Connecticut State Police Patch STATE OF CONNECTICUT
Department of Public Safety
1111 Country Club Road
Middletown, Connecticut 06457
May 18, 2010

State Police Troopers from

TroopS B, G, L

Receive Service Awards

State Police Troopers from Troop B in North Canaan, Troop G in Bridgeport and Troop L in Litchfield received awards for service during a ceremony May 18 at the Connecticut State Police Training Academy in Meriden.

Twice a year, the Connecticut State Police honors Troopers who demonstrate bravery and outstanding service in the line of duty.  The ceremony also honors men and women serving in local and federal law enforcement agencies, those serving as first responders and civilians.  Award winners received medals and certificates from State Police Colonel Thomas Davoren.

Awards were presented in four categories:

Ø  The Meritorious Service Medal is awarded to those who render service with a high degree of alertness, perseverance and superior judgment in the performance of a difficult task resulting in the protection of life, recovery of property, the prevention of – or solving of – a major crime or the apprehension of an armed or dangerous person.

Ø  The Lifesaving Award is presented to those who save a human life or make a valiant attempt to save a life.

Ø  The Outstanding Service Award is given to those who successfully perform an extreme, complex or difficult investigation. The person(s) also may demonstrate exceptional skill or ingenuity in the apprehension of a wanted person, provide outstanding service to the public and or continuously achieve excellence in performance of duties over an extended period of time.

Ø  The Unit Citation is awarded to members of a department, a command or group who combine their resources to achieve success in an investigation or event. The citation recognizes exceptional collective efforts.

Awards were presented to:

Sergeant Lawrence Terra, Trooper First Class Gregory Naylor, Trooper First Class Mark Puzzo, Trooper Jeremy Combes  Troop B  On Nov. 17, 2009, New York State Police issued a broadcast for a suspect in a violent homicide that occurred in Sharon Springs, New York.  The broadcast gave a description of the male suspect and the vehicle he was operating, as well as information on several of his passengers, one of whom had ties to the Norfolk, Connecticut area.

The same day, Norfolk Resident Trooper Naylor, Trooper Puzzo, Trooper Combes and Sgt. Terra observed the vehicle traveling on Route 44 in Norfolk.  The Troopers initiated a felony stop of the vehicle, taking the suspect and his three passengers into custody.

An interview of the suspect by New York State Police detectives resulted in a full confession to the homicide.  Interviews of the passengers allowed investigators to obtain the location of crucial evidence.  As a result of the keen observations of these Troopers, a homicide suspect was arrested and key evidence was secured.

Each Trooper involved earned a Meritorious Service Award for his actions.

Trooper Dimitrie Bogiatzopoulos, Trooper Ryan Sawicki Troop G  New London Police contacted Troop G in Bridgeport to request assistance in locating a vehicle in which a man had abducted his wife at gunpoint in New London and was traveling southbound on Interstate 95.  The husband had two prior domestic violence arrests involving his wife and a protective order was in effect barring any contact. 

The couple stopped at the I-95 southbound rest area in Milford.  While the husband was waiting outside the restroom for the wife, she provided a message to a third party that she was being held against her will and that her husband had a firearm.

Trooper Bogiatzopoulos was traveling northbound on I-95 and observed the suspect vehicle traveling southbound.  Reversing direction, the Trooper followed the suspect vehicle off Exit 6 in Stamford and awaited backup from Trooper Sawicki.  Both Troopers conducted a motor vehicle stop and took the husband into custody.  The firearm was recovered on I-95 where it was thrown from the vehicle by the victim. 

The Troopers were awarded the Meritorious Service Award.

Trooper Walter Oliveira, Troop G, Mr. Gustav Kovasznai  On Dec. 12, 2009, at approximately 3:40 p.m., Trooper Oliveira was investigating a two-car accident on Interstate 95 North in West Haven.  After moving the involved vehicles – a Nissan and a Ford – into the breakdown lane, Trooper Oliveira exited his cruiser.  A third car, a Volkswagen, was approaching the breakdown lane at a high rate of speed.  The Volkswagon struck the rear of the cruiser, causing it to strike Trooper Oliveira and the Nissan in front of his cruiser.

Trooper Oliveira was struck in the lower back and sent 15 feet into the air, over the Nissan, and landing against the Ford that was in front of the Nissan.  Once he landed, he was struck a second time by the Nissan that was pushed forward by the Volkswagen.  The second impact dislocated his right shoulder. 

