FAIRFIELD, NJ - Six of Fairfield's finest received citations in a commendation ceremony held at Tuesday night's mayor and council meeting for two separate incidents that occurred in May, including the capture of a homicide suspect and quick actions that ultimately saved a man’s life.
Police Chief Anthony Manna thanked the mayor and council for the opportunity to commend Fairfield’s police officers for the work that they do. Manna said that it feels like every month, the Fairfield Police Department is attending a meeting to receive the council’s commendations because of the hard work Fairfield’s officers do every day.
“I am extremely proud of these officers and the decisive actions that they took to successfully resolve both incidents,” said Manna. “Their constant training and professionalism kicked in and as a result, one life was saved and another brought to justice. These officers are great examples of the quality officers that Fairfield employs and the great work that law enforcement officers throughout the country do each day.”
For the first incident, which occurred on May 1, Sgt. Christopher Oswald, Sgt. Frank Tracey, Officer Sean McCormack, Officer Louis Bisciotti and Officer James Ciampi were awarded unit citations for their medical assistance in an emergency at Mecca Integrated Medical, where they helped save the life of Dr. Michael Sapienza. Unit citations are awarded to members of a unit and/or the entire department for a cited action. Due to the actions of each of these officers, Sapienza is back at his practice in Fairfield today.
Manna explained that at approximately 9:50 a.m., officers were dispatched to Mecca Integrated Medical on a report of a male who was not feeling well. Oswald was the first to arrive, and saw that the 39-year-old victim was having severe chest pain and difficulty breathing.
The chief had coincidentally been texting Sapienza at the time from a local emergency room about his wife's condition with a back injury. Manna then received a phone call from Tracey alerting him that Sapienza was having a heart attack, which Manna said explained why the doctor had suddenly stopped responding to his text messages.
Oswald immediately assessed the victim and administered oxygen, according to Manna, but then noticed that the victim's oxygen level was still dropping and that it was apparent he was having a severe cardiac episode. An ambulance arrived shortly after, but advanced life support paramedics had not given a time estimate for their arrival.
When the victim was then loaded into the ambulance, Manna said it was determined that he needed to get to a hospital as quickly as possible. At this point, the officers assisted by providing a police escort for the ambulance as it traveled to St. Joseph's Medical Center in Paterson, arriving there in approximately seven minutes, Manna said. Sapienza was taken into surgery to clear what was determined as a major arterial blockage.
Manna noted that Sapienza takes very good care of himself, has healthy eating habits and conditions himself through Crossfit. Sapienza's wife, Dr. Dena LaCara, who administers the Fairfield Police Department's health and wellness program, emphasized the need for adults to attend regular cardiac screenings and to take preventative measures, because this could happen to anyone, she said.
After receiving their first unit citations, McCormack, Tracey and Ciampi remained standing and Desk Officer Steven Ptaszynski joined them in receiving unit citations for an incident that occurred on May 20 at the Quick Chek in Totowa.
McCormack, who was face-to-face with the suspect at the scene, received a Gallantry Star Citation for his role in the arrest of the suspect. The Gallantry Start Citation is awarded to an officer for an act of bravery in the arrest of a person who is a major threat to the welfare of the community and/or the officer.
Manna explained that at approximately 3:34 a.m., Tracey was monitoring the scanner in his patrol car and overheard a report of a stabbing that had just occurred at a Quick Chek on Union Boulevard in Totowa. It was reported that a male suspect was last seen running from the convenience store.
Tracey, McCormack and Ciampi immediately responded to the area. In an effort to assist with the lifesaving efforts of the Totowa officers who were performing CPR on the victim, Tracey packed the victim’s wound with Quick Clot and also assisted with CPR. Unfortunately, the victim succumbed to his injuries.
At this point, the name of a possible suspect was broadcast, including his last known address in Totowa. McCormack and Ciampi joined officers from Woodland Park and Little Falls in responding to that location, while Ptaszynski provided up-to-the-minute information, including the fact that other officers were following a blood trail that was leading to their location. Such information is critical for officer safety, Manna said.
Officers then observed a blood trail leading to the back of the residence, and split up to search for the suspect. McCormack and Sgt. Romaine of the Little Falls Police Department then found the suspect behind a detached garage.
According to Manna, the suspect had his hands behind his back and was telling McCormack to “just shoot” him, but McCormack continued to order the suspect to show his hands. Despite the tense situation, Manna said that McCormack continued to show restraint in using deadly force in the face of extreme danger. The suspect finally showed his hands and was taken into custody.
Manna said he later received a call from the Totowa Chief of Police thanking the Fairfield officers for the essential role they played in assisting Totowa's department and for the professionalism they showed.
The mayor and council congratulated the Fairfield Police Department on a job well done and expressed how proud they are of the entire department. Mayor James Gasparini said that it is due in part to the mentoring from the top down.
“Your department does things with their head before their actions and that is why they are the best,” he said.