Friday, June 22, 2018
Public safety

Pasco Sheriff's Office awards members at ceremony

They heard a gunshot and saw a little girl running. On May 6, while performing a welfare check, deputies forced their way into a Wesley Chapel home where a woman, Linda Losacano, hadn't been heard from for weeks. The woman's boyfriend, Timothy Dean Arnold, was inside the home with their 5-year-old daughter, Kylie. He had told neighbors Losacano was with her family, which was a lie. Her family also searched for her.

After hearing the gunshot inside the home, Lt. Mel Eakley was able to coax Kylie to come to him and he scooped her in his arms and ran her outside.

SWAT team members found that Arnold had killed himself.

Losacano is still missing.

Eakley and the other deputies — corporals Dave D'Agresta and Jeff Chandler and deputies Larry Caruso and Jen Belluccia — who got inside the home to take Kylie to safety were recognized this week at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office quarterly awards ceremony. All five were given the Meritorious Service Medal for Courage.

Other awards presented included:

Meritorious Service Medal for Courage

Sgt. Troy Law and Deputy Jeanie Spicuglia were honored for their actions in dealing with a violent, suicidal man in April in New Port Richey. The man fired several shots with his weapon and raised his weapon toward the deputies, who fired upon the man. The man was not hit, and Law and Spicuglia were able to wrestle the man's gun away from him and take him into custody.

Sheriff's Special Service Award

Kelly Plouffe, a licensed mental health counselor working with the Pasco County Sheriff's Office Missing and Abducted Child Team, was honored for her compassion and dedication when counseling children who have suffered trauma. One instance was highlighted when, on a late weekend hour in May, Plouffe was called in to help Kylie, the 5-year-old who was in the house when her father shot and killed himself. Plouffe "stayed on the scene for several hours, both comforting and interviewing the child, and educating the family on the effects the trauma would have on the child and how the family could best assist the child through this time," the Sheriff's Office said.

Citizen's Service Award

Steven Moniz, Ralph Bandino, Robert Snow and Patrick Alonso were lauded for their bravery in helping a deputy who was being beaten on a street. On June 14, Deputy Kevin Stevenson responded to a call of an erratic teenager jumping in front of cars. The teen ran and Stevenson tackled the teen — whose father then allegedly began beating Stevenson. Moniz, Bandino, Snow and Alonso stopped their cars and pulled the father off the deputy, the agency said. Stevenson, who was transported to a hospital for treatment, suffered injuries to his knees and shoulders.

Incentive Awards

Elizabeth Isbell, a latent print examiner, was honored for her tireless work in processing more than 1,400 fraudulent prescriptions, which led to identifying more than 55 suspects for trafficking prescription pills from Florida to Tennessee and Kentucky. This investigation was in addition to her normal workload.

Detention Deputy Billy Russell was praised for his supervision of the jail's cattle, swine, agriculture and hydroponics programs.

Deputy Michael Mielke was honored for helping to catch a burglar in the act. While patrolling State Road 56 in Wesley Chapel in June, he heard the sound of breaking glass and saw a car fleeing the scene with its headlights off. The suspect later was caught and charged with committing multiple burglaries in the area.

Meritorious Service Award for Accomplishment

• Citizen Service Unit members Robert Neelan, William Moore, Robert Kelley, Joseph Garrity, Walter Dyndur, Peter Dodig, Robert Docherty, Michael DeMatteo, Dennis Ciszeski and Angelo Baglieri were thanked for their service during a wildfire that burned hundreds of acres in Hudson in April. More than 150 people were evacuated from their homes.

Cpl. Jay Galassi and deputies Dan Green, Kelly Endricks, Stephen Sauls, Ryan Nye and Alfonso Alfaro were recognized for their pursuit of an armed robbery suspect in March. When they found the suspect, he tried to flee and rammed his car into a deputy's cruiser, the Sheriff's Office said.

Capt. Michael Schreck was lauded for his leadership of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office Honor Guard. Schreck has been the group's commander for 12 years. Every December, he begins planning the annual law enforcement memorial service, which is in May. "His supervision has made the Pasco memorial one of the premiere memorials in the Tampa Bay area," the Sheriff's Office said.

Lifesaving Award

• In March, Field Training Officer Gene Smith responded to a report of a man being stabbed at a New Port Richey bar. He found the man on the ground, bleeding profusely. Smith treated the man with a combat gauze bandage and created an occlusive dressing to prevent air from entering the man's chest cavity. Smith continued treating the man until paramedics arrived and took over.

Deputy Tim Bullock was eating lunch at the Pasco jail cafeteria in April when he saw another employee having trouble breathing. He began performing the Heimlich maneuver on her and she began breathing again.

Deputy Carlos Lopez was driving on Starkey Boulevard in April when another driver careened into his path and hit his cruiser. Lopez wasn't injured and believed the citizen was having some kind of medical issue. He performed CPR on the man until rescue workers arrived. The man later died.

Deputies Mark Murray, Craig Meissner and Jason Logue responded in April to a call of a suicidal man in Hudson. The man was surrounded by empty beer cans and holding a loaded shotgun with a box of ammunition nearby. The deputies were able to convince the man to put his gun down. The man was taken to a treatment facility.

Deputy Karen Newland and nurses Debra Ferrer and Teresa Rinaldi were lauded for saving the life of a suicidal jail inmate in April. The inmate had tied her medically approved back brace around her neck and tried to hang herself.

Deputies Jennifer Merriman and Major Drake and nurse Audrey Affissio also were recognized for saving the life of another suicidal inmate in April. This inmate also attempted to hang herself.

Cpls. Michael LaRoche and Clark Reese were honored for saving the life of a man whose leg was broken from a jet ski accident in Moon Lake. The marine unit deputies used their boat to reach the man and then towed him to safety.

Deputy Peter Vavoulis was commended for his quick thinking in June when he went on a welfare check at the home of a 70-year-old New Port Richey woman. The woman's sister hadn't been able to reach her for two days. Vavoulis got on scene, noticed the woman's mail piling up and got no response. He got the lock cut on the door and found the woman inside the house, pale and unable to speak. She was transported to a hospital.

Deputy Chris Miller was honored for helping to save the life of a 2-year-old child who nearly drowned in a pool in June in Dade City. Miller placed the child on his side and was about to perform CPR when the child began coughing up water and breathing on his own.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.

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