The front end of the Volkswagon caught fire and as Trooper Oliveira regained his bearing, he ran to the burning vehicle.  A female occupant was pinned in the driver’s seat, as flames surrounded the steering column area.  Trooper Oliveira cut the seat belt and attempted to remove the operator despite his dislocated right shoulder and back injury.  He directed bystander Gustav Kovasznai to help as the headliner caught fire.  While the interior was burning, and black smoke filled the air around them, Trooper Oliveira and Mr. Kovasznai pulled the operator to safety.  Trooper Oliveira witnessed the operator’s leg on fire and quickly put it out with his hand.   

Despite being struck twice by two motor vehicles and sustaining a dislocated shoulder and back injury, the quick reaction and brave efforts of Trooper Oliveira resulted in saving a woman from severe burns and/or death. Mr. Kovasznai, a Shelton resident, is a caring citizen who answered the call for help.   

Trooper Oliveira earned both a Meritorious Service Award and a Lifesaving Award.  Mr. Kovasznai earned a Commissioner’s Recognition Award.

Trooper Phillip George, Troop G   On January 17, 2010, Trooper George responded to an accident on Interstate 95 Southbound, near the Darien rest area.  A vehicle had skidded off the roadway and struck a small loader located in the rest area.  911 callers reported that the car was on fire and the operator was trapped inside.  Several civilians had tried unsuccessfully to remove the operator from the vehicle.

Trooper George arrived and sprayed the car with a fire extinguisher.  Quickly, he entered the car through the passenger side door, cut the operator’s seat belt and dragged the semi-conscious operator to safety just before the car became completely engulfed in flames. 

The operator was transported to a local hospital for treatment of burns and smoke inhalation suffered in the incident.  Trooper George also suffered from smoke inhalation. 

The heroic actions of Trooper Phillip George saved the life of the driver.  He was awarded a Lifesaving Medal for his work.

Trooper First Class Jonathan Badgely, Trooper First Class Jason Uliano, Troop L  On February 21, 2010, at approximately 12:47 a.m., Troop L received a report of a motor vehicle accident on Route 8 in Thomaston. 

Troopers Badgely and Uliano located the vehicle, which had crashed through the guard rail, rolled over and came to a rest within the highway median.  The vehicle was unoccupied.  Trooper Uliano and his K-9, Max, assisted by Trooper Badgley, conducted a track for the vehicle operator, who fled the scene into a heavily wooded area of extremely rough terrain and rock ledge. 

After approximately 45 minutes, the K-9 track led Troopers to a rock and ice precipice where the foot tracks ended in the snow and revealed a 75-foot vertical drop into a river bed below.  The Troopers made verbal contact with the operator and then hiked another 30 minutes through the rough, snow-covered terrain to reach him.  The operator – wearing only footwear, jeans and a t-shirt – had fallen 75 feet into the river, breaking his leg and his back.  Due to extreme temperatures, his condition was quickly deteriorating from the onset of hypothermia.  Using their jackets and knit hat for warmth, the Troopers covered the operator, rendered first aid and coordinated rescue personnel to their location.  The operator was removed from the area and transported via Lifestar to a nearby hospital.  

Troopers Badgely and Uliano each earned a Lifesaving Medal.

Master Sergeant James Dolan, Sergeant Gregory Kenney, Troop L  On Nov. 24, 2009, staff at a Torrington hospital notified Troop L that they were treating a female who sustained a gunshot wound to her leg.  The victim reported that her husband shot her during a dispute at their Litchfield residence and she escaped to seek medical treatment.  She further stated that her husband threatened to kill himself or anyone who tried to stop him.

M/Sgt. Dolan and Troop L personnel arrived at the Litchfield residence and established a perimeter around the house.  M/Sgt. Dolan assigned personnel to the hospital to interview the victim and secure evidence.  He summoned the Western District Major Crime Squad and the Emergency Services Unit.

Sgt. Kenney arrived on scene to coordinate efforts and assist M/Sgt. Dolan, who had established communication with the suspect.  Sgt. Kenney contacted the cell phone service provider and isolated the subject’s cell phone service, which proved to be advantageous.  During the negotiations, the cell service was interrupted, cutting off the only means of communication between the suspect and the negotiators.  Sgt. Kenney’s resourcefulness quickly reestablished service, giving a large measure of credibility to the negotiator in the eyes of the suspect.

