Montana Highway Patrol honors Woman Who Saved a Drunk Driver from Being hit by a train
It came down to instinct. On the night of April 7, 33-year-old Kassia Finn was driving back to her Jackson Creek home after her book club in Bozeman went long. Finn had noticed when she took the exit that a train was coming and she wanted to make sure she drove quickly so she didn’t get stuck behind it. That’s when she noticed a car stuck on the tracks. As Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Zachary Grosfield explained, the driver of that car, an intoxicated woman who had spent the night drinking in downtown Bozeman, got lost looking for her Bozeman hotel and ended up at the Jackson Creek exit off of Interstate 90 — 10 miles east of Bozeman. “She thought the railroad tracks were the road to get back to Bozeman,” Grosfield said. Finn jumped into action, getting out of her vehicle to check on the driver. The woman asked Finn for a tow rope and, through her interactions with her, Finn quickly knew the woman was intoxicated. “Lots of stumbling,” Finn said, adding the woman was confused, saying she was tired and cared. With the train bearing down, the woman then got back into her car. Finn told her to get out, but she refused, claiming she was unwilling to leave her belongings behind. But Finn pulled the woman out, and just in the nick of time. Moments later, the train struck the car, destroying it. “She was crying and I was holding on to her,” Finn said. “It was a happy ending. Hopefully it turns her life around.” On Thursday, for her actions that April night, the Montana Highway Patrol awarded Finn with the Colonel’s Citation of Meritorious Service Award, an honor given to citizens who have helped in life-threatening situations. Grosfield called Finn “a true hero in our midst.” “Because of Miss Finn’s heroic actions, nobody was hurt that day,” Grosfield said in a short ceremony at MHP’s Bozeman district headquarters. Finn said after the ceremony that it feels strange to be called a hero. “Typically, I hear ‘mom,’” said the mother of three. But she said she felt honored to receive the award in front of her husband Ryan, children Layla, Nora and Liam, friends and MHP troopers. “I wasn’t expecting that at all. It’s exciting,” she said. But mostly she was relieved. Relieved that she could help the woman, who was later charged with a misdemeanor DUI, and relieved that it was a happy ending. “Thank goodness she didn’t hurt anyone else,” Finn said.
Massachusetts State Police Invite a little girl to a K-9 Demonstration
You may remember Cosette from a post in May. She was the little girl who went to school dressed as a "Massachusetts Police K9 Girl" and subsequently was made fun of because of it. Since then, troopers have visited her school and spoke with her and her classmates, and now, the State Police K-9 team invited her to a training day, along with Essex County Sheriff's K-9, Medford Police K-9, and Malden Police K-9. The teams gave her (and Mom) a private demonstration at the Troop A Headquarters in Danvers, then went to the Essex Technical High School for a demonstration, where Cosette was the guest of honor. Here are a few of the photos from the day. We look forward to seeing Cosette in the future as a K-9 handler!
Massachusetts State Police Facebook Post
Connecticut K-9 Retires
An important member of the State Police Troop G barracks will answer his last roll call this afternoon, before trotting off into retirement. Jorick, a 90-pound, 9 1/2 year old German Shepherd and his partner, Tfc.Alex Horjatschun, have handled a variety of calls in their eight years of service together, including solving the “Snow Bandits’’ case several years ago. Those thieves — so named because of their penchant for striking on winter days in bad weather — had not reckoned with Jorick, born and bred in Slovakia and used to the cold. Jorick has also found an elderly Greenwich woman with Alzheimers who’d wandered away from home, recovered stolen firearms and vehicles, and helped solve countless burglaries, Horjatschun said, including the recent break-in at a Bridgeport church. But all of that is ending for the trooper’s canine partner, who will be staying home when Horjatschun clocks in for his next 5:30 a.m. shift on Thursday. “There is no mandatory retirement, and his health is good,’’ the trooper said. “But I want him to enjoy his retirement; I don’t want anything to happen to him,’’ Horjatschun said during a brief visit to The Connecticut Post on Wednesday morning. The two have an unusually strong bond, even for cop-and-canine pairings. “The state police train donated dogs for this work, but I bought Jorick myself and donated him to the (state police), where he was assigned to me,’’ Horjatschun said. :”I got him when he was six months old and he stayed home with us until he was old enough to begin training’’ at 18 months. Jorick has a “light switch’’ that he can flip on and off, going from a trained police dog to a playful pet instantly, the trooper said. “If he senses that you’re not a threat there’s no problem. But he’s ready to go to work in a second.’’ Lt.Kenneth Cain, the Troop G commanding officer, said the trooper and his canine have been partners in a dynamic team. “Their teamwork found burglary suspects and located missing children and elderly persons. K9 Jorick led Trooper Horjatschun to find handguns tossed out of vehicles, as well as operators who have fled motor vehicle accidents on foot. It would be an understatement to say that I am very proud of this K-9 team and very sorry to see Jorick leave us.’’ Horjatschun‘s family includes another dog, a Rotweiller they enter in shows. But it is Jorick who leads the canine pack at home, the trooper said. “When we’re away for even a few hours, he’ll shred toilet paper and spread it through the halls. I’ll probably get some big cardboard boxes he can take apart while I’m at work.’’
