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 From left, Officer Travis Kaufman and Rocky, Officer Gerald Chomos and Wylie, and Officer Tom Price and Maz bring the K-9 officers to the Call to Courage Police Appreciation and Awards breakfast May 29.

From left, Officer Travis Kaufman and Rocky, Officer Gerald Chomos and Wylie, and Officer Tom Price and Maz bring the K-9 officers to the Call to Courage Police Appreciation and Awards breakfast May 29.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

St. Clair Shores officers honored, new K-9s introduced at Call to Courage

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published June 4, 2019

ST. CLAIR SHORES — Two new probationary officers, who don’t yet have their badges, were introduced at the annual Call to Courage St. Clair Shores Police Appreciation and Awards breakfast May 29.

When K-9 Axe was killed in November 2018 in the line of duty, “the outpouring of support from this community was so amazing,” Police Chief Todd Woodcox said.

Although Axe cannot be replaced, he said, donations to the department enabled it to bring two new K-9s onto the force to work with the remaining K-9 officer, Wylie.

Officer Tom Price, who was Axe’s handler, now has a new furry partner, Maz. And Officer Travis Kaufman is working with K-9 Rocky. The two new dogs, along with Wylie and Officer Gerald Chomos, made their first public appearance at the awards breakfast, presented by the St. Clair Shores Optimist Club and held at Assumption Cultural Center.

The officers involved in the Nov. 4, 2018, shooting at Lakeland Manor received a unit citation for their efforts that day. In describing the efforts of officers Tom Price, Treavor Head, John Hammell, Jessie Smith, Travis Kaufman, Donald McLeod, James Ziemiecki and Axe, Woodcox paraphrased a quote from Clint Eastwood in “Heartbreak Ridge”:

“Jumping out of an airplane is an extremely unnatural act,” he quoted. “Running toward an armed, violent felon who is shooting at you is an extremely unnatural act. Because of their rapid, selfless actions, a man who was intent upon doing massive harm in a gunfight was stopped without any civilian injuries.”

Woodcox said that he would have liked to be able to say more about the incident, but because the city is currently being sued by the family of the man who was also killed that night — Theoddeus Gray, 29, of Detroit — and because the family asked the Michigan Attorney General’s Office to investigate the shooting and that investigation is ongoing, “I can’t specifically comment about the case.”

Woodcox said that the investigation by the office of Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel began in early 2019, and he has no indication of when it will be concluded.

“They have not shared any information with us other than letting us know that they’re investigating the shooting,” Woodcox said May 30.

Speaking at the awards breakfast, however, he said he is confident that the investigation will find that the officers’ actions were justified.

Narcotics Detective Brandon Cawley was also honored at the breakfast for his role in the apprehension of a person suspected of dealing cocaine who had, at the time of his arrest, more than 1 kilogram of cocaine in his possession, plus cash, handguns and vehicles.

Officer Kevin Cynowa was honored for his work apprehending a carjacking suspect while he was conducting surveillance on an unrelated case for the narcotics bureau.

Officers Treavor Head and Mark Stevelinck received lifesaving awards at the breakfast for their work in helping a man who had a heart attack and crashed his vehicle in December.

Woodcox said the fact that only a handful of officers were honored with awards does not take anything away from the “outstanding work” of the rest of the department.

“It’s not just the big, grandiose things,” he said. “It’s the day-in, day-out hard work of each and every member of our department, doing the little things that make a difference.”