M/Sgt. Dolan continued a dialogue with the suspect for several hours, successfully preventing a suicide and ultimately convincing the suspect to surrender to police without incident. 

M/Sgt. Dolan and Sgt. Kenney each earned a medal for Outstanding Service.

Detective Paula Brunetto, Trooper First Class Joshua Koval, Troop G In December of 2008, Det. Brunetto of the auto theft unit, working with Trooper Koval of Troop G, initiated an investigation involving multiple stolen vehicles throughout the greater Bridgeport area.  Vehicles had been stolen with the use of a tow truck, with many being stolen after becoming disabled or while parked in commuter parking areas along Interstate 95.  The stolen vehicles were sold as scrap metal to junkyards in Norwalk and Stamford.  The Troopers worked to identify the suspects.

On Dec. 18, 2009, Trooper Koval stopped a tow truck on I-95 in Norwalk while it was towing a stolen vehicle.  The tow truck was seized and Det. Brunetto and Trooper Koval interviewed the two suspects.  The Troopers obtained a search and seizure warrant for the tow truck and its contents, which resulted in the seizure of documents and paperwork for multiple stolen vehicles.

Over the next seven months, Det. Brunetto conducted an extremely lengthy and complex investigation involving the seized documents, as well as the records of the vehicles sold as scrap metal.  Using the documents, Det. Brunetto was able to positively match thirteen stolen vehicles to specific vehicles that had been scrapped at the junkyards. 

Det. Brunetto also identified another seven stolen vehicles sold as scrap metal.  There were approximately 100 vehicles stolen and sold as scrap by this group of suspects, but most vehicles could not be positively identified due to inaccurate records maintained by the junkyards.  Three suspects have been charged with racketeering and 88 counts of larceny and forgery for the possession and sale of the stolen vehicles.

Det. Brunetto and TFC Koval each earned a medal for Outstanding Service.

        Trooper First Class Matthew Funchion, Trooper First Class Edward Benecchi, Troop G   Over the course of 12 months, Troopers Funchion and Benecchi were involved in multiple high-volume narcotics seizures in the Bridgeport area.  
          In January 2009, Trooper Benecchi stopped a vehicle on Route 15 in Hamden for violations.  A passenger in the vehicle was searched after Trooper Benecchi’s K-9, Sarik, alerted for the presence of narcotics.  More than 181 grams of heroin was seized. 

In June 2009, Trooper Benecchi stopped a vehicle on Route 8 in Trumbull and nearly nine pounds of cocaine was seized. 

Just two months later, Trooper Funchion stopped a vehicle on Route 25 in Bridgeport.  A consent search of the vehicle revealed nearly 35 grams of crack cocaine. 

In November 2009, Trooper Funchion stopped a vehicle on I-95 in Greenwich.  Trooper Benecchi also responded to the scene with his K-9, Sarik, to assist.  The K-9 alerted to more than 45 pounds of marijuana. 

In January 2010, Trooper Funchion stopped a vehicle in Darien and seized 300 packets of heroin weighing nearly 120 grams. 

In total, these two Troopers combined have made 56 narcotics-related arrests and seized 70 pounds of marijuana, 11 pounds of crack and powder cocaine, 12.8 ounces of heroin, 246 prescription pills, $45,839 in cash, four firearms and four vehicles. 

            Troopers Funchion and Benecchi each earned an Outstanding Service Award.

          Trooper First Class Mark Lauretano, Troop L   On Oct. 13, 2009, Trooper Lauretano investigated an incident in which a victim lost belongings and cash totaling $177,000 when a friend did not return the items.
         The investigation revealed that over a few years, the friend developed a record of exploiting people, while successfully escaping the law.  The investigation further revealed that the friend opened a consignment shop in Somesville, Maine, in July 2009, selling the victim’s items held in storage in Connecticut and elsewhere.
rooper Lauretano contacted the local police in Northeast Harbor, Maine, and the District Attorney’s Office in Ellsworth County Maine.  On Feb. 23, 2010, a detective at the District Attorney’s Office and police officers assisted Trooper Lauretano in conducting a search of the friend’s residence and consignment shop in Maine.  The investigation resulted in the arrest of the suspect and in the return of many items owned by the victim.  
Trooper Lauretano earned an award for Outstanding Service.