By FRED CONNORS
Senior Staff Writer
WHEELING - Citing his "courage, bravery, professionalism, loyalty, teamwork, skill and ability ... and, most of all, his service to the citizens of Wheeling," city Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger on Thursday awarded Sgt. David Drahos the Medal of Honor for his response to the Oct. 9 Federal Building shooting.
Photos by Fred Connors
Being honored during a public safety ceremony Thursday in the Wheeling City Council Chambers are these members of the city fire department are front row, from left, Capt. David Harmon, Daniel Hughes, Capt. Eric Cianelli, and Francis Zambito. Back row, from left, are Lt. William Wagner, Assistant Chief Jim Blazier, Lt. Bernard Davidson, Lt. Gregory Funari and firefighter Jacob Howard.
The honor came during an awards ceremony in Wheeling where Schwertfeger and Assistant Fire Chief Jim Blazier presented promotion badges, plaques and commendations to members of their respective departments.
Just before 2:45 p.m. Oct. 9, Thomas Piccard pulled his vehicle into the parking lot across the street from the Federal Building.
He got out of his vehicle and fired the first of 26 shots into the building, breaking glass and sending onlookers scrambling.
Within minutes, law enforcement from across the area responded.
Schwertfeger said Drahos and other employees were completing activities in their offices high above the street when they heard gunfire.
"Without hesitation, matching firepower, or a ballistic vest, Sgt. Drahos traversed several flights of stairs, exited the building, and followed the sound of the gun shots to the shooter," Schwertfeger said. "Armed only with his issued Smith & Wesson handgun, Drahos knew action needed to be taken quickly. He noticed an opportunity as the suspect came into his sight through a row of vehicles that stood between them. Even though the distance was far greater than most officers ever train for, in excess of 70 yards, he steadied his weapon, squeezed the trigger, and fired one fatal round."
The chief said after the incident was over, police discovered the shooter was armed with a handgun and a Romanian AK 47-style assault rifle. He also had multiple magazines for the rifle and additional ammunition in the trunk of his vehicle.
"Sgt. Drahos' heroic actions that day prove he is a dedicated public servant who is devoted to keeping the citizens of Wheeling safe," Schwertfeger said.
In addition to the WPD internal award, Drahos will receive a 2014 Top Cops Honorable Mention Award from the National Association of Police Organizations Monday during an awards banquet at the Marriott Marque Hotel in Washington, D.C.
"This is an extremely high honor," Schwertfeger said. "He is representing the entire state of West Virginia."
The chief also awarded Metal Valor awards to other officers who responded to the Federal Building shooting, including Deputy Chief Martin Kimball, Lt. Phil Redford, Lt. Shaun Flanegin, Sgt. David Black, Sgt. William Nolan, Sgt. Matthew Taylor, Sgt. Gregg McKenzie, Sgt. Frank Kuca, Cpl. Neil Fowkes, Cpl. Joshua Sanders, Cpl. Nikki Anderson and officers Sean Brantley, Marcus Narehood, Andrew Covington, Ezekial Goddard, and Detectives Brandi Alderman, Gregg Harris, Craig Howard and Drahos.
Retired Corp. Mike Makris was honored for his more than 25 years service to the department, and Sgt. Craig Kriner for 23 years service.
Commendations for other outstanding police work went to Cpl. Sara Dent, Officer Garrett Pugh, Cpl. Russell Campbell Jr., Cpl. Douglas Howell, Pfc. Daniel Finger, Pfc. Jason Martin, Officer Sean Brantley, Officer Matthew Hronek; Medal of Merit, Pfc. Ezekial Goddard, Officer Sean Brantley, Officer Matthew Hronek; Lifesaving, Cpl. William Ward, Cpl. Russell Campbell, Pfc Andrew Covington, Officer Ryan Ferrell, PFC Marcus Narehood; Pfc. Andrew Covington, Pfc. Robert Safreed, Medal of Valor; Cpl. William Ward, commendation.
Promotion and new hires recognized were Probationary Officers Robert Scott; Patrol Officers Andrew Adams; Patrol Officers First Class, Robert McConnell, Andy Covington; Corps. Sara Dent, Bryan Hails, Josh Sanders, Dave Gittings.
Firefighter promotions recognized by Blazier were Fire Engineers Capt. David Harmon, Capt. Eric Cianelli, Lt.. Bernard Davidson, Lt. Gregory Funari, Lt. William Wagner, Fire Engineer Francis Zambito. New hires are probationary firefighters Daniel Hughes and Jacob Howard.