near the bathroom, the suspect began a count down from 5 to 1. At that moment, it was unknown what the suspect’s intentions were, but Sergeant Ribnicky’s concerns were an explosive device discharge or the suspect would open fire with an assault rifle.
The team was within feet of the bathroom door and only separated by drywall. The Rescue Team refused to withdraw and held their position knowing the rescue of the female was paramount due to her grave condition.
Sergeant Ribnicky was assigned to neutralize the threat and a Rescue Team member was assigned to rescue the female hostage. The bathroom was too small to maneuver in, so one officer was assigned to create a distraction and Ribnicky immediately followed behind the distraction officer.
As the officer moved past the doorway with only a ballistic shield as protection, Ribnicky entered the bathroom doorway and encountered the suspect who was armed with a handgun and pointing it at the officer. Ribnicky instantly engaged the suspect with lethal force before the suspect could fire a round. The suspect’s firearm was found to be loaded with a full magazine and one round in the chamber.
The Rescue Team entered the small bathroom to rescue the victim who had been shot multiple times, but was still alive. The Rescue Team worked together to lift the female, who was unable to move due to her injuries, out of the bathtub to the SWAT Medics who assisted getting the victim out of the residence.
SWAT Medics began immediate life saving measures and worked together quickly in a very intense and stressful environment. Without Sergeant Ribnicky’s quick decisions in using sound judgement, the outcome of this mission could have ended tragically.
CAPTAIN CHRIS VAUGHN
Captain Chris Vaughn began his distinguished career as a Security Police Officer for Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in 1996 and was proudly part of the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office Special Deputy Program. In 1998, Chris transitioned into the K9 section and assumed the responsibility of Kennel Master.
Since the year 2000, Chris has been sharing his technical expertise throughout the Southeast. Chris has led sessions at the Florida State K9 Workshop every year but one since 2001. He has instructed the Basic K9 Handler School for twelve agencies throughout the state and participated in eleven Georgia State K9 workshops.
In 2003, Chris became recognized as a certifying official through the National Narcotics Detector Dog Association, which allows him to certify K9 teams in narcotics and explosives detection, tracking, and criminal apprehension.
Since then he has participated in eight of the annual National Workshops where he has certified hundreds of K9 teams and helped with problem solving for handlers who need assistance working through various issues with their K9.
Last year, Chris was approached by a NNDDA National Judge who asked if he would consider becoming a National Judge. Chris submitted his resume to the Judges for consideration and was the only member ever to receive a unanimous vote for selection. Since his selection, he now judges narcotics and apprehension during the competition portion of the NNDDA national Workshop.
Chris has made and continues to make a huge impact on not only the K9 community but his local community as well. All of this he does from the heart because he genuinely cares for people and wants to see them reach their full potential.
CLICK HERE FOR BREVARD COUNTY NEWS