(PA) County sheriff's office deputies honored


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Steve in PA
November 22, 2003, 11:42 AM
http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?BRD=2250&dept_id=451985&newsid=10507668&PAG=461&rfi=9


Four Chester County Sheriff's Office deputies, who were met by gunfire while serving an eviction notice July 24, had another memorable experience Monday.


In recognition of their actions that day, the four officers - Deputy Joseph Smida, Deputy James Boyd, Lt. John Freas and Sgt. Edward Clemens - were awarded medals of valor and medals of bravery at an emotional ceremony in Courtroom One of the Chester County Courthouse. Freas and Boyd also received medals for heroism. Smida and Boyd received a Purple Heart as well.
"The deputies showed tremendous courage and bravery," said Sheriff Carolyn "Bunny" Welsh. "And they truly put their call to duty and their protection of each other above their own lives and well-being."
Smida suffered a gunshot wound to the face and Boyd was shot in the hand during a three-and-a-half hour standoff with Walter J. Rosengarth of East Marlborough.
The two officers had gone to Rosengarth's Pierre Drive residence at about 11:30 a.m. to serve him with a scheduled eviction order.
After Rosengarth refused to open the door, Freas and Clemens responded to the deputies' request for backup. Just before noon, and three minutes after the four officers asked for additional assistance, Welsh said, she heard chilling words come in over the control room radio.
The sheriff repeated the message of that sweltering morning: "Shots fired. Officer down. Officer down. I need a medic and an ambulance."
Ironically, Welsh was in discussions with the county human resources director and compensation manager about deputies' training requirements and the dangers of the job when she got word of the situation.
"The day started like any other but turned out to be anything but normal," she said. "This was a day that would never be forgotten."
Rosengarth opened fire on the deputies as they stood outside and tried to talk to him. He later was found to have 26 loaded weapons placed at the windows and doors of his home, Welsh said.
"When the call of 'officer down,' came in," she said, "it was numbing. ... Nothing prepares you for the emotional impact of 'officer down.'"
To compound the concern, she said, three of the four deputies on the scene had family members that worked in the courthouse, where news of the incident traveled quickly.
Freas, who was promoted from deputy to lieutenant earlier this month, crouched under a window to return fire so Smida and Boyd could escape. Clemens was trapped behind a police vehicle for more than three hours during the standoff.
Smida was airlifted to Temple University for treatment of his wounds. Boyd was taken by ambulance to Chester County Hospital. All four officers have returned to duty.
Rosengarth surrendered to authorities about 3:15 p.m. that day.
"As the suspect was taken into custody," Welsh said, "the squad room was filled with cheers and tears."
State Sen. Robert Thompson, R-19th, of West Goshen, also presented the four officers with state Senate citations.
"The events of that day, July 24, 2003, underscored two things. ... There's no longer a routine, uneventful car stop or service of papers by a police officer," Thompson said after the ceremony. "And ordinary people can do extraordinary and heroic things under very strong pressure."
Although the ceremony reminded him of their close call that day, Boyd said the incident is never far from his thoughts.
"It's something that's implanted in your head," he said. "It's never going to go away."
Boyd, who still has about 30 pieces of shrapnel in his right thumb, is an 8-year veteran of the sheriff's department. He also spent 25 years with the state police and 13 years in the U.S. Army. He said this incident was the fifth shooting in which he has been involved.
He said he appreciated the recognition.
"Our sheriff is good," Boyd said. "She goes out of her way for us. That's good. You know you're appreciated."
Smida, a 12-year veteran of the department, was humbled by the ceremony and appreciative of the honor.
"It's nice to serve the citizens of Chester County," he said. "And I like what I'm doing."
Freas was gratified by the presence of other county law enforcement officials at the ceremony. The audience included West Goshen Police Chief Michael Carroll, Uwchlan Police Chief J. Patrick Davis, Birmingham Police Chief Tom Nelling and Capt. Andrew Chambers of the Tredyffrin Police Department. A number of Common Pleas Court judges, as well as Commissioner-elect Carol Aichele, also attended the ceremony.
"I was really proud to see the law enforcement community that came and the camaraderie that this office has with the other law enforcement offices within the county," Freas said.
Welsh said the incident illustrated the need for proper training and professional personnel.
"They deserve the admiration of all of us here in Chester County for what they did," said Thompson.

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