Officers cited for live-saving measures, investigative work, and service to the department
By Terry Duffy
Earlier this month, members of the Lewiston Police Department gathered at the Lewiston Fire Co. No. 2 banquet hall for their annual Christmas party and awards ceremony.
The program recognized the response actions by members of Lewiston’s finest. As most locals may or may not understand, law enforcement oftentimes can be a very challenging profession. Officers are called upon to handle an absolute host of unpredictable situations – from routine vehicle/traffic stops, to robberies, narcotics cases, assaults, domestics and violent confrontations, to those calls where a life may be on the line.
For Lewiston’s force, which includes 10 full-time and nine part-time officers, it all comes as part of the job.
On Saturday Dec. 8, Lewiston Police Chief Frank Previte, along with area elected officials, paid tribute to nine veteran members of LPD for their dedicated service, including those instances of going far beyond the course of duty.
Five Lewiston Police members were singled out for their immediate and a tactful response to difficult emergency calls in 2018, responses that went on to make the difference between life and death. Included were Lewiston Police Officer Anthony Nicoletti, LPD officers Michael Salada and Joel Eberth, and LPD officers Aaron Lilly and Eric Corson. All were named as recipients of the Lewiston Police Life Saving Award for their actions.
“The most important awards I think … was for life-saving awards,” Previte said. “It was instances where the officers during the course of the year actually took action in the course of answering a call to save lives. I’m very proud of them.”
•On Friday, June 1, LPD Officer Nicoletti responded to a report of a 10-year-old boy who had suffered a severe injury to his lower left leg following an unfortunate accident with a lawnmower. Upon his arrival, Nicoletti located little Gavin Burns in the backyard with neighbor Theresa Belkota and immediately began rendering emergency medical treatment to the boy. Nicoletti made a quick assessment of the injury and applied a tourniquet to the left leg to stop the bleeding.
The young boy was later stabilized and transported by Mercy Flight to Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo where he underwent six surgeries. While the accident unfortunately resulted in the loss of his lower leg, today Gavin continues his long healing process with the support of his family.
For his efforts, Nicoletti was recognized with the Lewiston Police Life Saving Award.
•On Wednesday, May 30, Lewiston Police officers Salada and Eberth responded to a report of a male hanging from a tree. Both LPD officers worked to remove the male who was unconscious and not breathing. Soon after, they initiated CPR and the male began breathing. The male was then stabilized and transported to EM-Star at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital for emergency care.
For their efforts, Salada and Eberth were recognized with the Lewiston Police Life Saving Award.
Salada was also presented the Chief’s Distinguished Service Award for his actions.
•On Sunday, June 10, Lewiston Police officers Lilly and Corson responded to a report of an unresponsive male in his front yard. Upon arrival, both officers initiated CPR and the male began breathing on his own. The male was then stabilized and transported to EM-Star at Mount St. Mary’s Hospital for emergency treatment.
Lilly and Corson were also presented with the Lewiston Police Life Saving Award.
The program also featured recognition of Lewiston Police Officer Nick Cofield and Capt. John Penzotti (recently retired), who received commendations for their work in an investigation that led to the arrest and subsequent conviction this year of a hit-and-run suspect from a 2012 cold case.
•On Sunday, March 25, the Lewiston Police Department announced closure of the six-year-old cold case. The hit-and-run took the life of volunteer fireman Loren Jacobs.
Previte and Niagara County District Attorney Caroline Wojtaszek said the case’s conclusion spoke volumes on the tragedy that has worn on a local family over the years, but also to the diligence of Lewiston officers and the community in bringing about justice.
Following years of investigative work, a breakthrough came on March 24. A suspect, Timothy J. Martin Jr., 25, of the Town of Niagara, was arrested and charged with leaving the scene of a fatal personal injury accident, a D felony.
“He was arraigned in local court and taken to the Niagara County Jail,” Previte said.
Previte cited the critical investigations of Penzotti and Cofield. “(They) really worked hard to solve this case. ... They really kind of took the reins and have been tracking leads down.”
Earlier this year, Wojtaszek said, “I am here to give just complete and utter praise to the Lewiston Police Department. Chief Previte, Capt. Penzotti and Officer Cofield have done really amazing work in this case. Not only to keep this case alive, (but) out in the public, (the work they’ve done) for years.
“How this case started, the culmination of an arrest, the hours, the manpower that went into this case, the follow-up they did on each and every lead, how they pieced this case together is really remarkable.
“They deserve so much credit for the effort they have put in for this family. It is so important to understand that the Lewiston Police Department, Niagara County, put (in) this effort because of the value of Loren Jacobs’ life.”
Cofield and Penzotti were both recognized for their years of investigative work that led to the arrest.
Other LPD commendations on Dec. 8 saw Lewiston Police officers Jim Ullery and Officer Scott Stafford both presented with certificates for their 20 years of service to the department.