Local heroes have their day

Selbyville police officer wins Valor Award for response to shooting

Date Published: 
February 28, 2014

Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: Those recognized at the 2014 Joshue M. Freeman Valor Awards, hosted by the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce at Bear Trap Dunes last Friday, stand with their awards, and the people who nominated them. Coastal Point • R. Chris Clark: Those recognized at the 2014 Joshua M. Freeman Valor Awards, hosted by the Bethany-Fenwick Area Chamber of Commerce at Bear Trap Dunes last Friday, stand with their awards, and the people who nominated them. Police officers never know what danger lurks behind a closed door, like last autumn, when Lt. Brian Wilson entered a home with shooter at large. In moments like those, “you just fall back on your training,” he said.

The Selbyville Police officer was well-trained — and fortunate — enough to maintain his composure, help the victims, arrest the subject and then win the 2014 Joshua M. Freeman Valor Award as a result.

The Valor Awards are given to an EMT, a paramedic, a firefighter and police officer from each town. Wilson won the overall honor for going above and beyond the call duty in the department and community.

Wilson was dispatched to a shooting in 2013, where he located the victim, assured she was being treated and continued to a commotion in the neighboring apartment. Inside, he found that two people had been shot at, and the shooter was still onsite. Wilson located and took him into custody, then remained on-scene to coordinate evidence and witness statements.

“Lt. Wilson’s quick and courageous actions were exemplary and quite possibly kept this from becoming a more tragic event,” read his nomination.

Although the unknown is challenging, Wilson said that’s the best part of policing: “You never know what’s going to happen. Everyday is something new.”

He was honored to be recognized alongside other emergency personnel.

Police Chief W. Scott Collins nominated the quiet and consistent Lt. Wilson.

“He doesn’t get rattled, doesn’t get shaken, just a really solid officer. That calmness is a huge benefit for any kind of a serious incident,” said Collins. “Anytime you’ve got a situation, whether it be domestic or child custody, a lot of turmoil going on, the calmness of his demeanor — it has a calming effect on everyone else.”

Collins laughed that Wilson just waits for people to stop talking and look at him expectantly.

The Valor Awards shine some light on these men and women’s hard work.

“I think it’s good for the community … it’s an eye-opener for everyone to see the high caliber of people we have,” Collins said. “Like paramedics — we see them at firehouses and joke with them, and then say, ‘Oh they did that. That’s who worked that call.’”

“Heroes walk among us every day. There are those who sacrifice their own safety in order to protect of others,” said Patti Grimes, executive director of The Freeman Stage at Bayside, encouraging people to thank emergency responders. “We are truly lucky to live in such a serene, peaceful place. Today’s stories … truly exhibit courage and collaboration under pressure.”

Sixteen other first responders were honored for selflessness and courage in 2013.

William “Bill” Bowden Sr. has held numerous positions at Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company in 18 years, including firefighter, fire police officer, chief engineer and current Fire Police captain. A top responder in six of the last ten years, Bowden responds to nearly 300 calls in a year, exemplifying Bethany’s mission to serve.

Christopher Uibel couldn’t stay away from Roxana Volunteer Fire Company. After joining in 2002, he left to attend school and start a family, but returned in 2011. Actively taking night calls for ambulance and fire service, he has also completed hundreds of hours in training and is enthusiastic in serving his community and getting things done.

Soon after joining Millville Volunteer Fire Company in 1978, Doug Scott developed a book of local maps to be carried on each piece of apparatus. With directions, house numbers, hazards and other facts, the maps are still carried today. Although computers now carry that information on trucks, electronics sometimes fail, and the paper books are still called into service. A leader in the company, he has also brought his family into service.

Firefighters Dylan Sharp and Billy Ireland Jr. earned Frankford’s nomination for a serious ATV accident involving a 14-year-old with no helmet. When someone tried to drive him to the hospital, the teen’s condition took a sudden downturn, the driver to stopped at Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company, where Sharp and Ireland realized he suffered from an open skull fracture. They stabilized the teen and summoned backup.

When paramedics Gabi Evans and Dave Hammerer arrived from Sussex County Emergency Medical Services, they began advanced life support measures. High winds prevented helicopter transportation, so they loaded him into an ambulance. Despite fractures of the spine, face, knee and skull, Kalob Rickards has undergone surgery and therapy and was able to attend the Valor Awards himself.

Firefighter and EMT Vaughn McCabe was nominated by Fenwick Island Police for his quick action one autumn morning. A Fenwick Public Works employee received a life-threatening injury when loading a dumpster with heavy items. A heavy pane of glass broke and lacerated his arm. McCabe saw the accident and began treatment, changing gears when the victim went into shock.

In part two of the story, Bethany Beach EMTs Philip Brackin and Brice Hickman arrived and applied a tourniquet and loaded him into an ambulance. The crew met Paramedics en route to Lewes, and they all continued treatment, collaborating to save victim from severe hemorrhage.

EMT Michele Steffens was honored for her many contributions to Millville Volunteer Fire Company. Administratively, she leads the ambulance fund, ensuring all money is deposited and donors get credit. She also spends countless hours standing by at the fire house to ensure both ambulances are manned. On the rare chance she is unavailable, she helps schedule, to ensure shifts are filled — a truly inspirational volunteer.

Bonnie Mitchell was a career EMT at Roxana called to another ATV accident. A woman was traumatically injured, her face bleeding heavily, with her eyes swollen shut – having broken every bone in her face. Mitchell was professional and comforted the woman, who was treated and later visited Roxana. The woman recognized Mitchell’s voice, saying, “I will never forget the kindness and care that I received.”

Four other police officers were honored from Bethany Beach, Dagsboro, South Bethany and Ocean View.

Sgt. Patrick Foley was dispatched to Bethany Beach Bandstand in summer, where a man had collapsed, his heart stopped. Knowing that a seasonal officer had begun chest compressions, Foley grabbed a police A.E.D. With his electric shock and the compressions, the man’s heart began to pump again. He was transported to the hospital, and the officers’ quick thinking may have saved his life.

Sgt. Harry Litten took the reins in Dagsboro for a year when their chief was activated for military service in Afghanistan. Besides administrative duties, Litten also implemented several federal grants Chief Floyd Toomey had applied for, like Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Grant and the K-9 Homeland Security Grant Program.

Patrolman Nicholas Harrington hit the ground running in Ocean View. After graduating from academy in 2012, he developed a knack for uncovering illegal drug activity and has made numerous drug related arrests, including for a heroin operation in town. He did surveillance and maintained police informants in addition to his regular patrol duties.

South Bethany’s Lt. Troy Crowson wasn’t even on duty when he heard about a home invasion over the radio in his own car. Two people were allegedly forced to drive to an ATM for cash. Crowson saw and followed the described vehicle into the Ocean View Fulton Bank. When Ocean View Police arrived, the hijacked car — with a handgun found in the backseat — attempted to escape, only to be blocked by Crowson’s vehicle. Two suspects were taken into custody, and two would follow later.

The 10th Annual Joshua M. Freeman Valor Award Luncheon presented by the Carl M. Freeman Companies. The Valor Award Ceremony was renamed in 2008 to honor Freeman’s long time support of the event and the community’s first responders.