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65th Annual Hero Awards Dinner Celebrates WNY’s First Responders

By April 23, 2024Uncategorized

On Friday, April 19, 2024, the 100 Club of Buffalo hosted the 65th Annual Hero Awards which recognizes first responders and civilians for heroic actions during the past year. The event was held at Samual’s Grande Manor in Clarence, New York, and brought together local law enforcement, fire, EMS, family, friends and 100 Club of Buffalo directors and members to recognize the brave men and women receiving awards.

Maryalice Demler, who co-anchors Channel 2 News “On Your Side” at 5:00, 6:00 and 11:00pm each weeknight on WGRZ-TV, served as emcee for the evening. This was the second year Maryalice served as emcee and once again, made the evening even more special for the 100 Club of Buffalo and all in attendance.

The 100 Club of Buffalo would like to thank the Annual Sponsors including:

COMMISSIONER
Buffalo Bills
National Grid
The Derrick Family
The Paul Sullivan Family Foundation

LIEUTENANT
David M. Hatcher
Robert Zak
Ray Gallagher
Raymond M. Nowicki
Dan Slawson
Rob Vogel
John Schmidt
Peter Casilio
Bison Iron & Step
Ralph Vanner, Jr.

Additionally, the 100 Club of Buffalo would like to thank the 65th Annual Hero Award Table Sponsors

Anthony A. Trusso
Abbey Mecca
Buffalo Professional Fire Fighters Union Local #282
Buffalo Police PBA
Erie County Sheriff’s PBA
Hagelin Spencer LLC
Jennifer O’Neill
Law Offices of Gilmour & Killelea LLP
Arthur F. Duc. Musarra, Esq.
Newman Properties, Inc.
New York State Police
Ralph Vanner, Jr.
Tops Friendly Markets

COCKTAIL RECEPTION SPONSOR
Gilmour and Killelea LLP

CENTERPIECES
Tops Friendly Markets

 

Sam Palmiere accepting the 100 Club of Buffalo Lifetime Achievement Award from Robert Vogel.

100 Club of Buffalo Lifetime Achievement Award

100 Club of Buffalo director Sam Palmiere was honored with the 100 Club of Buffalo Lifetime Achievement which is given to an individual who has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to law enforcement along with professionalism and character in the highest standard.

Sam spent four years serving in the United States military and continued in the reserves.  Upon completion of his active military service, he attended Buffalo State College and obtained his degree.

His career in law enforcement began in 1972 when he joined the Town of Tonawanda Police Department – working his way through the ranks and becoming Chief of Police in 1992.  He served as Chief until his retirement in 2005.

His time as Chief was marked with many innovations and achievements some of which include introducing “Community Policing” and establishing a Citizens Police Academy, starting the Emergency Response Team, establishing the first Narcotics Unit, and having computers installed in police cruisers

After his retirement from the Town of Tonawanda, he joined the United State Department of Justice as the Law Enforcement Coordinator – a position he still holds today.

He is also active on multiple boards – both professional and non-profit. To highlight a few:

  • Erie County Chiefs of Police
  • Western New York Chiefs of Police
  • New York State Chiefs of Police
  • A past president and current director of the Erie County Law Enforcement Foundation
  • He is also a director of the 100 Club of Buffalo

In addition, he also managed to be a professor for nearly 20 years at Hilbert College. For his service in the US military; his 33 years with the Town of Tonawanda (13 as Chief); his 19 years with the Department of Justice; and his volunteer service on many boards, the 100 Club of Buffalo was please to present the Lifetime Achievement Award to Samuel Palmiere.

Sam’s granddaughter, Samantha Toche performed the national anthem and New York State Trooper John “Jack” Moretti (Ret.) led the Pledge of Allegiance. 

In all, 13 individuals received Hero Awards, with one awarded posthumously to Firefighter Jason Arno of Buffalo Fire Department Engine 2.  Following is the text of the stories that were delivered during the Hero Awards ceremony.

 

Deputy Kelly Mercado – Erie County Sheriff’s Office

On Friday, June 16th, 2023, Deputy Kelly Mercado of the Erie County Sheriffs Office came upon a one-car accident on New York State route 190. At the time of the incident, Deputy Mercado was off duty and with her daughter. The pair was returning from a youth softball game. Without hesitation, Deputy Mercado pulled to the side of the road to provide assistance. She observed that both airbags had deployed and the single occupant of the vehicle was unconscious in the back seat. Upon discovering that the vehicle doors were locked, Deputy Mercado retrieved a softball bat from her car and broke the driver’s side window in order to gain entry.