Virginia State Police attend Graduation of Fallen Trooper Dermyer's Daughter
Virginia State Police made sure State Trooper Chad Dermyer’s daughter felt the presence of her father at her 5th grade graduation. Dermyer was fatally shot by James Brown III at the Greyhound bus station in Richmond on March 31, where police were holding a counter-terrorism training exercise. Brown, of Aurora, Illinois, was killed by two other state troopers after he opened fire. Many troopers attended the graduation and supported his daughter, Page, for her big achievement. She received the President’s Award for Academic Achievement, signed by President Obama himself. “VSP made sure that Page Dermyer had plenty of VSP Family in attendance of her 5th grade graduation to cheer her across the stage and let her know how much she and her father, Trooper Chad Dermyer, mean to us,” said Virginia State Police in a Facebook post.
Original Facebook Post
Indiana State Police K-9 Retired
Sabre, an Indiana State Police dog with an impressive work resume, might be retiring but that won’t prevent him from spending time with his partner, Trooper Nick Meade. Instead of patrolling the Indiana Toll Road with Meade as he’s done the past seven years, Sabre will be retiring to Meade’s home, becoming a full-time pet to his handler. “I’m going to try to just let him be a dog,” Meade said. “There are certain things I could not do with him while he was working because I had to keep him in a work mindset and he’ll be able to do some of those things now.” Meade said retirement will not be easy for the dog after so many years on the job. “It’s going to be hard for him,” Meade said. “He’s been in the back of that police car for seven years working every day of his life and that’s what they’re bred to do. That’s what they were born to do. However, he’s done a good enough job for us over the years that I think he should be able to enjoy his retirement a little bit.” He recalled their biggest seizure, a drug bust of 234 pounds of marijuana that they found in the back of a truck. Meade said it was busts like that that made him happy to work with Sabre and proud of the hard work the dog put into the job. Together, Meade and Sabre are responsible for seizing almost $400,000 in currency, 14.8 pounds of heroin, 1,266 pounds of marijuana and 134 grams of cocaine, according to a state police news release. These busts have resulted in 80 criminal arrests. Meade will go down to Indianapolis Monday to pick out a new K-9 partner. The new dog will embark on a 14-week program in order to certify it through the International Police Work Dog Association. “The new dog’s going to have very big shoes to fill,” Meade said. “Sabre is a great dog and a great partner. It was nice to have him in the back of the car with me knowing he was there to protect me.”
Massachusetts State Police Dog Named Rocky helped find a Missing Boy with Autism
When an 11-year-old autistic boy went missing on Monday, a police dog named Rocky led first responders right to him. Police were called to a Hanson neighborhood at 8:30 p.m. Rocky, a Massachusetts State Police K9, was deployed to search neighborhood yards. “While checking a backyard, Rocky showed a change in behavior and pulled over to a large dirt hill at the back of the yard adjacent to railroad tracks,” said police. When officers reached the top of the hill, Rocky began barking at the thick brush below. That’s when paramedics swooped in and located the boy inside the brush, said police. The boy was evaluated and reunited with his family.
A Mississippi boy becomes an Honorary Alaska State Trooper for a day!
