Honoring heroes: Cobb officials recognize police officers, citizens at annual ceremony
Cobb Police Officer Charles Vill is honored by Chief John Houser with the Blue Star Award during the Cobb County Police Department’s 2015 Awards and Recognition Ceremony at the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre on Tuesday. Vill was shot five times during a traffic stop and had to retrain and qualify to shoot with his left hand before rejoining the department on active duty. The Cobb Police Department also presented Vill the Lifesaving Award for saving a teenage couple from an exploding car.
Staff-Kelly J. Huff
Cobb Police Field Training Officer E.D. Smith is congratulated by Houser for being named the Field Training Officer of the Year.
Cobb Police Officers E. Ainsworth and J.A. Chalk lead a line of officers being recognized for their on-the-scene performance during a shooting at a Kennesaw FedEx facility last year as they shake hands with Cobb County Commissioner JoAnn Birrell and her fellow commissioners
MARIETTA — Police officers and citizens were honored Tuesday for their service and noble acts of 2014, including an officer who was shot five times in the line of duty and made a full recovery.
The Cobb Board of Commissioners and the county’s law enforcement chiefs were on hand to congratulate award recipients at the Cobb Police Department’s 2015 Awards and Recognition Ceremony at the Anderson Theatre.
Officer Charles Vill received the Blue Star award, which is given to an officer who was severely wounded in the line of duty.
According to police, at about 2:25 a.m. on February 4, 2014, Vill pulled over a vehicle he suspected was involved in a drug transaction. As he approached the vehicle, however, the suspect — James Albert Phillips — opened fire on Vill.
Vill was hit in his left bicep, his stomach, twice in his bulletproof vest and in his right index finger, which was severed and required amputation. He has undergone many surgeries and learned how to shoot with his left hand after losing the use of his right index finger.
The Cobb Police Department also presented Vill the Lifesaving Award for saving a teenage couple from an exploding car. He arrived on the scene to see a car on fire after it had been involved in a wreck. One teenager stood outside and the other remained in the car, collecting belongings.
Police say Vill noticed the fire and knew the gas tank could explode at any point, so he grabbed the two teenagers and took them across the street. The car exploded shortly thereafter.
Ten other officers received the Lifesaving Award.
Mike Jones and Dean Scott, both of the Cobb Department of Transportation, and Lt. Jim Easterly of the Cobb Sheriff’s Department, received the Meritorious Service Award.
According to the presentation, on May 14, Jones and Scott noticed a Cobb police officer sitting unconscious in his police vehicle in a parking lot. They called 911 and removed the officer from the vehicle.
Seventeen officers and one firefighter received the Bureau Commendation Certificate for demonstrating outstanding performance.
Lt. Danny Parrott, Sgt. L.C. Clark, Officer E. Ainsworth, Officer J.A. Chalf, Officer T.M. Desrosiers, Officer T.D. Jackson, Officer A.M. Singleton, Officer D.L. Spiker and Cobb firefighter D.R. Lowe were commended for their handling of a gunman at a FedEx facility last year.
Geddy Kramer of Acworth, 19, took his own life at the Kennesaw warehouse after shooting six others. Police arrived about nine minutes after the initial 911 call and were able to lock down the scene, preventing any further violence.
Carlos Camacho, Martin Ruiz, Maurice Ellis, Shela Ellis and Harold Owenby received the Department Commendation Certificate, which is given to citizens for their assistance to the police department.
On July 23, Cobb police said emergency personnel were dispatched after an infant was reported as unresponsive.
Before EMTs arrived, police said Ruiz was able to get the infant breathing again by dislodging a hard plastic object from the baby’s throat with a back slap, after which Camacho began providing CPR until the infant began to breathe again.
On June 25, a teenager was struck by a vehicle while attempting to cross the East-West Connector on foot, police said. According to police, Maurice and Shela Ellis were in the area, noticed the teenager unconscious in the road and sprung to action, helping the teen as well as the driver of the vehicle until emergency personnel arrived.
Tuesday’s ceremony also honored civilians and sworn officers who retired in 2014. Together, the 16 retirees have more than 414 years of service in the department.
Twelve officers were given promotions during the ceremony: Davender Ablashi, Kenneth Clausen, Ray Drew, Darrin Hull, Ronnie Hyatt, Paul Kincade, Jason Poole and Lee Turman were all promoted to sergeant; Damon Ballard, James Benson and Anthony Leo were promoted to lieutenant; and James Ferrell was promoted to captain.
When Clausen’s name was called and he walked across the stage, a child in the audience yelled, “Yay, Daddy!”
Other awardees include Drew Brown Community Service Award recipient Officer John Munro and Field Training Officer of the Year E.D. Smith.
Colton Adamczyk, son of Detective Ken Adamczyk, received the $1,000 Harlan Sawatski Scholarship, which is given each year to a dependent of a Cobb police member.
At the start of the ceremony, Cobb Police Chief John Houser told the audience that 2014 was the first year in many the department hired more than it lost.
Houser said that is because of Cobb’s reputation as a professional and well-trained police force, noting he’s heard applicants say they were specifically referred to Cobb.
“(Other) departments and officers tell them, ‘If you’re interested in a law enforcement job, you need to be in the Cobb County Police Department,’” Houser said.
Commissioner Lisa Cupid said public safety officers have a unique role compared to other county employees because of the risk associated with their job.
“I think it’s something that we easily take for granted,” Cupid said. “It’s important for us to at least take one time a year to recognize them for the work that they do and to recognize the outstanding accomplishments they have.”
Commissioner Bob Weatherford said it is important to recognize public safety officers because theirs is a “thankless” job.
“If we don’t recognize them, no one else will,” Weatherford said. “You only hear the bad; you never hear the good. I think it’s very important to let them know we care about them. … Cobb County’s got the finest and we’re very proud of them.”