On the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Boulder Police Department took time to celebrate the positive by recognizing officers and citizens who went above and beyond the call of duty during the last year.
The special ceremony, held Wednesday afternoon at the Public Safety Building, included the presentation of 21 awards for notable efforts to help make Boulder a safes place to live.
In describing the acts of his officers, Boulder police Chief Mark Beckner frequently repeated the phrase "performing an expected duty in an exceptional manner." Due to a high volume of noteworthy acts, this was the second such ceremony held this year.
"It's been a good year for our department," Beckner said.
Andrew Bernstein, Anthony Milazzo and Daniel Ellis were given the Outstanding Citizen Award for their quick thinking and decisive action in capturing a suspect who had stolen money from Zolo Grill. It turned out that the suspect was a serial burglar, and detectives were able to link him to five similar cases that were unsolved. Bernstein and Ellis are Zolo employees, while Milazzo was a frequent customer.
"I've replayed the incident in my head many times," Bernstein said. "I don't think we would have done it any differently."
Chuck Maxwell received the same award for rescuing a woman who was floating face down in Boulder Creek earlier this summer. Maxwell was visiting Boulder from Arkansas with his family.
Boulder police officers Pam Gignac, Mike Heath, Nick Smetzer and Nate Vasquez were given the STAR Award -- Superior Tactics and Response -- for handling a violent suspect.
The suspect attacked the officers by swinging a large metal crucifix before they were able to take him to the ground and handcuff him. Vasquez received a Purple Heart for a head injury caused by a blow from the crucifix.
"This is the most prestigious award I never wanted," Vasquez said.
To receive the award, an officer must be killed or seriously injured in the line of duty.
Vasquez joked, "I don't know why (the suspect) picked me. I'd like to think it's because I'm better looking than him."
Another Purple Heart went to officer Ryan Austin, who suffered a concussion and serious injury after an uncooperative suspect at a University Hill party resisted arrest and caused him to hit his head on a brick wall.
Beckner awarded his Certificate of Commendation to several officers and department employees.
Officer Ross Maynard aided a domestic violence victim and her young daughter after an incident in which a former boyfriend broke a living room window, leaving them exposed to the January cold. Maynard covered the window to keep out the elements, and vacuumed shattered glass from the floor when he found out the victims didn't own a vacuum.
"This came at a time when the community was doubting this department's commitment," Maynard said, alluding to the two former Boulder police officers involved in the killing of an elk in the Mapleton Hill neighborhood on Jan. 1. "This was a perfect opportunity to show how much we care about serving the community."
Officers Steve Cast, Vinnie Gallerani, Brian Connelly, Ryan Lord and Marcus Askins, and Accident Report Specialist Jeremy Hanel, handled an emotionally unstable man who had forced his way into the police department lobby, holding a box that officers were concerned could have contained explosives.
Dispatcher Sara Demgen calmly helped a man deliver his son when his wife went into labor and they realized they weren't going to make it to the hospital. Demgen said it was her first over-the-phone delivery in 12 years as a dispatcher.
"The mother did most of the work," she said.
Officer Ed Burke received the Award for Excellence for rushing into a burning home to help a Boulder County sheriff's deputy rescue an elderly woman who was in shock. The three made it out of the house just before a second explosion.
Specialist Marie Gonzales and Dispatch Supervisor Mike Ramirez also were recognized for their general performance in the workplace.