A bright-eyed 11-year-old boy from Mississippi got to venture into Alaskan wilderness to meet his favorite state troopers this past week. But this isn’t just any boy, and these aren’t just any officers. Blaine Breaux has been battling cancer since he was 10. His cancer is acute lymphoblastic leukemia, to be exact, which affects blood cells and the immune system. ALL is a cancer of the bone marrow and blood, and progresses rapidly without treatment, according to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It starts in a stem cell in bone marrow, but can spread to other areas, such as the central nervous system and lymph nodes. As a result, the number of healthy blood cells in someone with ALL is often much lower than normal and necessary. “I ain't never been hit so hard in my life when they told me Blaine had cancer,” said Blaine’s dad, Perry Breaux. “It really tears you up.” Without good red cells, white cells and platelets, people with ALL often suffer from anemia, which can cause fatigue, shortness of breath and easy bruising; neutropenia, which makes it so the person’s immune system can’t guard him or her against infection; and thrombocytopenia, which can cause bleeding and bruising without apparent cause, according to LLS. “It's hard; things are different,” said Kim Breaux, Blaine’s mom. “We thought he just had the flu. Even the doctors told us, ‘You're gonna have a new way of living, and when your normal life comes back, when all this is done, you're gonna have to get used to living normal again.’” Blaine has had more than 20 spinal taps since being diagnosed with ALL. He does some form of chemotherapy every day, and had a blood transfusion shortly before traveling cross-country to the Last Frontier. He can’t eat raw foods and has to take methotrexate pills that knock him out for days at a time. Almost 25,000 are expected to die from leukemia in 2016 alone. But thankfully, Blaine is one of many children who have made it to what’s called the “maintenance” stage of ALL. It isn’t total remission, his mom said, but it means there’s a good chance Blaine will totally make it out of the woods, as it were. “When they came and told us, I was in shock, but I prepared myself,” Blaine’s mom Kim said. “I just had a feeling, for some reason. And then my thoughts were [around] having to go to a funeral home and make arrangements. It's crazy.” While treatments have pulled Blaine out of traditional schooling and put him in a hospital more often than not, thanks to the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the Alaska State Troopers, Blaine got to forget about the cancer he’s courageously battling - at least, for a day. “He's not thinking about that right now,” Perry said. “He's thinking about how beautiful this is. And that's wonderful.” Because of an implanted port in his upper left chest for delivering cancer-fighting drugs, Blaine can’t play contact sports or do anything too physical. So these days, he’s playing a lot of golf. But he’s always been an avid hunter and wilderness explorer, and has always wanted to meet the everyday heroes from his favorite television show: Alaska State Troopers. “For someone in his condition, fighting the fight he's fighting, to want to spend the day with us, is pretty amazing,” said Sgt. Doug Massie of the Mat-Su West Post for Wildlife Troopers. “I'm honored.” So after a weekend of treatments, Blaine, along with his mom, dad, two brothers and grandmother, hopped on a flight to Alaska where Blaine’s wish was granted. And then some. “I can't explain it,” Blaine’s dad said. “It's just wonderful seeing Blaine light up.” Blaine met a full squad of troopers before becoming an honorary state trooper for the day. He hopped in a squad car and spent the morning reviewing fishing licenses and boating permits on the Susitna River. That was before checking in at a trooper cabin in the woods for lunch and taking an hour-long helicopter ride over Deshka Landing. “There aren't enough words to explain how exciting it is for him,” Blaine’s mom said. “It's just overwhelming.” And as it turns out, Blaine was inspiring his heroes. “A person that's fighting the battles he's fighting, fighting the illness he's fighting,” Massie said. “It totally puts life into perspective. What's important, what's not important. Those little things you kind of overlook? You pay a little more attention.”
