1997 Troopers of the Month
January | Troopers Carl Holm and Evelio Quinonez
Troopers Carl A. Holm and Evelio H. Quinonez have been selectedas co-recipients of the Florida Highway Patrol Trooper of the Month award for January/1997, for their actions on January22, 1997, in which they arrested a suspect for armed carjacking.
On Wednesday, January 22, 1997, at approximately 4:23 p.m., Troopers Holm and Quinonez were dispatched to an attempted armed carjacking incident. Both troopers responded to the area and began to search for the suspect.
Holm and Quinonez quickly located a subject walking west on S.W.56 Street and 89 Place. As soon as the subject saw the troopers, he ran across S.W. 56 Street. Both troopers exited their vehicles and began to pursue the suspect on foot. Trooper Holm ran toward the left while Trooper Quinonez ran directly behind the suspect, ordering him to stop and put his hands up. The suspect finally slowed down and stopped.
As Trooper Quinonez approached the suspect, he saw a handgun in his right hand. The suspect then started to bring up the handgun and point it at Trooper Holm. Trooper Holm saw the weapon and prepared to defend himself with his shotgun. Trooper Quinonez,fearing that Trooper Holm was about to be shot, launched himself at the suspect. Quinonez managed to grab the firearm before it was discharged, and pushed the suspect down to the ground where both troopers placed him under arrest. The suspect was then transported back to the scene of the incident where he was positively identified by the victim as the perpetrator of the attempted armed carjacking.
Trooper Holm is a 13-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol. Trooper Quinonez is a 12-year veteran. Both are assigned toTroop E, Miami.
February | Trooper Christopher Hickel
Trooper Christopher J. Hickel has been selected as recipient of the Florida Highway Patrol Trooper of the Month award for February, 1997, based on his heroic efforts to rescue two victims whose vehicle had entered a canal on Alligator Alley.
On February 22, 1997, at approximately 10:15 a.m., Trooper Hickel was dispatched to a traffic crash at the 81 mile marker on Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley) in which a vehicle had gone into a canal. Upon his arrival at the scene, Hickel was advised by witnesses that the vehicle was occupied by two people and that it had only been in the canal for a few moments.
Trooper Hickel immediately jumped into the canal and began searching for the vehicle. The water was very muddy and visibility was less than three feet. He was able to locate the vehicle and began searching the interior of the passenger compartment. After several dives and a complete search of the vehicle, Trooper Hickel was unable to locate the driver or passenger, although he continued to search until a dive team from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office arrived on the scene.
The dive team members then combed the area around the vehicle and were able to locate both victims several feet from the vehicle on the bottom of the canal. Although Trooper Hickel was unable to locate and rescue the two victims, his heroic actions exemplify the high standards of the Florida Highway Patrol.
Trooper Hickel is a 15-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol assigned to Troop F, Naples.
March | Lieutenant Thomas O’Neill, Corporal Robert Morton and Corporal William Richards
Lieutenant Thomas P. O’Neill and Corporal Robert E. Morton have been selected as co-recipients of the Florida Highway Patrol Trooper of the Month award for March, 1997, based on their heroic efforts to rescue two civilians who had been pinned down by gunfire. Corporal William E. Richards has also been selected as a co-recipient based on his actions which resulted in the rescue of a kidnapping victim.
On March 27, 1997, at approximately 1:35 p.m., Lieutenant O’Neill and Corporal Morton responded with the Troop D Tactical Response Team to the Pine Hills area of Orange County, Florida. The Orange County Sheriff’s Office had requested the assistance of the Florida Highway Patrol Troop D Tactical Response Team and the Tactical Response Team (TRT) Vehicle in a Sniper/High Risk Rescue of two civilians pinned down by gunfire.
Upon arriving at the command post, Lieutenant O’Neill and Corporal Morton met with the Orange County SWAT Team commander and it was determined that the Tactical Response Team Vehicle would be used to rescue the civilians. Members of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office SWAT Team were transported to the area in the TRT vehicle. It was determined that the front of the TRT vehicle would be placed directly in the line of fire allowing members of the SWAT Team to exit the rear of the vehicle in safety to conduct the rescue. Corporal Morton drove the TRT vehicle while Lieutenant O’Neill commanded the operation from within the vehicle.