Feeling a faint pulse on the victim, Deputy Mercado extricated the driver from the vehicle and initiated CPR until EMS arrived on scene to take over. Deputy Mercado endured a blood exposure during her heroic efforts that required treatment. Unfortunately, the victim succumbed to his injuries while at the hospital, but doctors reported that the Deputy’s actions were the only reason the individual did not die at the scene. The 100 Club of Buffalo is honored to recognize Deputy Kelly Mercado with a Hero Award.

 

Civilian James Damon & Deputy Jonathan Hanna – Erie County Sheriff’s Office

On Tuesday December 5th, 2023 just before 5:00pm, Detective Jonathan Hanna, a Tactical Emergency Casualty Care Instructor with the Erie County Sheriffs Office, came upon the scene of single-vehicle crash in the center median on the I-190 in the area of Niagara Street. Detective Hanna observed a second vehicle at stopped at the scene. The driver of the second vehicle identified himself as James Damon, a Buffalo Public School employee and High School basketball coach. Mr. Damon had stopped to help the injured driver and had called 911. Mr. Damon removed the female victim from the vehicle, was unable to find a pulse on the driver and began CPR with chest compressions. 

Detective Hanna exited his vehicle and took over chest compressions as Damon helped open the victim’s airway. Deputy Kyle Hoffman and Detective David Zamorek of the Erie County Sheriff’s Medical Response Unit/EMT also arrived on the scene and assisted in CPR efforts. A New York State Trooper also arrived and provided Narcan which was administered to the victim. 

Because of the quick efforts of those on the scene, they were able to establish a pulse and transport the female driver to the hospital where she was intubated and described as stable. It was determined the accident was the result of a medical emergency induced by a drug overdose.

Sheriff John Garcia publicly recognized the quick and selfless actions of Mr. Damon as well as the efforts of Detectives Jon Hanna, David Zamorek and Deputy Kyle Hoffman. 

It is without doubt that the prompt efforts of Mr.  James Damon and the advanced training of Detective Jonathan Hanna provided the female victim with the greatest chance of survival. The 100 Club of Buffalo is honored to recognize Mr. James Damon and Detective Jonathan Hanna with Hero Awards.

 

Officer Philip Edwards and Officer Michael Ramos – Buffalo Police Department  

At approximately 4:30am on March 14th 2022 police were called to the 1900-block of Hertel Avenue for a report that a man armed with a knife was threatening to kill someone. 

Officers Philip Edwards and Michael Ramos from Buffalo Police D District were first at the scene and encountered the suspect in a building stairwell. The officers asked the individual if he was okay, to which he responded, ‘No, I am not.” 

Officer Edwards quietly warned his fellow officers that the subject was armed with a knife. As soon as the warning went out, the subject pulled the knife and brandished the blade from the top of the staircase. Officer Edwards commanded the suspect to put the knife down multiple times, which the subject ignored.    

As the officers attempted to diffuse the situation by calmly asking the suspect to step outside, they walked out ahead of him. Moments later, the subject emerged the building – still holding the knife. The officers continued to calmly order him to put the weapon down. One officer explained to the subject, “We can help you with whatever you’re going through,”

Ignoring the officers’ commands, the subject briefly charged at the officers, forcing them to draw their weapons. Both officers continued attempts to reason with the subject. Using phrases like. “We can help you.” “Take it easy.” “Put the weapon down.” The suspect began to walk slowly towards the street but then abruptly lunged at the officers with the knife in an uplifted position. 

Officer Edwards and Officer Ramos both opened fire, hitting the subject and neutralizing the threat. The officers secured the scene and rendered aid to the suspect as they waited for EMS. 

The subject was taken by ambulance to ECMC where he was treated for multiple injuries. The subject later pleaded guilty to one count of Menacing a Police Officer – a Class “D” violent felony.

Encountering a tense situation that escalated rapidly, the officers recognized that the suspect was experiencing a mental health crisis and acted with empathy and professionalism, showing restraint and patience. The 100 Club of Buffalo is honored to recognize Officer Philip Edwards and Officer Michael Ramos of the Buffalo Police Department D District with Hero Awards.

