By Rick Palsgrove
You see them patrolling the town day and night. They are an ever present part of the community and on a slow day they might stop and have a friendly chat with you just like a neighbor would. But other times, when something bad happens, they are quickly there when you need them.
They are the Groveport police officers and recently the city honored its officers at an awards ceremony attended by friends, families, and community members on March 10 at The Links at Groveport.
“We appreciate what our police officers do for the city,” said Mayor Lance Westcamp. “Their hard work and dedication represents the city so well.”
Officer Tisha Pack was named the Groveport Police Department’s Officer of the Year. Pack serves as the police department’s school resource officer at Groveport Madison High School.
“Officer Pack has to make decisions each moment of the day to make sure the kids are safe at school,” said Groveport Police Chief Ralph Portier, who added Pack also assists with the school’s softball program.
“I’m surprised and very appreciative,” Pack said of the award.
The department also awarded the Medal of Valor, the highest decoration for bravery exhibited by public safety officers in the United States, to Officer Josh Guiler and Officer Danny Amabile for their work last September in saving a woman’s life.
On Sept. 10, 2015, at 3:18 a.m., Guiler observed a suspicious vehicle on Richardson Road near Betz Way.
According to the Groveport Police, within seconds of Guiler’s cruiser coming to a stop, the suspect, Gregory Runkle, left the vehicle and allegedly began firing a handgun at his estranged wife, Kendall Runkle, and at Guiler. Amabile arrived and assisted Kendall Runkle while Guiler fired back at Gregory Runkle, who then fled on foot into a cornfield where police believe Gregory Runkle took his own life. According to the Groveport Police, no shots from Guiler’s firearm struck Kendall Runkle or Gregory Runkle. Investigators believed this was an attempted murder/suicide situation.
Sgt. Lou Chan also received recognition for his assistance during the incident.
“These officers prevented a killing from taking place,” said Portier. “They acted without regard for their own lives. It was an exemplary response above and beyond the call of duty.”
According to historian Ernie Bell, who is also a Groveport police officer, there have been three previous winners of the Medal of Valor since the beginning of the modern Groveport Police Department in 1966 (prior to 1966 the town was served by a part-time town marshal): Sgt. Randy Browning in 1986; and Officer Ben Boso and Detective Tom Hubbard in 1990.
Bell said Browning was on routine patrol in the area of Seymour Street when he observed smoke coming from a burning home. Browning rescued two elderly women in the home. He was evacuating the second woman, when a gas tank in one of the vehicles in the garage blew up. Browning sheltered both women in his cruiser and backed up about a block and a half until the fire department could arrive. No one was injured during the incident.
According to Bell, Boso and Hubbard responded to a gas explosion at a house on Wirt Road and pulled three victims out of the home, which was still on fire with the possibility of more explosions. Several citizens and other village employees received the award also including Mark Green, Willard Hamler, Elmer Howard, Pat Wears, Pat Laughlin, and George Scott.
It’s all in a day’s work for the Groveport Police.