A Washington State Trooper helps a Homeless Family
Murray Duncan and his fiancée, Alyssa Dunn, thought they had their lives planned out when they moved here from Delaware last month. Dunn had a job lined up as a gate agent at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and the couple had enough savings to live with their 6-month-old son in a hotel for about a month while they looked for an apartment. But after the transmission on their Hyundai Elantra blew out during the drive to Washington State, the couple found themselves broke and weeks away from Dunn’s first paycheck. After finding a Redmond church that offered overnight shelter, they decided to make an Interstate 5 rest area their home during the day, getting by on a patchwork of other social services. It’s not uncommon for the region’s homeless residents to spend their days at highway rest areas, although state law limits visits to eight hours at a time, according to the Washington State Patrol. Trooper Stephanie Bjorkman was tracking down witnesses for an investigation at the Sea Tac Rest Area along the freeway near Federal Way late last month when she encountered Duncan, 23, and his baby — new faces among the regulars. She decided to help the young family. “I see people who are in this permanent limbo phase because they’re not doing what they should be doing,” Bjorkman said. “(Duncan and Dunn) are in this limbo, but they’re trying to get out.” Bjorkman has helped the family get food, water and baby formula. She’s also provided Duncan and Dunn, 24, with information about free activity programs for kids so they can get the boy out of the car. Various churches and the Salvation Army provide the family with dinner Monday through Friday, but they have to find their own food on the weekends, so Bjorkman has been giving them restaurant gift cards. Bjorkman said once the family has proof of income with Dunn’s first paycheck in the coming days, they will be eligible for more state resources. But until then, Bjorkman has been taking it upon herself to help the family get food, water and baby formula. “Words can’t even explain,” Duncan said of Bjorkman’s help. “She’s definitely looked out for us, and we can’t thank her enough.” Troopers are regularly called out to direct homeless people away from rest areas, though the homeless often return later. Bjorkman said she sees both sides of the issue. “DOT wants their rules enforced, but oftentimes (homeless people) have nowhere else to go,” she said. For now, Bjorkman continues to check in on the family, providing help when she can. Dunn said she and Duncan were recently accepted into the state’s Diversion Cash Assistance program, which will provide them with temporary aid for housing once they sign an apartment lease. The couple recently found an apartment, and they’re waiting to hear when they can move in. Duncan plans to start working once they get established. In February, King County Executive Dow Constantine and other regional leaders and homeless advocates announced $17 million in county funding for new, affordable housing units and emergency shelter in the county, some of it aimed specifically at South and East King County. A count last year put Washington’s homeless population at 19,418, with King County accounting for 52percent of the total. Dunn said she wishes there were more transitional homes in the area for people who already have jobs. She described one shelter the family stayed in as being infested with bedbugs. Bjorkman said providing the family with assistance has been a great counterbalance to the type of work she usually deals with as a trooper. “You’re never sure how they’re going to react,” Bjorkman said. “From what they’ve told me and what I’ve seen, I feel like it’s going to help them move out of this period.” She said troopers often help the homeless in smaller ways, recalling a former colleague whose wife would make extra sandwiches for him to give to those in need. “That’s sort of the way a lot of these troopers are,” said State Patrol spokesman Chris Webb. “They do these things and you don’t find out about it — sometimes until six months later.”
Local Elementary School gets help from Connecticut State Police to teach the students about science in the community
By the end of Deans Mill School’s annual Science and Tech Day last Thursday, young Josie Hatch could dust for fingerprints like a pro. “You put your hand on paper and then you swirl around the brush, and then you find a fingerprint,” Josie, a 6-year-old kindergarten student, said. “It was pretty neat.” Josie and her classmates learned a little about DNA, the tools investigators use at crime scenes and the inside of a police vehicle from the Connecticut State Police on a day educators at Deans Mill set aside every year for students to learn how science and technology is used in the real world. “We teach them how science helps police work,” Detective Karen O’Connor, a polygraph examiner with the State Police, said. “We look at fingerprint patterns and the technology in police cars. Technology has completely enhanced everything.” Students from kindergarten through Grade 4 received lessons on everything late last week — from robotics to plankton and its place in the food chain to how liquid nitrogen freezes objects. Local businesses like Pfizer and teacher and student groups from Stonington High and Mystic Middle also presented. “A lot of the parents of our kids help out, too,” said Kristen Morehouse, a kindergarten teacher. “That way, students find out about what adults in the community do.” Members of Mystic Middle School’s SeaPerch team, who advanced to a second consecutive national competition this spring, talked to the younger students about the afterschool program. In SeaPerch, students design and build ROVs, underwater remotely operated vehicles. “We’re trying to teach them about designing ROVS so when they go on to college maybe they can find a job,” Mystic Middle sixth-grader Baxter Menzies said, standing outside a large tank filled with water and various ROVs. “You learn about engineering, and it’s fun, too. “Not a lot of people can build robots like this. At our school, it’s something you can do.” Elsewhere in Deans Mill’s building, Stonington High students helped teach youngsters about the science of roller coasters and worked in small groups to design and build a working roller coaster, using pipe insulation for tracks and a marble for the car. “We tested out all of the tracks,” second-grader Eli Iovino, 7, said. “We learned how you can do stuff with science and technology. If you don’t know science, you won’t know how to do very much.” For kindergartner Maddie Johnson, her favorite part of the day was learning how to be a detective. “It was cool,” Maddie, 5, said. “We got to push buttons while sitting in the police car.”
