Royal Oak police announce 2020 departmental awards

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published May 30, 2021

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ROYAL OAK — During the May 10 Royal Oak City Commission meeting, Royal Oak Police Chief Corrigan O’Donohue presented the Police Department’s annual awards for 2020.

“This is the time we present all the great work the men and women of the Royal Oak Police Department do throughout the previous year,” O’Donohue said. “Just like last May, we can’t present to officers in person, although we really like to do that to acknowledge them publicly.”

While 2020 was a strange year for all, he said, the men and women of the department continued to do their jobs admirably. The commendation board consisted of O’Donohue, Deputy Chief Mike Moore, Sgt. Dominick Catanese, Detective Keith Bierenga, and officer Andre Stienke.

Public service aides Teri Murray, Paul Urbanowicz, Joseph Ivy, Marcie Cherry, Ben Cameron, Christine Page, Tom Tinari, Brooke Williams and Ashley Palomba received a unit citation for quickly validating and individually packing all Royal Oak warrants to comply with state requirements.

“(They) worked together as a team and did an excellent job taking the time and effort to inspect and update each individual warrant,” O’Donohue said. “This was a tedious and painstaking process that had to be done correctly.”

Murray received a certificate of commendation, and a letter of recommendation went out to Lt. Karly Renaud; Sgt. Brian Kucel; Sgt. Jason Manning; officers Terry Oaks, Kyle Adair, David Ratliff, Michael Clement, Jacob Gostiaux, Steve Hodges, Kevin Isaacson and Tyler Snyder; Williams and cadet Renee Hertz for their actions July 7.

“A strong, fast-moving storm ripped through Royal Oak causing damage with numerous wires and trees down. The storm caused multiple roads to be closed due to high water and trees blocking them,” O’Donohue said. “All personnel working that day did an extraordinary job handling all of the calls, both inside the communications center as well as on the road.”

He added that Murray was the lone dispatcher at the time and, by the end of her shift, she had dispatched 125 police runs and 52 fire runs.

A unit citation went to Sgt. Joseph Francis; Manning; officers Ratliff, Gerald Karr, Hodges, Trevor Holston, John Love, Clement; and Tinari for their response to a Feb. 10 apartment fire.

“The officers began to evacuate the tenants in surrounding apartments as ROFD was setting up their equipment,” O’Donohue said. “Several apartments had to be forced open either with a ram or officers kicking in the doors to ensure the safety of the residents.”

He said the apartments were filled with smoke and while several officers had minor smoke inhalation, none needed medical attention. Due to their teamwork and courage, no residents were injured.

Gostiaux and officer Jessica Reece received a certificate of commendation for assisting the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office in locating a subject wanted for a dangerous weapons warrant Sept. 22.

The pair chased the subject, who fled from his vehicle on foot, through several backyards, jumping fences, ultimately holding the suspect at gunpoint and taking him into custody without incident. During the pursuit, a neighboring jurisdiction erroneously broadcast that shots were fired, and Reece quickly advised that no shots had been fired.

“This quick thinking prevented a potentially chaotic response for other responding officers,” O’Donohue said.

Kucel earned a meritorious service award, and Steinke, officer Katlyn Smith and Community Engagement Officer Jill Mahlmeister, of the Ferndale Police Department, received a certificate of commendation for their service assisting the Ferndale Police Department with a criminal sexual conduct suspect hiding in a Royal Oak basement.

Kucel located the suspect hiding under the stairs holding a handgun inside his mouth and began giving verbal commands to drop the gun, which drew the other officers to the basement. Due to the armed suspect’s location, the officers were confined to the basement.

“Sgt. Kucel demonstrated great courage and leadership by not only confronting the suspect, but also trying to reason with him,” O’Donohue said. “(His) attention to detail and leadership skills led to this stressful incident ending safely.”

Officers Mitchell Miller and Kristen Karr received a certificate of commendation for how they handled a traffic stop on a suspicious vehicle driving without headlights on Dec. 8.

The passengers admitted that the red solo cups in the center console contained alcohol and the officers learned that both were on parole. After a probable cause search, the officers discovered four handguns, of which two were later confirmed stolen, and an AR-15 rifle in the vehicle.

“Their thorough investigation resulted in three (carrying concealed weapon) arrests and getting five firearms off the streets,” O’Donohue said.

Officer Michael Stajich earned a meritorious service award for his apprehension of a carjacking suspect out of Southfield Dec. 19. The driver fled from an attempted traffic stop and bailed from the stolen vehicle, which struck a tree and a large rock. Stajich then deployed K-9 Jesse to pursue the suspect on foot.

Jesse ultimately tracked the suspect to a residential garage, where officers found him hiding and took him into custody.

Officers Andrew Izydorek, Matt Bobek and Cathy Szydowski received a meritorious service award and Cherry, Detective Daniel Pelletier and Murray received a certificate of commendation for arresting two members of the Felony Lane Gang, who were in the middle of breaking into vehicles in Royal Oak and Troy, in the Royal Oak Kroger parking lot. Pelletier also identified a third suspect and obtained multi-count felony charges for all three suspects.

Lt. Keith Spencer earned a distinguished service award for taking the lead during construction of the new Police Department, ensuring the building was a “model of efficiency” and making the transition “nearly seamless,” all with a positive attitude, open mind and attention to detail, O’Donohue said.

“He played a key role in the coordination of moving our dispatch and investigation bureaus to neighboring jurisdictions during the move into our new facility,” O’Donohue said. “Lt. Spencer also relied on his vast knowledge of computers, technology and integration to assist in the transition to our new building.”

Officers Jordan Desano, Corey Stiers and Jacob Theisen earned a meritorious service award and Sgt. Chris Platt, Sgt. Tim Brown and officers Bruce Handrinos, Ryan Moran, Andrew Nadrowski, Gostiaux, Smith and Kevin Thelen received a certificate of commendation for their response to a report of a June 26 stabbing.

A suspect injured two victims and barricaded himself in his apartment. Police found him naked in his shower, and he intentionally defecated on officers, attempted to launch himself off his balcony, and spit and kicked at officers while being escorted out of the apartment, claiming he was trying to infect them with HIV and COVID-19.

Once in a jail cell, he removed his spit mask and tied it around his neck. When Desano entered the cell to remove the mask, the suspect dipped it in his toilet and threw it at Desano, hitting him in the face.

O’Donohue said the officers “put themselves in danger, endured a great deal of abuse and showed great restraint in apprehending a dangerous suspect that had just stabbed two victims.”

Desano received the 2020 Officer of the Year award, and Catherine Koehn received the 2020 Civilian of the Year award.

“Congratulations to all of the members of our Police Department that were recognized tonight,” Mayor Michael Fournier said. “I think it speaks volumes about the Royal Oak Police Department that, even though 2020 was supposed to be a quieter year for calls, it doesn’t mean we don’t get crazy calls. … They continued to act with great concern for the safety of the community and didn’t let the pandemic interfere with their professional standards.”

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