The Prince George's County Chamber of Commerce honored 36 police officers, deputy sheriffs, firefighters and civilians last week for going beyond the call of duty, and in some cases risking their lives, to protect the community.
Medals were presented to the awardees at the chamber's sixth annual police and fire recognition luncheon for 1982 at the New Carrollton Sheraton Inn.
Police Chief John E. McHale Jr. presented several awards to officers who stepped in to assist in dangerous situations while they were off duty. Such an incident won Officer Eugene Patterson, 28, of Clinton, the chamber's Silver Medal of Valor and the Prince George's County Police Officer of the Year award.
Patterson was off duty on October 31, 1981, when a security guard at Eastover Shopping Center in Oxon Hill told him that an armed man, acting erratically, had gone into a grocery store where he yelled at customers and cashiers.
According to police reports, Patterson waited until the man came out of the store and was heading towards the parking lot, and then challenged him from behind his police cruiser. The man fired twice, breaking a window of the cruiser and hitting the grocery store. Then he ran, and was aiming his gun at another police officer who had arrived to help. When the man stopped, Patterson, who was at close range, yelled at him to distract him. The man then turned towards Patterson and was caught in the police crossfire.
The suspect, William Robinson, 38, of Southeast Washington, died later that day of his wounds. Police investigators said they later found Robinson's diary in which he had written that he was going to kill a police officer.
Patterson said he knew he was receiving the silver medal at the luncheon, but he said he was shocked when he was named officer of the year.
Working in the street is no easy task, and it often seems that the public "is against you," Patterson said in a telephone interview, but he said that such awards "give you encouragement; it's an important pat on the back."
Danny M. Johnson, was named Deputy Sheriff of the Year for 1982at the luncheon. Johnson earned his award as a result of an August, 1982, high-speed chase on the Beltway and the capture of two fugitives from the county jail who were wanted in connection with the murder of a New York City police officer.
For the first time since her near-fatal accident in September, 1981, Prince George's firefighter Barbara (Sandy) Lee made a public appearance, in uniform, outside of the hospital where she struggled so hard for her life. After an emotional speech, Fire Chief Jim Estepp presented Lee with the the department's highest honor, the Fire Chief's Award. Lee, who credits the Shock Trauma Center at the University of Baltimore with saving her life after she fell under a moving fire truck, presented her doctor, Sheldon Brotman, with a red-and-white fire helmet and named him honorary chief surgeon of the fire department.
Other awardees were:
Police Department Silver Medal: Sgt. Donald Graham; Cpls. Michael F. Maloney and John Wyne; Officers Patterson and Stephen Bigelow.
Police Department Bronze Medal: Sgt. Jack Powell; Cpls. Jack E. Greenhill and Clifford Holly; Officers Clifton K. Brinkley, William Clark, Donald Dement, Benton L. Grimm, James E. Hunt, Ronald L. Kaszubski, Frederick G. Panyard, Robert M. Prince, Robert D. Rash and Joseph Wing.
Fire Department Gold Star: Civilian Christopher Erdle; Volunteers Richard K. Lehan and Warren D. Litchfield.
Fire Department Silver Star: Volunteer John O. Rulapaugh; Firefighter John D. Saxty.
Fire Department Bronze Star: Civilians Scott Hendershot and Chris Wallace; Firefighters James K. Edmondston and Richard C. Kershaw; Paramedic Aubrey Linton; Technician Darrell C. Odom; Volunteers Michael W. Brown, Jeff Chandler, Paul R. Chism and Kevin D. Copley.