Kindergarten Class Rewards Massachusetts State Trooper for his Act Kindness
The Massachusetts State Trooper who gained accidental fame for an act of kindness last month was paid back in kind on Friday when a Hudson kindergarten class invited him to lunch. Trooper Luke Bonin was leaving court in May when he spotted a panhandler on the side of the road in Fall River. Bonin went to a nearby restaurant and returned with lunch, after which the two shared a meal. The good deed may have gone unnoticed if not for a passerby who was touched by the scene and posted a photo on Facebook. From that point, the photo began being shared and the story was picked up by news sites throughout the country. One month later, it was Bonin's turn to have lunch bought for him. "Well, after Mrs. Mullen's Kindergarten class at Farley Elementary School in Hudson saw Trooper Bonin's kindness, one of the kindergarteners, yes that's right, one of the students, thought it would be a great idea to pay it forward and invite Trooper Bonin to lunch at the school," a post on the State Police Facebook page states. The class first made a banner to thank Bonin, which Mullen shipped to the Dartmouth Barracks at which he works. Afterwards, Mullen extended the invitation for Bonin to speak to the class and to have lunch at the school. "When Trooper Bonin arrived, he was welcomed with open arms and began with reading the class a book," the post states. "He also brought with him a globe and asked each student to put a fingerprint on the globe, while he talked to them about 'leaving a positive mark on the world' as they grow older, to do nice things for people and it will come back around to them, as good things will happen to them." The real reward though may have been for the students who, after lunch, had a chance to check out Trooper Bonin's cruiser, play with the lights and talk over the PA system. "Trooper Bonin was the star in Hudson today! However, he appreciated being invited and the chance to spend time with the class more than the children enjoyed having him," the post states. "Thank you again to Mrs. Mullen's kindergarten class."
Driver Arrested After Hit and Run in Tampa
The Florida Highway Patrol is investigating a wild hit-and-run caught on video in Tampa. Cell phone video shows what appears to be a driver of a silver car deliberately plow down two people on a motorcycle. The incident happened on US 41 and County Line Road around 5:35 p.m. on Monday. According to witness, Abe Garcia, who captured the incident on video, the driver of the motorcycle confronted the driver of the car after he witnessed the car cut the motorcyclist off. "The guy driving the car was driving recklessly, like crazy out of control," Garcia said. "I saw him almost run one of the bikers over, like off the side of the road. So, then the bikers caught up to him at a red light and words started exchanging, and then the guy went complete psychopath." That's when Garcia said the driver, who authorities later identified as 31-year-old Robert Vance, deliberately tried to run the man and woman over. "The guy tried to kill them," Garcia said. "It was a red light and then it turned green. He could've just gone straight, but he went for the biker." Action News has reached out to the Florida Highway Patrol and is awaiting an official report. Troopers arrested Vance down the road about five minutes after the incident. He had damage to his car consistent with the crash. Both passengers on the motorcycle were taken to the hospital and are expected to be okay. "I knew something was going to go down... I didn't know that extreme at all. But, people are crazy man. Anywhere your life could end instantly," Garcia said. Vance is no stranger to the law. His rap sheet includes habitual traffic offenses and arrests for drugs and violence. He now faces charges including leaving the scene of a crash and aggravated battery. Vance admitted to investigators he hit the victims and left the scene.