As the TRT vehicle stopped adjacent to the first civilian pinned down by gunfire, several gunshots were fired by the barricaded suspect at the TRT vehicle. The civilian, though injured with numerous glass cuts, was able to crawl to a position of safety behind the vehicle and enter the TRT vehicle without any further injury.
The second civilian was also lying on the ground using a tree for cover. The TRT vehicle was positioned directly in the line of fire to provide maximum cover for the SWAT Team and the civilian. The second civilian was also able to crawl to the vehicle and enter without injury.
The TRT vehicle was then safely removed from the immediate area. Upon returning to the staging area, the TRT vehicle was inspected for damage. Five (5) bullet impacts were discovered on the two windshields, three (3) on the driver’s side and two (2) on the passenger’s side.
A second request to rescue a civilian was made by the SWAT Team Commander. An elderly female was trapped in a house directly in the line of fire of the sniper. The TRT vehicle was again driven to the rescue point placing the front of the vehicle directly in the line of fire. This allowed the members of the Orange County SWAT Team safe egress from the rear of the TRT vehicle to safely remove the elderly female from danger. This rescue was completed without incident.
Several more requests were received to have the TRT vehicle transport additional officers and supplies to the inner perimeter. Corporal Morton drove the TRT vehicle during the entire operation, successfully fulfilling every request made by the Orange County SWAT Team commander.
Both Lieutenant O’Neill and Corporal Morton displayed outstanding personal bravery, gallantry and courage by placing themselves in great personal danger while protecting the lives of the civilians trapped by the sniper and protecting the members of the Orange County SWAT Team. Their actions were without hesitation, even though they were fully aware of the eminent danger they were facing.
Lieutenant O’Neill is a 21-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol. Corporal Morton is a 25-year veteran. Both are assigned to Troop D, Cocoa.
On Sunday, March 16, 1997, Corporal William E. Richards was patrolling Interstate 75 in Charlotte County. At approximately 8:50 a.m., he spotted a Chevrolet southbound with an obscured tag. Richards stopped the car and issued the driver a warning for the tag violation and sent him on his way. As the driver pulled back onto the interstate, he pulled directly in front of a southbound car, nearly causing a crash. Corporal Richards pulled the car over again.
As Richards approached the rear of the vehicle, he heard someone banging on the inside of the trunk and a woman screaming for help. He immediately secured the driver and opened the trunk. Inside was 32-year-old Deleda Brinson of Bradenton, who was unharmed but obviously in distress.
Investigation revealed that Ms. Brinson had pulled into a Burger King restaurant in Bradenton at approximately 6:50 a.m. for breakfast. As she was walking to the front door, she was approached by Jonas Baptiste of Bradenton. Baptiste pulled a gun on her and forced her back into her car. He then made her drive around the Bradenton area for a short time before making her drive to a remote area, where he robbed her of about $100 and forced her into the trunk of her car. He then drove the car to Interstate 75 and was heading south toward Miami, until he was stopped by Corporal Richards.
Baptiste was charged with kidnapping, armed robbery, auto theft, false imprisonment, and a host of other charges. Due to Corporal Richards’ alert actions, he was able to secure an armed felon and rescue Ms. Brinson. Richards’ actions ended an extremely dangerous situation and certainly averted a much more tragic ending from occurring.
Corporal Richards is an 8-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol assigned to Troop F, Ft. Myers.
April | Trooper William King
Trooper William M. King has been selected as recipient of the Florida Highway Patrol Trooper of the Month award for April, 1997, based on his lifesaving actions involving a baby who was not breathing.
On April 17, 1997, while working off-duty at the Fort Drum Service Plaza, a subject ran up to Trooper King and advised him of an emergency at the Miami Subs restaurant. Trooper King responded to the scene and found an older gentleman trying to breathe into a baby. King observed that the baby was pale and his eyes had rolled back.
Trooper King then initiated CPR, at which time he was able to diagnose that the baby’s tongue was obstructing his airway. He cleared the airway and the baby started to cry and breathe. The baby was subsequently checked by Okeechobee Fire Rescue personnel and released to the parents.
The quick, professional, and calm action on Trooper King’s part no doubt saved the baby from serious medical problems, and probably saved his life.
Trooper King is a 6-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol assigned to Troop K, Ft. Pierce.
May | Trooper Jimmy Love
Trooper Jimmy R. Love has been selected as recipient of the Florida Highway Patrol Trooper of the Month award for May, 1997, based on his actions involving the apprehension of four juveniles occupying a stolen van.
