The State Police Purple Heart was presented to Trooper Charles W. Christopher IV, of Troop H, Chambersburg, who was shot in the line of duty. On July 17, 2015, Christopher and Trooper Ralph A. Hockenberry, Jr., of Troop T, Everett, were dispatched to a mobile home in Franklin County for a report of shots fired. This was the second time that troopers had responded to the residence that evening. As they exited their patrol vehicle, the male suspect confronted them from his front porch with a .30-30 rifle. The man refused to drop the weapon and began shooting at the troopers. During the exchange of gunfire, the suspect was shot multiple times and Christopher was shot in the leg. Christopher and Hockenberry received Commissioner’s Letters of Commendation for exemplary performance during this incident.
Receiving the State Police Commendation Medal were Troopers Michael E. Pahira and Matthew A. Tonitis, both of Troop L, Schuylkill Haven. During a midnight shift on January 28, 2016, Pahira and Tonitis responded to a residential fire and found smoke pouring out of the building. Pahira, Tonitis and Pottsville Police Officer Joseph Krammes formed a human chain as they proceeded into the building. They made their way through the smoke to the third floor where they heard cries for help. They located and rescued a male tenant as Pottsville Police Corporal Renee Truscott and Officer Tina Sullivan cleared the first floor. All 11 residents of the four-unit apartment building were accounted as flames consumed the building. Pottsville City Police Corporal Renee Truscott and Officers Joseph Krammes and Tina Sullivan were presented Commissioner’s Letters of Commendation for excellence in performance.
The 2016 State Police Trooper of the Year is Trooper William E. Binion II, of Troop B, Uniontown, who also received the Deputy Commissioner’s Letter of Commendation. On April 29, 2015, Binion and another member were serving an arrest warrant and noticed the male subject was hiding his hand under a blanket. When instructed to show his hands, the man pulled out a gun and pointed it at his head. Binion dove on top of the subject as the man pulled the trigger and was quick enough to deflect the bullet. Binion suffered a minor laceration, and the uninjured, suicidal man was transported to the hospital for a mental health commitment
Enforcement Officer 3 Frank S. Spera was named the 2016 Enforcement Officer of the Year for his assistance with an incident on November 3, 2015, when he learned of an approaching pursuit on I-76. He notified dispatchers of his location and seconds later, the fleeing vehicle became disabled from a previous crash. The suspect fled into the woods with a member from Troop K and Spera hot on his trail. They tackled the subject on the ground and took him into custody. Spera also received a Bureau Director’s Letter of Commendation for this incident.
Sandra R. Ammerman, of Troop G, Rockview, was presented the 2016 Police Communications Operator of the Year Award. On September 22, 2015, Ammerman was informed of a homicide suspect who was driving a stolen pickup truck on I-80 in Centre County. When troopers located the vehicle, the suspect fled at speeds over 100 miles per hour. After the deployment of stop sticks successfully flattened both front tires, the driver crashed into a front yard. The man drove through the yard, around the house and back onto the road until he was stopped and taken into custody. A handgun was located behind the passenger seat. Ammerman maintained a calm demeanor and full control of communications while handling radio traffic and telephone calls from multiple stations.
The recipient of the 2016 Employee of the Year Award was April B. Diehl, an Information Technology Technician at Troop G, Hollidaysburg. Among the outstanding service consistently provided, Diehl handled all technology and radio duties involving the state police’s involvement at Pennsylvania State University football games. She coordinated a server upgrade for Troop G, assumed responsibility for the procurement and installation of security cameras at all of the stations in the troop, and was responsible for the troop’s radio needs during the Pope’s visit.
Diehl’s dedication to the improvement and operation of communication and equipment enables the state police to provide more effective and efficient service to the citizens of Pennsylvania.
The Commissioner’s Area Command Significant Achievement Awards are presented to a group of individuals within each area command for a substantial accomplishment that clearly distinguishes them and/or their respective area and enhances the prestige of the Department.
The Area I recipients were members of the Troop M Major Case Team who solved the November 2014 murder of Jessica L. Padgett in Northampton County. Within five days of her disappearance and through their committed efforts, the victim’s stepfather confessed to shooting her in the back of the head. He abused her corpse before burying her on his property.
The Area II recipients were members of the Troop H Major Case Team, along with members from the Troop L Patrol Unit and the Bureaus of Criminal Investigation, Information Technology and Training and Education for solving the 2012 murder of Annemarie Fitzpatrick in York County. The investigation involved more than 100,000 pages of documents, over 40 search warrants, electronic surveillance, consensual wire intercepts, computer crime and social media analysis and a large-scale re-creation of the scene. The selfless act of tenacity and dedication resulted in the arrest of her husband and a subsequent conviction on May 13, 2015.
The Area III recipients were members of the Troop A Vice and Patrol Units, Troop D Vice Unit and the Bureau of Criminal Investigation. Their diligence led to the arrest of three drug dealers and the seizure of 17,424 baggies of heroin, two kilograms of cocaine, 18 grams of crack cocaine, seven grams of marijuana, $6,549, two handguns (one of which was stolen) and an assault rifle. The amount of drugs seized had a street value of nearly $500,000.
Information posted from PSP Press Release