Massachusetts State Trooper Saved a Woman from a burning car
A decorated state trooper is being hailed as a hero after rescuing a 23-year-old woman just moments before flames engulfed her car. Trooper Glenn Witaszek — who earned the Medal of Valor in 2013 after a 2012 shootout in Chicopee — received a report of a single-car crash on the Mass Pike in Palmer yesterday. As he approached, he saw the car in the woods with smoke coming from it. He recounted the rescue to the Herald’s Chris Villani. Luckily, I was there within a matter of moments. The vehicle was already in flames … the engine compartment and the front seat were in flames. The vehicle was on its side, basically wrapped around a tree, and the roof area was smashed down. The damage to the vehicle was tremendous, even minus being caught on fire. I parked about 20 feet away and ran toward the vehicle. I could hear a woman screaming, I noticed she was in the back seat area, screaming for help. With the vehicle on its side, it’s hard to push a door up to get out. It’s hard for one person to do it, never mind with a broken arm. Plus there was too much damage from the car, I am not sure that door was going to open at all. I told her, ‘Watch out, I am going to break the back window.’ I broke the window using an ASP, a baton, and was able to get her out of the vehicle. She was covered in blood, but I didn’t see any burn marks on her. She said her left arm hurt and she thought it was broken. Her father told me later that her left arm was broken, but no major, serious injuries. It was only a matter of moments before the rest of the car caught on fire and it was fully engulfed before the fire department got there. I brought her back to my cruiser. She was thankful … she had some cuts, but nothing was gushing blood at the time. She was grateful she was rescued. It’s a lot of trauma to be in that position to even think straight. It was a matter of timing. If I was there a minute or two later, I think I could have gotten her out, but she would have had some burns on her. Much longer after that, in my opinion, I don’t think she would have been alive. I have seen cars on fire … but not to that extent. I have seen where a little bit of the car is on fire … most of the time people get themselves out. This is the first time I have had to pull someone out of a car that was halfway on fire. Any other police officer would do the exact same thing. I don’t see myself as a hero. It’s very flattering, but I am doing my job. I am out there to protect people and keep people safe
Illinois State Trooper Performs Taps out of Sense of Service
It's a service that takes less than one minute to perform. But the memory Mike Atkinson creates by playing taps at memorial services and funerals is far more lasting. "They call it the 24 most difficult notes for a trumpeter," said Atkinson, 48, who lives in Urbana with his wife and three children. He is one of five trumpeters employed by the Illinois State Police who volunteer their musical skills to pay honor to others. "It's all volunteer. I do it on duty, but it's based on operational need. If I'm in the middle of a case, I can't," said Atkinson, a 21-year veteran of the state police. A master sergeant, Atkinson supervises the general crimes division and the methamphetamine response team for the state police zone based in Champaign. "Our unit concentrates on violent crimes, public integrity and major cases," he said. It's Atkinson who is among the first called if an area police officer shoots someone or is shot. "The Illinois State Police is really good about letting me do it if I can. When I retire, it's something I want to do much more often," he said. Atkinson grew up in Bethany and first picked up the trumpet when he was in fifth grade. His chops must have developed quickly because his father, who was an honor guard commander in the American Legion, and his mother, in the Legion Auxiliary, persuaded him as a sixth-grader to play taps at veteran funerals in town. "I can remember in junior high practicing taps out the bedroom window when the opposing football team would walk from the high school to the field. That was inappropriate, I'm sure," he said, chuckling at the memory. "I got into trouble for that from my dad." In high school, he was a member of the marching band and credited "the world's greatest band teacher, Marty Lindvahl" with helping to hone his craft. He continued to play for funerals while in high school and occasionally when home from college at Eastern Illinois University. As a teen, he was aware of his contribution. "It was remarkable being out there in a cemetery with Legion members doing honor guard, a rifle volley, and then playing taps," he said. After graduating college, Atkinson began his foray into law enforcement as a telecommunicator and auxiliary deputy for the Moultrie County sheriff's office. After a year there, he became a police officer for the Illinois Commerce Commission, holding that post until 1994 when he joined the state police. "I put my trumpet in the closet. I just got too busy," he said. Several years ago, his attendance at a service where a recording of taps was being played got to him. "I saw one of the Legion honor guard members using an electronic bugle. It looks like it has a mute in the end. But it's a speaker that plays a perfect rendition of taps." "Honest to goodness, I was ashamed of myself because I had left my trumpet in a closet. I could have volunteered to do that had I only kept up my playing," he said. "That's when I fast-forwarded to my midnights master sergeant who was on the trumpet team and I thought, 'I should look into that.'" His good intention to get back into playing taps at funerals didn't happen immediately. In 2014, he was carting his children to the Community Center for the Arts in Urbana for music lessons on their stringed instruments when he got involved with a fun adult group there called "The Marvelous Cretaceous Band." "The leader, Tom Faux, for