At approximately 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 14, 1997, Trooper Love observed a green Dodge van traveling eastbound on Interstate 10 in Madison County. He clocked the vehicle exceeding the speed limit, traveling 89 in a 70 MPH zone.
After stopping the vehicle near the 262 mile marker, Trooper Love interviewed the white male driver and determined there were three passengers, including two white females and one white male. Love asked the driver to exit the vehicle and walk back to his patrol car. The driver explained that he had some identification in the glove box. Love then proceeded to the right front passenger’s door and spoke with the white female seated there.
Trooper Love then observed a white male in the center of the van holding a semi-automatic handgun, pointing it in his direction. Love ordered him several times to drop the weapon. While Trooper Love focused on the passenger holding the handgun, the driver ran back to the driver’s seat, started the vehicle and began driving away. As the vehicle was reentering Interstate 10, the right rear panel window shattered. A passing witness subsequently stated he had observed the white male point the gun to the rear and shoot through the window.
Trooper Love then retreated to his patrol vehicle and began to attempt to catch up to the fleeing van. The van entered Suwannee County and traveled approximately seven miles before driving onto the shoulder and breaking through a fence, at which time all four occupants fled from the van on foot.
A perimeter was established and all four juveniles were later apprehended in a barn they had unlawfully entered approximately two miles from where they had abandoned the vehicle. The vehicle, a 1996 Dodge van, had been reported stolen in Nashville, Tennessee, on May 13, 1997. The four juveniles were charged with Attempted Murder on a Law Enforcement Officer, Felony Fleeing and Eluding, Grand Theft Auto, Burglary, and Criminal Mischief.
Trooper Love’s quick actions and utilization of proper officer survival techniques prevented him from being injured or killed during this incident and resulted in the apprehension of these dangerous juveniles.
Trooper Love has been employed with the Florida Highway Patrol since 1985. He assigned to Troop H, Jefferson County.
June | Trooper John Gikas
Trooper John E. Gikas has been selected as recipient of the Florida Highway Patrol Trooper of the Month award for June, 1997, based on his actions involving the apprehension of a robbery suspect in one incident and a kidnapping suspect in another.
While conducting a routine traffic stop on June 16, 1997, in Marion County, Trooper Gikas was notified by a citizen that someone had just committed a robbery at the Waffle House Restaurant adjacent to his location. Gikas was advised that the suspect was fleeing from the area on foot near the exit ramp of I-75 and US #27.
Trooper Gikas immediately notified the Ocala FHP station of the situation and responded to the area. Upon arriving he observed a black male near some bushes and a white male standing near the roadway. As Gikas exited his patrol vehicle, the black male advised him that the robber had just jumped the fence adjacent to the Waffle House, and then ran north.
As Gikas began searching for the suspect, other witnesses advised him that the black male was in fact the robbery suspect. The suspect then fled south, with Gikas in pursuit. After a short foot chase, Trooper Gikas apprehended the suspect. The currency taken by the suspect was located and recovered. The robbery suspect was taken into custody and charged with various crimes, including robbery, fleeing and attempting to elude, and resisting arrest.
In another incident during the month of June, 1997, Trooper Gikas was instrumental in the capture of a kidnapping suspect. He was advised by the mother of the kidnapping victim that the victim’s father had reportedly abducted her child at gunpoint. Gikas quickly obtained the necessary information, then notified his fellow officers and other law enforcement agencies with a description and possible route of travel of the suspect.
The suspect and victim were ultimately located and apprehended based on this information, and the victim was safely returned to his mother.
Trooper Gikas is a 6-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol assigned to Troop G, Marion County.
July | Sergeant Michael Roden, Trooper Orlando Saavedra and Trooper Andrew Smith
Sergeant Michael W. Roden, Trooper Orlando J. Saavedra, and Trooper Andrew R. Smith have all been selected as recipients of the Florida Highway Patrol Trooper of the Month award for July, 1997, based on their actions involving the rescue of a female ca rjacking victim.
On July 8, 1997, at approximately 3:00 p.m., Sergeant Roden, Trooper Saavedra, and Trooper Smith were notified by Florida Highway Patrol Troop F and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office that two subjects had fired shots at a Florida Highway Patrol trooper on Interstate 75 in the area of Bonita Springs, Florida. The two subjects then took a female hostage and fled in a green BMW, bearing Florida tag EDYSWTY. Troops L and F established roadblocks within their respective areas and Troop E was planning the establishment of a roadblock on US 41 at the Collier County line.