 

Trooper John P. Moretti III and Trooper Michael Curran 

New York State Trooper John P. Moretti III and Trooper Michael Curran, both sons of retired New York State Troopers, were working an afternoon shift in Cattaraugus County in October 2023. A missing person call came in for an individual who was diabetic and had a prosthetic leg. The person had been reported missing for several hours in a wooded area. 

Troopers Moretti and Curran, recognizing the urgency of the situation given the individual’s medical condition and cold weather conditions, organized a search party with the Limestone Volunteer Fire Company and the Cattaraugus County 911 Center. Fortunately, the missing person was located, trapped under his ATV where he had been for several hours. The victim was transported via air medivac to ECMC where he was treated for his injuries.

But that is not the end of this story. Later in the same shift, Troopers Moretti and Curran were called to Allegany County to organize another missing person search – this time for a 70 year old individual who suffered from dementia and was feared lost in a heavily wooded area. The elderly and vulnerable man had been missing for 10 hours and was in danger of hypothermia. By this time, the sun had set and the Troopers searched on foot in the dark. Fortunately the man who was only partially clothed and without shoes, was found by the Troopers and was transported safely to Jones Memorial Hospital for treatment. 

The 100 Club of Buffalo is honored to recognize Trooper John P. Moretti III and Trooper Michael Curran with Hero Awards for their diligence and persistent effort to rescue both victims. 

 

Deputy Virk Shagundeep and Deputy David Ganz – Niagara County Sheriff 

On April 12th 2023, at approximately 9:30am, the Niagara County Communications Center received a 911 call reporting that a three year old child had been viciously attacked by a group of dogs. Deputy Virk Shagundeep was the first to arrive at the scene. Upon arrival, deputy Shagundeep encountered the 911 caller who appeared to be in shock and having difficulty putting words together. Upon entering the residence, Deputy Shagundeep witnessed a scene so severe that the Deputy later reported he believed the child to be deceased. 

The child was lying face down on the kitchen floor, covered in lacerations and puncture wounds from head to toe. The child’s head had the most significant injuries; her legs and arms were covered with multiple puncture wounds from the dogs biting her as well. In addition, she had severe bleeding throughout her face. Miraculously, the child was alive, and could delicately speak despite her catastrophic injuries and blood loss. Deputy Shagundeep quickly assessed the child and determined that the bleeding from the multiple wounds was controlled and update dispatch on the child’s condition.

EMS crews arrived and understanding the severity of the child’s injuries, prepared to immediately transport the child to Oishei Children’s Hospital.  Niagara County Sheriff Deputy David Ganz also responded to the scene and volunteered without hesitation to assist the EMS crew on the trip to the hospital.  In addition to being a Sheriff’s Deputy, Ganz is a certified paramedic offering valuable expertise and experience in the situation. 

The physicians at Oishei Children’s hospital reported that the child suffered multiple serious injuries including a skull fracture. Without the lifesaving care provided by Deputy Shagundeep and Deputy Ganz at the scene and on the way to the hospital, the child would have perished.  Fortunately and miraculously, the child has made an unbelievable recovery over the course of several months, and is doing well. 

For their critical and selfless efforts in saving the life of a child, the 100 Club of Buffalo is honor to recognize Deputy Virk Shagundeeo and Deputy David Ganz with Hero Awards. 

 

Firefighter John Carrow – Buffalo Fire Department

On the afternoon of May 21st, 2023 at approximately 5:00pm, crews from the Buffalo Fire Department responded to an Alarm on Fire call at 525 Wyoming Ave in Buffalo. Information upon dispatch stated that there was a possibility of a person trapped inside the structure on the second floor. Upon arrival, the crew of Rescue 1 were unable to gain access to the second floor via the stairs due to impending fire. 

Rescue 1 then deployed a ground ladder to the second floor porch and made entry into a fully charged structure. At that point, an aggressive search ensued without the aid of a hose line. With the primary search coming up negative, the crew immediately began a secondary search. Firefighter John Carrow then located an unconscious male in a bedroom. With assistance from Firefighter Mike Nasca, also of Rescue 1, the victim was remove to the second floor porch. Life saving medical treatment was administered until he was stable. Firefighter Carrow and the crew of Rescue 1 then loaded the victim into a stokes basket and lowered him to safety with the help of crews from Ladders 2 and 6. 

For his heroic efforts under extreme circumstances, the 100 Club of Buffalo is honored to recognize Buffalo Firefighter John Carrow with a Hero Award.