some reason, let me play the trumpet. I played in that band and I got my embouchure back," he said of the facial configuration needed for a brass mouthpiece. "They call it getting your chops in shape. I had had roughly 25 years without playing so it took me a while to get it back. After I did that for a while, I thought, 'I'm going to see if I can play in the state police.'" Atkinson is one of five state troopers from all over Illinois on the honor guard trumpet team. He's been performing since June 2014, averaging eight to 10 ceremonies each year. "There's me, a patrol lieutenant from District 9 in Springfield, a crime-scene investigator from the Champaign office, a special agent from the division of internal investigations from Springfield, and a patrol trooper from Joliet," he said. They play for state police events like recruit or cadet graduations but also at statewide memorial events for fallen police officers or a veterans event that Secretary of State Jesse White hosts at the state library in Springfield. "Peoria, Carlinville are the farthest I've traveled. The most I've done in a day is two services in Peoria. This is a big time of year because of the Illinois Police Memorial" held in early May, he said. There may be one, two or three trumpeters at a time depending on the event, the music played and their availability. Getting away from work is not always easy. Besides taps, they also play the Star Spangled Banner, which has three parts. It's not until they arrive at the event that they decide who will play which part. "With 'The Star-Spangled Banner,' it's always a three-person team. We can use music on that," he said appreciatively. "Memorizing three different parts is difficult for my old brain." Asked what he likes to play best, Atkinson said without hesitation that it's taps. That's because of the solemn nature of the events where taps is performed. "It's normally chaos for me with cases and callouts," he said of his daily grind. "With taps, I have to completely unplug from investigations, calls, callouts, and be 100 percent in the moment. That is absolutely the only time my phone is not on my person, except when I'm sleeping but it's within arm's reach." And while his taps performance takes only 48 seconds, it is preceded by hours of travel and practice, often done outdoors. "If it's really cold outside, brass instruments are affected. It helps to play in a lower key because if it's really cold, it can get really, really sharp and their tuning goes haywire," he said. He also has to worry about wind taking his dress uniform hat. Mostly, he frets over the undivided attention. "When it's time to sound taps, it's usually after three rifle volleys and it's just silent. You are totally exposed," he said. "There is no band behind you, no percussion, no rhythm section." Performance anxiety kicks in. And it's difficult and emotional if he's playing at the funeral of someone he knows personally. "In a solo at a band performance, you want to do good for yourself. For me, I'm always afraid I'm not going to do good enough for the person. That's the nerve-wracking part." And when the performances are over, there are usually grateful groupies. "Folks thank us for doing this," he said. "I feel just the opposite. I'm flattered that people ask me to do this. It is my honor."
California Highway Patrol Officer Rescues a Seal
Over the weekend Officer Alameda found a seal stranded on Highway 1 near Marina. Officer Alameda put the seal in his patrol vehicle and transported him to the Marine Mammal Center. During their initial contact Officer Alameda mistook the seals signs of affection and gratefulness as hostile bites. Officer Alameda and the seal made up and left each other on good terms.
New Jersey Trooper gets student to exam on time
A recent 911 call for service to the New Jersey State Police did not turn out to be the usual call for a disabled vehicle on the Garden State Parkway. On May 4, at 9:02 a.m., a call came into the Galloway State Police Station for a vehicle fire on the roadside at milemarker 61.2 in Eagleswood Township. Trooper Kimberly Snyder said she was the closest trooper in the area and rushed to the scene. When Snyder arrived she said she could see smoke billowing from the engine of a 2005 Nissan Frontier. “When I got there I found out he actually blew out his radiator and it was overheating,” said Snyder. She called for a tow truck and the driver John Lancellotti explained he was driving to take a final exam at Stockton University at 10 a.m. Lancellotti said his parents were working out of the area and couldn’t come to pick him up. It was then that Snyder said she made a decision to make sure Lancellotti arrived on time to take his final exam. Snyder, 35, said Stockton University is part of her patrol area, so she drove Lancellotti to the school. “He told me his father is retired from the job and he really appreciated that I did that for him. It was important for me to do it because he seemed like a good kid and he needed help to get there,” she said. “I felt bad he had to roll up in a troop car, but he made it on time. I was just doing my job,” said Snyder, an 11-year veteran of the State Police. A statement from the State Police this week said, that in a situation like this, a trooper is required to relay a stranded motorist to a safe area where the motorist can make arrangements for a ride home. But Snyder went above and beyond the call of duty, the release said. “Not too often do we come in contact with people on good terms. Usually they’re not happy, especially if we have to write them a ticket and it’s bad circumstances. It’s nice to do something under good circumstances,” Snyder said. A letter to State Police from Lancellotti’s parents said the ride from Snyder was a big deal to them and to their son. The letter said they were touched by Snyder’s professionalism and character and they were extremely grateful that she helped their son during a very stressful time.