At approximately 3:25 p.m., Sergeant Roden was proceeding to the roadblock site when he observed the BMW traveling eastbound on U.S. 41. Roden made a U-turn and followed the vehicle as it continued east toward Miami.
Troopers Saavedra and Smith were positioned at the intersection of U.S. 41 and Krome Avenue when the BMW approached and stopped for a red traffic signal. Sergeant Roden instructed Saavedra and Smith to conduct a felony stop on the vehicle. As the stop was initiated, the subjects fired shots at both troopers. Shots were returned as the subjects fled northbound on Krome Avenue.
After a brief chase, the BMW slowed and was struck by two patrol cars. There, after a short struggle, one of the offenders was shot and killed. The other was arrested after a violent hand-to-hand fight. The hostage was rescued unharmed. Fortunately, Sergeant Roden, Trooper Saavedra, and Trooper Smith all came out of the ordeal with no major injuries.
The suspects were later identified as Billy A. George and David D. George, both of whom were wanted in connection with a bank robbery and kidnapping that occurred in South Carolina. In addition to these crimes, the suspects were also wanted for question ing in the death of their grandparents. The hostage was identified as Ms. Edith E. Silver of Fort Myers.
All three troopers demonstrated courage and determination which resulted in the safe rescue of a hostage from the hands of two armed and dangerous suspects who were wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
Sergeant Roden, a 14-year veteran of the FHP, is now stationed in Orlando, Troop D. Trooper Saavedra, a 7-year veteran, and Trooper Smith, a 10-year veteran, are both stationed in Miami, Troop E.
August | Corporal Dennis Jetton
Corporal Dennis E. Jetton has been selected as recipient of the Florida Highway Patrol Trooper of the Month award for August, 1997, based on his comprehensive investigation of a hit and run crash involving a fatality which occurred on April 11, 1997, i n Pinellas County. Ira B. Greene, of 7936 Ivywood Road, Largo Florida, was arrested by Corporal Jetton for leaving the scene of a crash resulting in death, after a 4 1/2 month intense investigation.
The only evidence Corporal Jetton obtained from the crash scene was a damaged plastic windshield arm and a windshield wiper blade. The numbers on the wiper blade indicated that the part was made by Delco, which in turn indicated that the vehicle was a G eneral Motors product.
Corporal Jetton checked all area GM dealers and discovered that all GM parts go through one dealer, Quinlan Chevrolet. When Jetton checked with Quinlan Chevrolet, he found out that this part and other parts were purchased by Sunset Pontiac of Clearwater two days after the fatal crash. Upon checking with Sunset Pontiac, Jetton discovered that they had made recent repairs to a 1994 Pontiac Firebird that had front end damage and a missing windshield wiper arm and blade.
Corporal Jetton then obtained the tag number of the 1994 Pontiac Firebird. When Jetton went to the address of the registered owner, he found that the owner was out of state. Jetton then checked the Tampa International Airport where he located the vehic le, finding it with a recent paint job. He also discovered minute samples of blood on the undercarriage and traces of blue paint. The 14-year-old girl who was struck and killed was wearing tennis shoes with blue paint trim.
Upon learning that he had been identified and of his pending arrest, Ira B. Greene obtained an attorney, who contacted Corporal Jetton and made arrangements for Mr. Greene to turn himself in at the Pinellas County jail.
Corporal Jetton’s diligence, patience, perseverance, and many years of experience paid off with the arrest of this hit and run suspect.
Corporal Jetton is a 12-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol assigned to Tampa, Troop C.
September | Trooper Andrew Cho
Trooper Andrew K. Cho has been selected as recipient of the Florida Highway Patrol Trooper of the Month award for September, 1997, based on his apprehension of two armed robbery suspects.
On September 29, 1997, Trooper Cho was patrolling southbound on Metro Parkway in Lee County when a “BOLO” was issued from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office concerning two armed robberies that had occurred at two different restaurants south of Ft. Myers.
Almost immediately following the BOLO, Trooper Cho observed a vehicle matching the description in a bank parking lot. He called for back-up and approached the vehicle to confirm that it was the correct one he was looking for. As Cho got closer to the car, the two suspects fled northbound on Metro Parkway. Trooper Cho began to pursue the vehicle and soon received assistance from the Ft. Myers Police Department.
