SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — The Savannah Police Department (SPD) honored deserving officers and civilians at the Annual Meritorious Awards Ceremony and Luncheon.
Monday’s event recognized the efforts of nearly 40 people who have worked tirelessly alongside or as part of the police department over the past year.
SPD awarded honorees across several categories, including Business Partnership, Citizen Commendation, the Medal of Merit and the Purple Heart.
“This is a day for us to recognize the outstanding work the men and women of the Savannah Police Department do on a daily basis,” said Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter.
Throughout the ceremony, attendees heard stories of courageous acts of bravery, extraordinary selflessness and, in some cases, sacrifice.
One of the awards given was the Medal of Valor, awarded to two officers who exhibited extraordinary bravery in order to alleviate emergency conditions in an extremely dangerous situation.
The actions of those honorees, according to SPD, exceeded normal demands in situations where their personal safety may have been threatened.
Officer Nicholas Peterson was one of Monday’s honorees.
In June 2019, Peterson was the first to arrive at the scene of a fire at Savannah Summit Apartments.
“He ran up 11 flights of stairs to the apartment on fire and found a woman with severe burns,” said SPD Public Information Coordinator Bianca Johnson.
“He pulled her into a hallway and learned that her adult daughter was also missing,” Johnson said. “Officer Peterson went into the apartment multiple times, coming out in between for air, in an attempt to locate her.”
Peterson later carried the woman, whose body was 90-percent covered in burns, down those 11 flights of stairs.
Her daughter was also rescued with the help of Peterson and firefighters.
The Medal of Honor was awarded to Sgt. Kelvin Ansari, who was killed in the line of duty in May 2019 while responding to a robbery call on Bull Street.
His family was there to accept both the Medal of Honor and the Purple Heart on his behalf.
“When he was joining [the police department], he called me and he told me, ‘Dad, I’m joining one of…Savannah’s finest,’” said his father, Eddie Ansari.
“I want to give thanks to Savannah for allowing him to be able to serve.”
Officer James Ward and APO Travis Duncan were both each honored twice with the Life-Saving Medal for their bravery.
“It’s great to be recognized, and it highlights an example of what we do every day,” Duncan told News 3.
Below are some of the stories of courageousness and service to the community honored at the ceremony.
Citizen Commendation award: seven civilians
Awarded to any person who is not a member of the police department who has aided the department in some way, whether that is aiding officers in the field, assistance in solving a crime or providing assistance to the department as a whole.
Jim and Phyllis Brackeen
“In 2016, [they] lost their son, K-9 officer Tim Brackeen, in the line of duty in Shelby, North Carolina.
After that loss, the Brackeens, who reside in the Savannah area, reached out to the SPD to train alongside the K-9 unit as a way of honoring their son’s memory and to volunteer as needed.
“In 2018, the SPD experienced a loss of its own when Officer Anthony Christie died in the line of duty.
“Mr. Brackeen collected funds as well as used his own money to ride his bicycle 500 miles in the annual Road to Hope ride in Washington, D.C during National Police Week to honor Officer Christie.
“He has also expressed interest in doing this ride again in honor of Sgt. Kelvin Ansari. Mrs. Brackeen has worked long hours alongside her husband to help raise these funds and provide support to the department.”
Chief’s Award of Excellence: nine officers, one civilian
Presented to officers and non-sworn civilians who deserve extraordinary recognition for performance above and beyond the call of duty.
“In December 2018, SWAT and the Hostage Negotiation Team responded to a barricaded person at a residence on Wisteria Court.
“While they were outside, the suspect picked up the phone and called 911. Denise Ezekiel took the call in the 911 center.
“She quickly built a rapport with him and helped keep him calm. Negotiators were able to three-way into the call and also speak to the suspect. It was clear immediately that suspect trusted Ms. Ezekiel, often speaking directly to her instead of the negotiators.
“Because of her training and calm demeanor, the situation came to a peaceful resolution.”
Medal of Merit: two officers
Presented to officers with for outstanding devotion to duty which directly improves the organization’s performance or operation, as well as officers who have done extraordinary acts of kindness, bravery or service while representing the department.
Officers Ian Gallagher and Shaquille Brown
“In Aug. 2018, officers responded to a house fire on Porter Street with a woman trapped inside. Officers made attempts to gain access to the house but were unable to due to heavy smoke.
“The woman was able to gain access to a high window and climb up to it. Officers working from outside the residence were able to successfully pull her out the window before the fire department could even arrive on the scene.”
Life-Saving Medal: 13 officers
Presented to officers for extraordinary acts that directly contributed to saving or significantly prolonging a human life.
APO Travis Duncan, Officer James Ward
“In November 2018, officers responded to a shooting and discovered a man with gunshot wounds to his lower leg and upper body. Officers worked quickly to apply a tourniquet to his leg and pressure to his abdomen to stop significant blood loss.
“The man would likely have died had it not been for those life-saving measures of these officers.”
Purple Heart: three officers
Presented to any officer who was wounded or killed under honorable circumstances in the line of duty.
Officer Anthony Christie
“In the early morning hours of May 25, 2018, Officer Christie was in his patrol car with his lights activated on Interstate 16 to divert traffic from a wrong-way crash when a tractor-trailer failed to stop and crashed into his vehicle, fatally wounding Officer Christie.
“He had served with the department for two years and was assigned to the central precinct. He was also a decorated war veteran.”
Sgt. Kelvin Ansari, Officer Douglas Thomas
“On May 11, 2019, Ansari and Thomas responded to Bull Street to follow up on a previous robbery call. At that time, the suspect began firing, striking both officers.
“They were transported to a hospital, where Sgt. Ansari died as a result of his injuries. Sgt. Ansari had served with the department for more than 20 years and was a 21-year veteran of the U.S. Army.
“Officer Thomas had been officially sworn in at the SPD just three months earlier and was in his 15-week PTO phase where he rides with a training officer.”