The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Officers Derrick Dottin, Alex Capobianco, and Steven St. Hilaire of the Somerville (Mass.) Police Department as its Officers of the Month for February 2008.
On December 6, 2007, just after 11 p.m., emergency 911 dispatchers received several frantic phone calls reporting a house fire at 9-11 Harvard Place. Although it took only minutes for the first emergency responders to arrive at the scene, what they discovered was an inferno, as the century old wooden structure was totally engulfed in flames.
Family members informed Officer Dottin that their mother and brother were trapped inside the blazing structure. Without hesitation, Officer Dottin ran along the right side of the house amidst searing flames and burning debris, as Officers Capobianco and St. Hilaire entered through an adjoining yard. As the three approached the rear of the home, they heard a faint groaning sound. Officers Capobianco and St. Hilaire broke windows, as Officer Dottin kicked open the back door. More smoke and flames billowed out, making visibility next to impossible.
Knowing there were two people unaccounted for and that they had precious little time to get them out to safety, the officers made several attempts to enter the building. Finally, Officers Dottin and Capobianco made their way in and were forced to feel their way around in the pitch black. The amount of time they could stay in the building was limited due to the intense smoke.
Officer Dottin continued to go back into the inferno and at last caught a glimpse of a human foot. He tried to pull the person toward him but was unable to do so because of the debris surrounding the individual. Going further into the quickly disintegrating structure, Officer Dottin reached the woman and lifted her up by her torso. With the help of Officer Capobianco, Officer Dottin was able to remove the resident to the rear yard. Initially the victim was unresponsive, so Officer St. Hilaire began CPR and worked feverishly until he finally detected a faint pulse.
Although out of the building, the officers felt the resident was still in danger, as the backyard was being showered with flaming debris and the building was in danger of collapse. Officer Capobianco hoisted the victim onto Officer Dottin's shoulder, and he carried her to the street, out of harm's way. Simultaneously, firefighters arrived and were able to rescue her son from the front portion of the home.
Officers Dottin and Capobianco were both treated for smoke inhalation. The home's owner and her son were taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries and were released in time to celebrate the Christmas and New Year's holidays with their family.
The Medal of Honor is the highest award that can be bestowed upon an officer of the Somerville Police Department. It is awarded for an outstanding act in the line of duty that goes above and beyond what would be considered proper use of police action, at eminent personal hazard with full advance knowledge of the total risk involved. On December 19, 2007, for the first time in 20 years, the Somerville Police Department's Medal of Honor was awarded to Officer Derrick Dottin, Officer Alex Capobianco, and Officer Steven St. Hilaire. Now, the three officers have added the NLEOMF's Officer of the Month award to their list of awards.
Officers Dottin, Capobianco, and St. Hilaire, and all of the 2008 Officers of the Month, will be recognized during a special ceremony in Washington, DC, in May 2009 during National Police Week.
The NLEOMF Officer of the Month Program, which began in December 1996, recognizes federal, state, and local law enforcement officers who distinguish themselves through exemplary law enforcement service and devotion to duty. The NLEOMF Officer of the Month Program is sponsored by a generous contribution from THE FORCE.
For more information visit www.nleomf.org.