During a tense Feb. 17 traffic stop with a man who refused to get out of the car, Deputy Paul Downey sounded a split-second alert:
"He's got a gun!"
New Port Richey Sgt. Erik Jay ducked just as Jason Wilson pulled his gun and fired a shot through the window. The bullet narrowly missed Jay's head. Officers returned fire, killing Wilson, 29. Jay later told investigators that Downey's warning may have saved his life.
Downey received a standing ovation this week as he was honored with the Medal of Valor at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office quarterly awards ceremony.
Others honored at the ceremony included:
• Meritorious Service Medal for Courage and Lifesaving Award to Deputy Kelly Endricks, who used his baton Feb. 12 to smash the sunroof of an overturned car, pulling out the driver trapped inside. Endricks avoided the live wires near the wrecked car and pulled the man out just seconds before the car went up in flames.
• Meritorious Service Medal for Courage to Sgt. James Browning and Deputy Thomas Stubblefield for entering the home of a Moon Lake man who had shot himself Dec. 17, and persuading him to put down the gun and unlock the bedroom door so he could receive help.
• Lifesaving Award to Sgt. Ben Barrington and Cpl. Clark Reese, who broke into a New Port Richey garage on Jan. 8 to cut down a man who was hanging himself. The man survived.
• Meritorious Service Medal for Accomplishment to Detective Justin Ross for identifying suspects in multi-jurisdictional fraud cases, creating a database to log crime patterns and providing fraud training to other agency investigators.
• Meritorious Service Medal for Accomplishment to Cpl. Tim Spitzer for his commitment to youth instruction at Safety Town, and his efforts to ensure the Safety House and new Concourse sign were completed on time.
• Employee Incentive Award to Deputy Jessica Haskins for her diligence in catching suspects in several different burglaries. In one case she used her interview techniques to detain a suspect by making him think she was in the neighborhood to investigate something else.
• Employee Incentive Award to Deputy Michael Sentner, a detention deputy praised for his leadership and dedication to the agency's mission. He saved the agency thousands of dollars by determining it would be cheaper to repair a body scanner than buy a new one; and when he earned an incentive day for his performance on a physical assessment test, he donated the off time to a co-worker who has a sick child.
• Employee Incentive Award to Jim Dodrill, the agency's director of forfeiture, for his efforts to seize money and vehicles used in crimes. The Sheriff's Office seized a record-breaking $8.3-million in assets last year, of which the agency was allowed to keep $1.5-million.
• Citizen's Service Award to Frank White, a Wesley Chapel resident who noticed a neighbor's home being burglarized. He got the burglar's license plate and provided the information to deputies, who made an arrest.