A Yonkers police officer who was shot in the line of duty was among 17 officers honored today at the annual Westchester County Police Memorial Service and Honor Awards ceremony at the County Center in White Plains.
Police Officer Kayla Maher and five other members of the Yonkers Police Department were honored for the bravery and skillful tactics they demonstrated during the Sept. 25, 2017, gun battle that left Maher wounded. Maher, who was shot in the face and has since returned to work, received a standing ovation from the audience present at the ceremony.
Eleven other officers from the Yonkers, Mount Pleasant and White Plains police departments also were honored for acts of courage, skill and lifesaving during the past year.
The ceremony was presided over by County Executive George Latimer and Acting Commissioner Martin J. McGlynn of the Department of Public Safety. In addition to the award presentations, the names of 86 officers who lost their lives in the line of duty in Westchester were read aloud and taps were played to honor their memory.
“We honor these seventeen officers today because in a moment of crisis they rose to the occasion," Latimer said. "We are here to say thank you and show respect as a grateful County. We are also here to remember those who during their time protecting and serving their respective communities made the ultimate sacrifice and we are forever in debt to these individuals and their families.”
During the awards portion of the ceremony:
Captain Andrew Lane and Police Officers Thomas Bennett, Dawn Lebzelter, Kayla Maher, Brendan Moore and Vincent Reda of the Yonkers Police Department were honored for the “bravery, teamwork and diligence to duty” they demonstrated during the September shootout on a quiet residential street. Maher and Lebzelter responded to a report of a suspicious vehicle on the block and Maher was immediately shot as she approached the car. Maher’s colleagues exposed themselves to gunfire to rescue her, provided vital medical aid to the injured officer, and came under additional gunfire before taking two suspects into custody to end the harrowing incident.
Detective Sgt. Brian Moran and Detectives Sean Drain, Robert Villanueva, John Tyndal and Richard Devito of the Yonkers Police Department were honored for their actions following a homicide that occurred on Dec. 7, 2017, on Riverview Place. After locating and stopping a vehicle connected to the crime, the detectives arrested multiple suspects at gunpoint following a tense standoff. They seized three firearms the suspects were carrying – two .380-caliber weapons and a 9 mm handgun. The award citation noted that the detectives’ “keen observational skills and diligence to duty removed weapons from the streets of Yonkers and led to the identification of two murder suspects.” Evidence seized during the traffic stop will be vital to prosecuting the murder suspects, the citation noted.
Sgt. Eric Anttila and Detectives Marco Mendoza and Justin Jacobson of the Mount Pleasant Police Department were recognized for their successful investigation and fast arrest of a suspect who attempted to enter two occupied homes in the middle of the night on Nov. 17, 2017. Within hours, they developed information about the vehicle involved in the break-in attempts and traced it to its owner in the Bronx. They encountered the suspect in the lobby of his Bronx building, where the man admitted he had gone to Mount Pleasant to break into homes and have sex with the people inside. The suspect then became combative before he was subdued and taken into custody. The sergeant and two detectives were “commended for their dogged determination and investigative prowess, which lead to a quick arrest of a suspect.”
Sgt. Vincenzo Battaglia, Sgt. La Valle Larrier and Detective German Lopez received the lifesaving award for the quick actions and tactics they used to save a suicidal man on March 16, 2018. The incident began when German observed the man standing outside the railing of the Hamilton Avenue Bridge over the Bronx River Parkway. The man, who was emotionally distraught, would not speak with German and the other responding officers. When it appeared the man was getting ready to jump, the three officers were able to spread out and distract him, allowing German to grab him in a bear hug while Battaglia and Larrier pulled him back over the railing to safety. The award citation commended the trio “for their excellent communication, teamwork and decisive actions, which resulted in the saving of a life.”
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