Before the start of his regular night shift in February 2011, Manassas Police Department Sgt. Thomas Rodriguez knew the evening had already potentially taken a violent turn.
There were reports of multiple gunshots and victims in the Georgetown South neighborhood about 7:20 p.m. Feb. 10. He heard the call, changed into his uniform and went to the crime scene.
The scene was “chaotic,” he said, and an emotional, tight-knit community was trying to come to grips with what had happened. Sgt. Stephanie Morbeto was in charge of the scene, making sure houses were safe to enter and giving orders to gather information from witnesses, all the while knowing a dangerous suspect was still on the loose.
In the aftermath, three people were dead and three injured in a spree of violence that authorities said resulted from a romantic relationship gone sour.
Rodriguez was soon called away to attend to a report of another shooting nearby. As the commander on the scene, he quickly came up with a plan and decided to enter the house, he said. Rodriguez said at the time that police weren’t sure what was happening inside the house and thought that they might encounter the suspect.
For their actions in a difficult situation, the department recently named Morbeto and Rodriguez employees of the year.
Morbeto wasn’t available for an interview, because she is on maternity leave.
In giving the award, a peer review committee said that many officers that night did good work in dealing with difficult circumstances. But they singled out Morbeto and Rodriguez as the crime scenes’ commanders who took control of a situation that later led to the arrest of Jose Reyes Alfaro, 38, who has been charged with the crimes. Reyes Alfaro is scheduled for trial at the end of this month.
Rodriguez was at one time responsible for Morbeto’s training, and both were newly promoted sergeants at the time of the shooting.
“These relatively new line supervisors were able to control and manage a quickly changing and volatile situation, as well as demonstrate critical decision-making and leadership skills in an unprecedented time of crisis,” a news release said.
Rodriguez, 38, a 14-year veteran of the department, said that although he had to leave the first crime scene, he knew he was leaving it in good hands with Morbeto. Morbeto, 33, has been with the department for 11 years.
“She’s a go-getter,” Rodriguez said. “She has the skill set, and she’s a superstar, in my opinion.”
At the other crime scene blocks away, Rodriguez said, police thought a suspect was calling a phone at the home. There was unclear information from a 911 call from a woman inside.
Rodriguez quickly looked around the area for a vehicle that matched the description of the suspect’s car, information that had been provided from the other crime scene. Seeing none, he and other officers “set up a loose perimeter.”
He gathered the mostly younger officers and police Chief Douglas W. Keen at the scene and produced “a hasty plan,” Rodriguez said. The younger officers “had never experienced anything like this.”
After ensuring the suspect wasn’t in the house, Rodriguez tried to reassure a 77-year-old victim who was on the floor in the hallway. The scene was gruesome — she had been attacked repeatedly with a machete. She had pretended to be dead so the attacker would stop, Rodriguez said.
“She’s the real hero,” Rodriguez said of the woman, who survived. “She was able to [later] articulate in great detail the events that happened.”
Rodriguez said that accolades are nice to draw attention to the good police work on that night but that he didn’t want to take too much personal credit. He said the young officers on the scene executed the plan and gathered the information that lead to the suspect’s arrest.
“It was a complete effort on their part,” he said.