November 17, 2020
Story and photos by Tyler Eckel
HAMILTON TOWNSHIP (MERCER): The Hamilton Township Council, along with Hamilton Mayor Jeff Martin, recognized seven Hamilton Police Officers Tuesday night for their outstanding acts of heroism and bravery this year.
The Ceremony, originally scheduled to be held at a Council Meeting, was held at the HamStat Call Center following new COVID-19 restrictions. The room was limited to family guests only, with a maximum of ten individuals at a time. Social distancing and all other guidelines were followed. Officers were still mentioned in the virtual Council Meeting.
The first officer honored was Officer Ryan Fratz. Fratz was presented with a proclamation after responding to a motor vehicle crash on September 23, 2020 around 2:00 am at the intersection of Klockner Road and Kuser Road. Himself and John Hodniki, a nearby resident, rescued a man from his burning car after hitting a tree. The driver was then transported to the Trauma Center for his injuries. Without the quick thinking of Fratz, the victim of this crash may not have survived.
“It really inspired me and I know it did to council as well,” Mayor Jeff Martin said. “It’s been a tough year for officers around the country. When you went into that car, you didn’t know whether the person was white, black, male, female, whatever. You still went in and saved that person’s life,” Martin continued.
“Anyone I work with would have done the same thing,” Officer Fratz responded. “I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.”
Officer Christopher Harhay and Officer Anthony Carvale were honored next. Harhay and Carvale responded to the 100 block of Reeger Avenue on September 17, 2020 at about 1:23 pm for an agitated male carrying a gun. After arguing with relatives at their Reeger Avenue home, the suspect left the residence and observed a US Mail Carrier delivering mail nearby. The suspect chased after the Mail Carrier, pointed the gun, which ended up being a BB gun, directly at him and threatened him. Officers Harhay and Carvale arrived on the scene and were able to take the suspect into custody and retrieve the gun without injury to anyone. Because of their quick thinking and training, a situation that could have easily authorized the use of greater force, came to a peaceful end.
Mayor Martin congratulated them, quoting, “It’s so inspirational to me as well as the council to have officers like you on the job each and every day. What’s been a very difficult year for men and women in uniform, we wanted to make sure we took the moment this year to recognize our officers who have really have gone above and beyond.”
“Anthony and I signed up for our jobs as Police Officers. We know the responsibilities of coming to work everyday,” Harhay acknowledged.
“I just want to thank the Mayor, Council Members, and Hamilton PBA 66 for their continued support,” Carvale added. “It’s nice to have an event like this, especially with what’s going on in the current climate, you don’t see much positivity in regards to the police. Being recognised by our own town leadership is always very nice. We have a team of men and women here that are just trying to do our jobs, and their support means everything.”
Officer Timothy Donovan and Officer Justin Mura were also recognized. These officers were dispatched to Lincoln Court on June 8, 2020 around 9:42 am on the report of a woman that had self inflicted an injury with a knife. Upon their arrival, Donovan and Mura knocked on the front door. Suddenly, the front door opened and a woman emerged holding a large knife raised over her head and was bleeding from the neck. The woman charged at Officer Donovan with the raised knife, refusing verbal commands to drop it. Officer Donovan backed from the woman as she charged him, converting a distance of hundreds of feet, as he yelled for her to drop the knife. Officer Mura gave chase and approached the knife wielding woman from behind and was able to administer OC pepper spray until she stopped charging at Officer Donovan. The woman then used the knife to inflict another injury to herself in front of the Officers. At the direction of Officers, the woman finally dropped the knife and was provided first aid by Officers on the scene until an ambulance arrived and she was transported to the hospital. Another incident where stronger force could have been justified, but was avoided by the great performance of these officers.
Martin praised the officers mentioning, “The calm, cool, and collective approach you guys took to (the situation) represents the best that we have here in Hamilton, and the department overall.”
Officer Timothy Donovan retorted, “It was definitely an interesting situation, and one that I hope to never be in again. It is not a candy coated world out there. We are the ones in the trenches, so please don’t forget about us. We don’t deal with cats in trees, but we’re the ones really getting in there. We are the ones getting dirty and we need somebody on our side to tell the public: we’re not bad guys.”
“Just an echo from what Tim said, we go to work and we don’t look for a pat on the back, but it gives us confidence when we are being recognized and we’re being appreciated,” Officer Mura added.
The final two officers esteemed were Officer Anthony Lucidi and Officer Michael Stefanelli. They were dispatched to an active building fire in the 300 block of Klockner Road on June 16, 2020 around 11:43 pm. Upon arrival, they observed an active fire with flames on the second floor porch leading to the second floor apartment. Both Officers climbed onto the adjacent roof and attempted to force open the apartment door to evacuate the residents inside. Officers were able to wake a young couple and their daughter who were asleep inside the burning building. Lucidi and Stefanelli assisted the residents off of the roof and away from the burning porch to safety. The quick and heroic actions of these Officers undoubtedly prevented serious injuries or loss of life to the unaware residents.
“Like I’ve said before, you guys ran into that building not knowing anybody’s sex, gender, religion, political beliefs, anything like that. You went in there for the right reason, to literally save people’s lives,” Martin complimented. “That just epitomizes our Police Department here in Hamilton under the leadership of the Chief and everybody else,” Martin continued.
Officer Stefanelli’s reply was, “I just want to say thank you to everybody for putting this on. At the end of the day we’re just doing our job.”
Officer Lucidi added to his statement saying, “We live here, we work here, so we just have to do our job for the people we live with and the people we work with.”
Council President Rich Tighe responded to the ceremony by saying, “The chief and I started talking a lot right around the time of the George Floyd incident and the unrest. The Chief wanted to be very communicative about the measures that were being taken to keep our community safe. Every conversation we’ve ever had, the Chief’s primary concern has always been protecting human life. You guys are all examples of that. I’m proud of you, I appreciate you, thank you for the work that you’re doing.”
Hamilton’s Chief of Police James Stevens also said a few words for his officers. “I can’t thank (the parents) enough for supporting their (sons and daughters). I know it’s not easy. When I became a cop, my mother always worried, so I imagine it’s the same thing. I also can’t thank the Mayor and the council for all their support in this Police Division. It has not gone unrecognized by the men and women that work for the Police Division. I personally have a great privilege that I work for some very good officers. Everyday (officers) come to work not knowing what they will encounter, and they handle things accordingly with great professionalism and pride, and upholding the oath of office they took the day they got sworn in. With all that’s gone on this year, it’s been a tough year. Between Covid, tropical storms, civil unrest, the men and women of this division have not turned away or not answered the call to duty. They have always put themselves in harm’s way to make sure that the citizens of this township are safe.”
Above photos by Tyler Eckel