The chiefs of D.C.’s public safety departments highlighted the courage and devotion to duty of the city’s rank-and-file police officers, firefighters and other emergency medical personnel in back-to-back award ceremonies this past week.
D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department Chief Gregory M. Dean on Friday night honored firefighters for pulling victims from burning buildings or distressed boaters from local rivers.
“They would tell you that they’re just doing their jobs. Not only is it an incredible job, but to me, they’re my heroes,” Dean said at the ceremony at Gallaudet University.
Firefighter Danny Lovato and Truck 7 received an award for helping save Phyliss Terrell when her third-floor apartment on Minnesota Avenue SE was choked with smoke.
Lovato scrambled to the top rungs of a ladder, took off his mask and for precious minutes shared his oxygen with Terrell.
Despite such heroism, Terrell died two weeks after the rescue. Still, her family was grateful.
“When they pulled my mom from that building, it gave me the last two weeks of her life,” said Terrell’s daughter, Eugenia Terrell, who attended the ceremony.
“The silver lining is that they won’t stop telling me that they had those two weeks with her and some closure,” said Lovato, who was helped by firefighter Joshua Elie and Lt. Daniel White. “I felt proud for what we did.”
Daynette Adams-Crews, 24, stood onstage with her daughter to hand awards to the crew of Engine 27 and Medic 27, who were called to rescue Zoe, then 2 years old, on Nov. 20 on East Capitol Street SE.
The crew had the wrong address but kept searching until they knocked on the right door.
Inside the house, they saw Zoe, listless and with shallow breathing. Probationary firefighter Ron Johnson Jr. spotted small pills in the carpet. Rescuers called poison control and were told that the pills were a powerful hypertension medication. Zoe was rushed to Children’s Hospital.
“I want to thank you guys today for saving our baby,” Adams-Crews said.
On Thursday night, acting D.C. police chief Peter Newsham led his department’s 17th annual awards ceremony at the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus in Southeast Washington, highlighting the work of an officer who helped take nearly 200 guns off the streets and arrest many violent offenders.
Krishaon Ewing, the department’s Officer of the Year, joined the force three years ago and had no citizen complaints as he racked up arrests and weapon seizures as part of the crime suppression team in the 7th District, one of the city’s most violent.
Ewing, 26, joined the police force after a stint working on political campaigns on Capitol Hill.
“I truly grew tired of sitting behind a desk,” he said after the ceremony. “I was tired of people talking about doing something. I wanted to do it myself.”
He now is on the front lines targeting illegal guns, what the police chief calls the prime instruments of death in the District.
“It really hurts me,” Ewing said of the violence. “I see the same faces, and I have very cordial relations with everyone. It is very painful to see something negative happen to one of them. I take it personally.”
Ewing was among more than 50 officers and civilians recognized.
One was an internal-affairs detective, Sgt. Richard Ehrlich, who investigated an in-custody death; another citation went to Michael Fulton, a homicide detective who made arrests in cases that had been unsolved over four decades, including that of Pamela Butler, missing since 2009, whose body still has not been found.
A special award was given to 5th District officers Patrick Bacon and Antoine Brathwaite, who in February confronted a suspicious man in the Trinidad neighborhood and were each shot during a fight.
Police said the man managed to pull a gun and fired 12 shots at the officers, striking Bacon in the abdomen and Brathwaite in the upper leg. Both officers returned fire and fatally shot the gunman.
Newsham told the audience that he knows his order to seize illegal weapons is dangerous, but he believes the easy availability of guns drives the homicide numbers.
“The biggest motive we have is petty disputes,” Newsham said. “And when you introduce an illegal gun into a petty dispute, guess what happens? Somebody ends up getting shot.”
Newsham said that “what is remarkable is that the members of the Metropolitan Police Department are more than happy” to risk their lives to seize weapons.
When Newsham visited the wounded officers in the hospital, he said, “the first thing out of their mouths was they wanted to get out and get back to work.”