ASHLAND - Every year, Ashland Police Department honors its own with an award ceremony recognizing exemplary service.
But it's not every year chief David Marcelli gives an award to a civilian who has sworn no oath to protect and serve but still chose to do just that. In fact, Marcelli said Monday's awards ceremony was only his second time presenting such an award.
The civilian commendation went to Christopher Lewis, who acted quickly to save a suicidal man on the Ashland University bridge across Claremont Avenue in October 2018.
Lewis saw what was happening and rushed to the man's aid before police arrived.
"When the man began to fall or jump from the bridge, without regard for his own safety, Christopher grabbed the man around the torso and pulled him back onto the bridge, saving the man's life," Marcelli said. "He stayed with the man until officers arrived.
"I think that's an outstanding example of heroism, and he absolutely saved that man's life," Marcelli said.
The officer of the year award was given to officer Brian Kunzen, who served as an acting sergeant for nearly a year. Kunzen performed admirably all year, but his biggest test came on his last night as acting sergeant, when the department faced its first officer-involved shooting since 1979.
"He couldn't have handled it better," Marcelli said of Kunzen. "Having virtually no experience in what to do, he followed his instinct and followed policy and got the people there that needed to handle that scene. I can't say enough about him."
Kendra Deaton was awarded the Civilian Officer of the Year award, an honor Marcelli said she has received about eight or nine times. Deaton works as supervisor of the department's records division.
"She's a hard worker. She's dependable," Marcelli said. "She knows her job and is the person officers call on when they need something. She does a wonderful job."
Officer Jeremy Jarvis received a meritorious service medal for his outstanding work as a school resource officer at Ashland City Schools.
Marcelli said Jarvis excels in his role as a protector, mentor and role model for students. Jarvis has become known for bonding with kids by giving high fives and fist bumps, Marcelli said. the officer receives many compliments for his compassion and his proactive approach to creating a safe environment in the schools.
In addition to those major awards, 14 commendations were given to department personnel who exhibited outstanding performance in a particular case. Award recipients were nominated by their peers in the department.
Lt. Gary Alting was awarded a commendation for three years of work on an investigation of a mail fraud case.
The case came to the department's attention when several local business owners complained their customers were receiving fraudulent mail.
Alting compared the letters of unknown origin with a letter from a known sender, developed a suspect and served a search warrant.
During the search, Marcelli said, investigators learned the suspect was not only sending fraudulent mail but was also a serial stalker of women.
Marcelli described the suspect's home as "the strangest place I've ever seen" and said that in solving the case, "I think we headed off some real issues."
Sgt. Curt Dorsey received a commendation for his investigation into a school threat.
In March 2018, a student reported an anonymous Twitter post threatening a shooting at Ashland High School and Ashland County Community Academy.
Dorsey followed his instinct back to the source of the complaint, and the source eventually confessed she had posted the threat as a prank. She was charged in juvenile court.
Det. Kim Mager received a commendation for her work securing a confession from the suspect in the case involving a Lee Avenue arson in August 2018.
Though there was little physical evidence, Mager's work resulted in a successful prosecution, Marcelli said.
"It's a common theme with Kim. We see it all the time," Marcelli said of Mager's ability to secure confessions from suspects.
Det. Kody Hying and officer Adam Brock received commendations for reviving a woman who had overdosed on heroin. Brock administered CPR while Hying gave the woman the opioid reversal drug naloxone.
Lt. Jerry Bloodhart, Sgt. Brian Evans, Sgt. Curt Dorsey and officer Tim Atchison received commendations for their work on a drug trafficking case in May 2018.
Through their work, the department seized $36,000 worth of illegal drugs and $7,800 in cash.
Sgt. Craig Kiley, officer Adam Brock, Det. Kody Hying, Det. Mager and officer Bradley Scarl received commendations for their work on a stabbing case in June 2018.
The officers worked as a team to summon aid for the two victims, locate the weapon, apprehend the suspect and obtain a confession.
Marcelli said he is proud of the work his officers do each day.
"When I see some of the work they get done and the lengths they go to to assist the members of the public and the citizens of Ashland, it's just phenomenal," Marcelli said.
Mayor Matt Miller, who helped present the awards at Monday's ceremony, also praised the officers for their work. Miller said he hears many compliments about the officers' conduct on the job and in the community.