PUBLIC SERVICE: Cocoa Police Department Honors Detective Chris Zuniga as Officer of the Year
By Space Coast Daily // April 1, 2022
Citizens, Officers and Employees Recognized for Excellence, Going Above and Beyond to Serve
BREVARD COUNTY • COCOA, FLORIDA – More than one dozen police department employees and private citizens were recognized for professional excellence, heroic acts, and actions that went above and beyond while performing public service to the citizens of Cocoa during 2021.
Chief Evander Collier IV and members of his command staff presented the awards during a special ceremony held at the Cocoa Civic Center Wednesday evening.
The mayor and members of the council were also present to congratulate and recognize the employees and citizens.
■ The 2021 Cocoa Police Officer of the Year was presented to Detective Chris Zuniga for his professionalism, dedication and meticulous attention to detail that ensures justice for crime victims.
In 2021, Detective Zuniga worked several noteworthy cases where suspects were arrested for unthinkable crimes including a 14-year-old runaway forced to make pornography and sell it online.
Det. Zuniga’s investigation yielded an arrest for human trafficking, sexual battery and 71-counts of child porn. Other cases involved sexual battery, child abuse, and human trafficking investigations. Most noteworthy was a case from November 20, 2021.
Det. Zuniga responded to Rockledge Regional Hospital to investigate an alleged sexual battery and false imprisonment. The investigation revealed the suspect was a truck driver who picked up the victim in Delaware. Det. Zuniga discovered that over the course of several months the suspect held the victim against her will in the cab of his tractor-trailer rig as he drove around the country.
The suspect repeatedly abused the victim, both physically, and mentally and did so in the presence of a minor child. The victim was finally able to flee after a brief time spent at Cocoa’s Flying J Travel Center. The victim ended up in the hospital and the suspect fled the area. Det. Zuniga worked with the CPD victim advocate to coordinate proper treatment for the victim.
Further investigation led to the arrest of the suspect and a subsequent federal indictment that could send the suspect to prison for life if convicted. As a result of Detective Zuniga’s efforts, both victims were able to return to their families and are getting the counseling they need to heal and move forward with their lives.
■ Communications Officer of the Year: Shadrena Jones
The Communications Officer of the Year award was presented to Shadrena Jones, who regularly demonstrates a high level of professionalism and is always ready to respond to deploy public safety resources whenever and wherever they are needed.
Among her most noteworthy accomplishments in 2021 occurred on May 6 when a disturbance at a local motel turned into a two-county vehicle pursuit after a suspect that stole two patrol vehicles. Communications officer Jones maintained an open line of communication with the officers involved, updating location, speed and other vital information over the radio to all responding units.
As the pursuit continued, Communications Officer Jones was receiving information from multiple sources across multiple communication platforms.
Communications Officer Jones maintained calm in a chaotic environment. She provided clear and consistent updates on the radio. Communications officer Jones work in this case and many other critical incidents is commendable and worthy of recognition.
■ VCOP of the Year: Marci Davis
The VCOP of the Year award was presented to Marci Davis, who is the definition of a true community partner. She is dedicated to the Cocoa Police Department and the citizens of Cocoa.
As a VCOP in 2021, Marci went above and beyond to make herself available to anyone that needed her assistance. She volunteered throughout the year to make sure the department’s outreach efforts were successful. This includes helping collect school supplies for local children, gift wrapping toys during the annual Shop with a Cop event, donating space at Celebration Plaza to store, sort and bag toys for the toy drive, and helping make sure every child on the list had what was needed.
Marci has a true servant’s heart and she demonstrates this regularly by reaching out to residents during the Chief’s Community Walks, Community Watch meetings and volunteering with the Community Engagement Unit and many of the city’s special events and fundraisers.
As a VCOP she wanted to learn more about the city she serves, so she enrolled in the city’s Citizen’s Academy. In 2020, she founded the Relief Center Brevard, a non-profit dedicated to enriching the lives of local children and families by providing assistance in crisis and/or loss, helping with educational needs, extracurricular programs, and outreach to foster a sense of inclusion, and community involvement.
Her caring and compassion for helping others is exemplary. Her “service above self”, approach is a model for a mission statement she helped create. That is, Community First, Promoting Partnerships and Demonstrating Excellence. Marci Davis exemplifies this mission in everything she does, and we are proud to honor her with this award.
OTHER AWARD CATEGORIES AND RECIPIENTS:
■ Certificates of Appreciation: Taylor Tucker, Cocoa Beach Police Officer Michael Miller, Tommy Studstill, Gabrielle Martin, and one other citizen who chose to remain anonymous.
■ Community Service Ribbon: VCOP John Sauter, 1000 hours of service.
■ Unit Citation Ribbon: Sgt. Alan Worthy, Sgt. John Picheco, Detective Oscar Pimentel, Officer Eric Cronin, Officer Austin Manning, Communication Officers Michelle Perry and Kristen Sanders
■ Meritorious Service Ribbon: Sgt. Chris Bradshaw, Officer Rickford Leitch, Detective Chris Zuniga and Victim Advocate Coordinator Joanna Tabor.
■ Life Saving Ribbon: Officer Victor Carpenter, Officer David Thompson, Officer Bryan Baylis
■ VCOP of the 2nd Quarter: Daren Wiggins, Dorothy Sauter
■ VCOP of the 3rd Quarter: Marci Davis
■ VCOP of the 4th Quarter: John Sauter
■ Employee of the 1st Quarter: Wendy Stiteler
■ Employee of the 2nd Quarter: Steve Murdick
■ Employee of the 3rd Quarter: Dalaity Henson
■ Employee of the 4th Quarter: Yvonne Martinez
■ Communications Officer of the 2nd Quarter: Shadrena Jones
■ Communications Officer of the 3rd Quarter: Kathleen Dorans
■ Communications Officer of the 4th Quarter: Michelle Perry
■ Officer of the 1st Quarter: Agent Sayge Gray
■ Officer of the 2nd Quarter: Officer David Thompson
■ Officer of the 3rd Quarter: Detective Michael Cox
■ Officer of the 4th Quarter: Agent Ben Erskine
■ Chief’s Citation Medal: Officer Jim Frazier
■ Special Recognition: Commander Pat Dovale