After a short time, the driver of the car drove off the roadway where he and his passenger attempted to flee on foot. After a foot pursuit, Trooper Cho was able to apprehend and effect the arrest of the driver, James E. Anderson of Ft. Myers. The passenger, Eldridge Walker of Ft. Myers, was arrested by the Ft. Myers Police Department approximately one block from the scene. Both were charged with two counts of Strong Armed Robbery as well as several other charges.
Trooper Cho is a 5-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol assigned to Ft. Myers, Troop F.
October | Trooper Gregory Edison
Trooper Gregory E. Edison has been selected as recipient of the Florida Highway Patrol Trooper of the Month award for October, 1997, based on his lifesaving efforts at the scene of a traffic crash.
On Saturday, October 25, 1997, at 9:30 a.m., Trooper Edison responded to a serious traffic crash involving a tractor trailer on State Road 8 (I-10) approximately 2 miles west of State Road 9A (I-295) in Jacksonville. Upon his arrival, Trooper Edison found the driver of a tractor trailer entrapped within the wreckage, bleeding profusely from the mouth and nose, and choking. After scaling the severely damaged truck cab, Edison stabilized the injured driver by clearing his airway and holding his head in place to ensure that he did not continue to choke on his own blood. The driver was later transported to University Medical Center by Life Flight Helicopter where he was admitted for further medical attention.
Trooper Edison is to be commended for his quick action and the initial first responder techniques he employed prior to the arrival of EMS personnel. He was even injured as a result of his efforts, cutting his hand on the jagged metal and glass of the wr eckage.
Even though the individual later expired of other causes and complications, Trooper Edison’s preliminary actions at personal risk to himself could have very well saved the life of the injured driver.
Trooper Edison is a 4-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol assigned to Troop G, Jacksonville.
November | Trooper Andrew Smith
Trooper Andrew R. Smith has been selected as recipient of the Florida Highway Patrol Trooper of the Month award for November, 1997, based on his lifesaving efforts at the scene of a traffic crash.
On November 12, 1997, Trooper Smith was on vacation with his family, traveling south along Florida’s Turnpike near Ft. Pierce. A driver traveling in front of Trooper Smith apparently fell asleep and drove into the median. The vehicle then traveled acro ss the southbound lanes and into a canal, where it began to sink.
Trooper Smith quickly parked his vehicle and dove into the water. As he swam toward the car, he did not see the driver, but once he reached the vehicle, he saw the driver doubled over under the dash. Smith then managed to extricate the victim from the vehicle and pull him to shore. Once Smith knew the victim was stable, he swam back to the vehicle to check for additional occupants, but found none.
As a result of Trooper Smith’s heroic actions, the victim recovered without any serious injuries.
Trooper Smith is a 10-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol assigned to Troop E, Miami.
December | Trooper Milton Brown
Trooper Milton L. Brown has been selected as recipient of the Florida Highway Patrol Trooper of the Month award for December, 1997, based on his lifesaving efforts at the scene of a traffic crash.
On December 1, 1997, Trooper Brown was on patrol in southern Washington County. While patrolling State Road 77, he observed what he thought to be a vehicle fire. Upon his arrival on the scene, Trooper Brown determined that it was a motor vehicle crash involving a 1996 BMW vehicle and a tractor-trailer. While exiting his patrol car, Brown observed that the vehicle was on fire.
Mrs. Donna Meredith, a witness to the crash, advised Brown that a person was in the burning vehicle. Trooper Brown immediately attempted to open the passenger door, but damage to the door allowed him to open it just a few inches.
Trooper Brown then rushed to his patrol car to obtain a fire extinguisher, and upon arrival back at the burning vehicle, he was able to knock down the flames coming from the dash. Brown was then able to pull the door open, and with great effort and no thought of his own well-being, he freed the occupant, Ms. Karen Gilley, from the burning vehicle.
Mrs. Meredith stated that although Ms. Gilley’s vehicle was engulfed in flames, Trooper Brown did not hesitate to risk his own life to save her. Because Ms. Gilley was semi-conscious, she was unable to assist Brown during the extrication. Trooper Brown’s quick reaction and little thought to his own safety was credited with saving Ms. Gilley from serious injury or death from the fire inside her vehicle. She suffered only minor burns from the fire, however, she did receive chest injuries and abrasions from the crash.
Trooper Brown is a 13-year veteran of the Florida Highway Patrol assigned to Troop A, Bonifay.