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Pinellas County Sheriff's Office names Law Enforcement Deputies of the Year

SEMINOLE — Pinellas deputies Cpl. Michael Papamichael and Detective Paul F. Cooke were singled out among their peers during an awards ceremony Wednesday.

In March 2010, the two also found themselves paired up, but the situation was anything but celebratory.

According to officials, here's what happened:

Alexander B. Epstein, 19, was so obsessed with guns he was known to practice his quick-draw in the mirror.

At a party in Clearwater on March 20, 2010, Epstein shot three young men, killing two and sending the other to the hospital for a monthlong stay, authorities said.

Later that day, deputies from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office tracked Epstein to a home on Clearwater Beach. Confronted by Papamichael, Epstein pulled a handgun from his waistband and pointed it at the deputy, officials said.

Papamichael opened fire, striking Epstein four times.

Cooke rushed in to help, pulling his cruiser between Epstein and Papamichael to provide cover for the corporal.

"He was trying to protect me," Papamichael, 41, said Wednesday.

Epstein lay on the ground, his finger still on the trigger of the gun in his outstretched hand. The deputies yelled at him several times to stop moving. When Epstein refused, the deputies opened fire again, killing him.

Papamichael and Cooke were honored Wednesday afternoon in front of their peers, friends and family at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office annual awards banquet at the Seminole Recreation Center Complex.

Both men said they were humbled by the award, which they say came at the conclusion of a tragic event that left a total of three people dead.

"The reality is that we took a life," said Cooke, 57.

But Sheriff's Office officials praised the men for risking their own lives to stop a rampage that could have claimed more lives. The two were named the Pinellas sheriff's Deputies of the Year for 2010, a prestigious award created in 1973 by two longtime Pinellas County residents, the late Ruth and Tim Johnson.

The two officers were among nearly 200 agency members honored at the ceremony, including the agency's robbery/homicide unit, which solved each of the 13 homicides it investigated last year, and the team that worked more than 400 hours building a case that led to the 2010 conviction of the drunk driver who hit and maimed Andrew Hall in Safety Harbor in April 2009.

Major awards at Pinellas Sheriff's Office ceremony

Law Enforcement Deputies of the Year

Cpl. Michael Papamichael and Detective Paul F. Cooke

Detention Deputy of the Year

David R. Schultz

Schultz, who has been with Sheriff's Office since 1995, thwarted an escape attempt at the Pinellas County Jail in May 2010. Schultz, 45, called for backup, confronted the man at gunpoint and pulled him off the fence with the help of other deputies. The man had been sentenced to 30 years in prison as a habitual offender for charges including robbery with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault a week before the escape attempt.

Forensic Science

Specialist of the Year

Woodburn "Woody" Miller

Miller, a 21-year veteran with the agency, volunteered with the sheriff's Regional Domestic Security Task Force to repair and upgrade fleet and forensic equipment needed to work large-scale crime or disaster. Colleagues and supervisors said Miller, 59, was helpful to colleagues, passionate about work and highly regarded by his peers. "He's the kind of man I think we all should emulate in the dedication to his work," said Louis Kubler II. The award honors Kubler's father, the late Louis Kubler I, who served the Sheriff's Office from 1959 to 1984.

The Falone-David 24/7 Award

Detective John D. Grubb

Grubb, 41, was off duty at a grocery store in October when he saw a known sex offender wearing a law enforcement badge, authorities said. Grubb, with the Sheriff's Office since 1990, stopped the man after he left the store without paying for his items. The man, who was convicted of a sex crime in South Carolina in 1992 and has numerous previous convictions for impersonating police officers, had some strange items in his car, which resembled a police cruiser. Deputies said they found a stun gun, a police radio and ads placed on Craigslist by women seeking a male roommate.

The Jackie Clement Award

Child protection investigation clerk Tamika L. Griffin

Griffin was recognized for outstanding performance as a "case builder" for the CPI unit. Griffin, 40, who was chosen unanimously by her peers, joined the agency in 2000. The award is named after Jacqueline C. Clement, a highly respected CPI data specialist who died suddenly in 2004.

Pinellas County Sheriff's Office names Law Enforcement Deputies of the Year 05/04/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 11:30pm]
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