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Grosse Pointe Farms

March 20, 2013

Farms officers honored for stopping crime, saving lives

By K. Michelle Moran
C & G Staff Writer

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From left, Grosse Pointe Farms Detectives Bryan Ford, John Walko and Lt. Richard Rosati are honored for their work cracking a series of break-ins last year during the Merit Awards given out March 11 in front of the City Council.

GROSSE POINTE FARMS — The men and women who patrol the city’s streets every day would say they’re just doing their jobs, but city leaders say they do so much more than that.

For particular acts of exemplary service in the line of duty last year, members of the Public Safety Department were honored during the annual Merit Awards ceremony, which took place March 11 as part of the City Council meeting. As colleagues, friends and family members looked on and took photos, Public Safety Director Daniel Jensen, Deputy Director John Hutchins, Municipal Court Judge Matthew Rumora, Mayor James Farquhar, city administrators and council members offered their congratulations.

“It is again with great pleasure and pride that I present (the award recipients to you),” Jensen told officials.

A seemingly routine traffic stop of a man who reportedly stopped and then ran a red light at Moross and Kercheval turned into a potentially dangerous situation when it turned out that the male driver was armed and intoxicated, and had several bags of marijuana on him and inside his truck, Jensen said. Officer Roger Wierszewski received a commendation for stopping the driver on the dead-end street of Muskoka and making the arrest. The suspect, at one point, was seen leaning into the back of his truck, and Jensen said police found a loaded rifle on the backseat. They also located a .45 caliber handgun that had apparently been tossed from the suspect’s vehicle onto Muskoka. The suspect had previously been charged with murder and convicted of a weapons violation, Jensen said.

“All of the officers demonstrated a great coordination of effort,” Jensen continued. “PSO Wierszewski is commended for his actions that led to the arrest of a dangerous felon. Two firearms, drugs and an intoxicated driver were removed from the street with this single incident.”

For likely saving the life of a gunshot victim, officer Vincent Finn also received a commendation. Jensen said Finn had just completed a traffic stop when a vehicle coming from East Warren crashed into the Mack median in front of the Irish Coffee Bar & Grill restaurant. Both men inside the vehicle had been shot, and the passenger was already dead at the time of the accident. Jensen said Finn “focused on the driver” after checking for weapons and making sure the scene was safe for emergency responders, removing the badly injured driver and administering first aid before medics arrived. He said the driver “had been shot at least two times in the shoulder and pelvic area,” and at one point started choking on his own vomit. Jensen said Finn turned the man over and cleared his airway, then assisted medics in the ambulance as they rushed the driver to St. John Hospital and Medical Center. The driver ultimately survived.

“PSO Finn’s quick actions, clear and concise radio broadcasts, and quick first aid in an extremely stressful situation demonstrated the highest degree of professionalism and competency,” Jensen said.

Farquhar said Farms officers “catch the bad guys,” and that was certainly true with regard to the arrest of a purse-snatcher who knocked a woman to the ground as she was placing her 2-year-old into a car seat in the back of her vehicle in her driveway in the early morning hours Nov. 12. The suspect fled the scene on foot with the victim’s purse, and officer Timothy Harris spotted the suspect running across Mack toward Detroit. Harris, who stopped and identified the suspect, received a commendation for his work on this case, and Wierszewski and officer Veronica Cashion — who were also checking the Mack corridor at that time — received citations for their assistance. Jensen said the suspect “had a long history of this type of criminal activity” and had been hiding in the victim’s front bushes when he saw her vehicle running in the driveway and realized someone would be leaving the house soon.

“The officers involved in this case showed why rapid police response and coordination are so important in effective police work,” Jensen said.

Detective Bryan Ford — who was able to get the aforementioned suspect to confess to the crime — also got a confession from another suspect, a man who reportedly broke into a Farms restaurant storage shed Dec. 9, 2011. Jensen said on Feb. 2, 2012, Ford saw a Nixle crime alert about an arrest made by Harper Woods police of a man believed to be responsible for several breaking-and-entering cases in that city. Noticing a striking similarity in the way the crimes were committed, Jensen said Ford interrogated the suspect and got a confession and charges against him for the Farms case, as well as several other incidents in other cities, for which Ford was honored with a citation.

Officer Richard M. Rosati was honored with a citation for playing a critical role in identifying an unknown male jogger who collapsed and died in the area of Hall Place and Grosse Pointe Boulevard Aug. 3. Jensen said the jogger didn’t have any identification on him, but Rosati — having been told that runners sometimes parked on the boulevard and headed to Lake Shore to work out on the scenic road — checked out scores of parked vehicles, finally coming across one whose driver’s license photo resembled the deceased runner’s. Police were thus able to identify the jogger and notify his family.

Ford, Detective Lt. Richard Rosati — Officer Richard M. Rosati’s father — and Detective John Walko received a unit award for their investigation into a series of five home invasions May 21-24, which they believed — correctly, as it turned out — were committed by the same suspect. A task force from the department searched for the suspect, who was identified by a fingerprint left at one of the crime scenes. A shoe print would also later prove significant. Police arrested the suspect at an Eastpointe home, where they said he had three rocks of crack cocaine and some stolen jewelry on him.

“Because the suspect was barefoot at the time of arrest, Detective Walko, knowing that the suspect’s shoes could be crucial in connecting the suspect to the home invasion, surreptitiously asked if he had shoes to wear,” Jensen said. “(The) suspect said his shoes were in the house. Detective Walko retrieved the shoes (and they) were an exact match to the print in the victim’s house.” The suspect later confessed to the five Farms home invasions and was convicted, and he was also found to be responsible for two St. Clair Shores home invasions, Jensen said.

While still in the field training program, new Farms officer Veronica Cashion coordinated the Shop with a Cop program during the holidays — something she had done while working for the Harper Woods Police Department. Jensen said it was a “huge undertaking” that involved coordinating with local schools, stores, the bus system, police and public safety departments in the Pointes and Harper Woods, and more. For her work, she was given a community service award.

On the other end of the seniority spectrum, reserve officer Anthony “Tony” Prohownik retired last summer from his position as a police emergency support officer after more than 35 years of service, and his dedication was saluted by officials giving him a director’s service award. Jensen said Prohownik has the longest record of volunteer service in the department’s history, “a record that will undoubtedly stand the test of time.” He started as a radio unit officer.

“No one knows exactly how many years he’s been with us,” Jensen said. “He’s even outlasted the documents of his service, which date back to a time before the emergency support unit even existed.”

Director’s service awards were also given to adult crossing guards Cynthia Dowdall, Sarah Roberts, Sara Shea and Lisa Sicklesteel, who “add to the effectiveness of the student safety patrol members with whom they often serve and whose activity they help to direct,” Jensen said.

Farquhar was among those who offered kudos to the award recipients.

“This is one of my favorite events of the year,” Farquhar said. “Our officers do an excellent job of keeping the community very safe.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer K. Michelle Moran at kmoran@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1047.