 

Deputy Jeremiah Gechell – Genesee County Sheriff

Deputy Gechell began his career in law enforcement with the New York State Corrections and Community Supervision as a Correction Officer in 2016. He was then hired by the City of Syracuse Police Department in 2020 as a Police Officer and then transferred to the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office on December 6, 2021. In the short time that Deputy Gechell has been with the Sheriff’s Office, he has received three Commendation Awards.

On August 10, 2023, Deputy Gechell was off duty and driving his personal vehicle when he came upon a two-car accident that had just occurred on Main Road in the town of Pembroke. Without hesitation, Deputy Gechell stopped to assist those involved and immediately contacted the Genesee County Emergency Services Dispatch Center. With his law enforcement background, Deputy Gechell provided dispatch with important information a civilian may not know to relay. 

The serious collision resulted in four people being injured, one with a severe leg injury, and extrication was required from both vehicles. At the time of the accident, the area was experiencing heavy rain that caused a delay in the response time of fire and EMS. Realizing the leg injury required immediate attention, Deputy Gechell ran to his personal vehicle and retrieved a tourniquet and applied it to the severely injured leg that was bleeding profusely.

Deputy Gechell’s decision to use a tourniquet likely prevented the patient from suffering catastrophic blood loss and, undoubtedly, saved their life. Deputy Gechell demonstrated great courage and professionalism during this incident and went “above and beyond” the call of duty. The 100 Club of Buffalo is honored to recognize Deputy Jeremiah Gechell of the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office with a Hero Award.

 

Detective Alan J. Ortiz – Buffalo Police Department Underwater Recovery Team 

On the night of August 29th, 2023, Detective Alan Ortiz was traveling home and in the vicinity of Glenwood, New York near Kissing Bridge Ski Resort. Detective Ortiz noticed the tail lights of a vehicle in an area where he knew a pond was located. Detective Ortiz pulled over and with his flashlight, waded into the pond to assess the situation. 

Detective Ortiz discovered 3 people inside a partially submerged vehicle. Calling on his experience as a trained law enforcement professional on the Buffalo Police Department Underwater Recovery Team, he first calmed the occupants of the car – even as the vehicle was slipping deeper into the pond. 

He retrieved a tow strap from his vehicle and secured the two vehicles together in an attempt to keep the partially submerged vehicle from slipping further into the pond. Detective Ortiz then began extricating the occupants of the vehicle. He first pulled one woman out of a back window, then assisted a 6 foot  220-pound male occupant out of the front passenger window. Detective Ortiz then rescued the female driver by forcing open the driver door. As water rushed into the car through the opened door, he scooped up the female driver and carried her to safety.  Courageously risking his own life to save others, Detective Ortiz was able to rescue 3 people before emergency crews arrived.

The 100 Club of Buffalo is honored to recognize Detective Alan J. Ortiz of the Buffalo Police Department Underwater Recovery Team with a Hero Award.  Dennis Richards, former Chief of Detectives of the Buffalo Police Dept., accepted the award on behalf of Detective Ortiz.

 

FireFighter Jason Arno – Buffalo Fire Department 

Firefighter Jason Arno epitomized the essence of heroism through his unwavering commitment to serving and protecting his community. His tragic loss while battling a fire on March 1 last year not only marked the end of a brave firefighter’s life but also left an indelible void in the hearts of those he touched.

Firefighter Arno’s dedication to his profession went beyond mere duty; it was a calling rooted in compassion and selflessness. Every day, he donned his uniform with pride, ready to confront danger head-on and to be a beacon of hope in times of crisis. His bravery was not just a display of courage in the face of peril, but a testament to his deep-seated belief in the importance of protecting others, even at the risk of his own life.

In the firefighting community, Arno was revered for his exceptional skills, quick thinking, and calm demeanor under pressure. His colleagues looked up to him, inspired by his unwavering dedication and willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Beyond his professional accomplishments, Arno was known for his kindness and generosity towards others.  His impact extended far beyond the confines of Engine #2, leaving a lasting legacy of service and compassion through the City of Buffalo.

Though he may no longer walk among us, his spirit lives on as a shining example of what it means to be a true hero. For his unparalleled bravery, selflessness, and dedication to the safety of his community, Firefighter Jason Arno is recognized posthumously with a Hero Award from the 100 Club of Buffalo. Sarah Tierney accepted the award for Firefighter Arno.

A full gallery of images from the 65th Annual Hero Awards can be viewed here.  The 100 Club of Buffalo congratulates all  Hero Award honorees and thanks event sponsors, and all how attended the event.