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Officers honored for service ‘above and beyond'

By Ed Brock

They shot it out at close range with suspects, cooly dispatched emergency information, and rescued stray animals from harm's way.

They are the best officers in the Clayton County Police Department for this year and on Wednesday they received their due.

Five officers received medals of valor in a ceremony attended by officers and family at the police headquarters building on McDonough Street in Jonesboro. They also named Officer of the Year, Narcotics Agent of the Year, Dispatcher of the Year and Animal Control Officer of the Year.

Clayton County Police Chief Darrell Partain said he was honored to recognize each officer singularly.

“The bravery and heart that these professional officers show should be followed by the officers in the department as well as in others,” Partain said.

Officer Michael Thrasher was named Officer of the Year. Thrasher was cited for his general dedication and thoroughness since he joined the department in January 2004.

The citation he received mentions that Thrasher has made 220 arrests since January and is “tenacious in all aspects of his duties.”

“Once Officer Thrasher has made an arrest he is extremely skillful in justifying and articulating his actions, especially in written form,” according to the citation.

Thrasher was succinct in expressing his appreciation for the award.

“I'm proud. I'm glad I got it. I enjoy working for the Clayton County Police Department,” Thrasher said.

His father Michael Thrasher and mother Connie came from Newnan for the ceremony, happily clicking pictures of their son.

“I've never seen anybody as dedicated to what he does as him,” Michael Thrasher said. “He spends more time in court than he does on his street.”

Detective Stefan Schindler was named Detective of the Year for his work on the February 10 shooting death of 2-year-old Xavier Miranda that eventually led to the arrest of 18-year-old Torrin Reese and three other suspects.

Narcotics Unit Agent Eric Arroyo was named Narcotics Agent of the Year for his role in the June 3 seizure of 3,571.17 pounds of marijuana at a “stash house” near Forest Park.

“This seizure is one of the largest marijuana seizures in Clayton County history,” stated Arroyo's citation.

Clayton County 911 Dispatcher Barbara Haywood was named Dispatcher of the Year for her work on two incidents in August involving officer-involved shootings.

“Ms. Haywood remained calm and handled the situation as a true professional,” reads Haywood's citation.

Animal Control Officer Tiffany Phillips was named Animal Control Officer of the Year for her dedication to her job.

“Phillips has gone out after hours and on her days off to reunite owners with their pets,” states her citation.

The Medal of Valor recipients were Officer Nicole Blanks, Lt. Wilfred Norwood, Officer Clinton Nicholas, Officer Jeffery Gant and Officer Victor Massarelli.

Blanks and Norwood were honored for their performance in an Aug. 18 police chase that led to the arrest of 29-year-old Timothy Orlando Wyatt. Norwood witnessed Wyatt shoot another man on Roy Huie Road near Riverdale and chased him until forcing Wyatt to stop on Forest Parkway.

Norwood's vehicle ended up 6-feet away from Wyatt's car with both driver's side windows facing each other.

“The suspect immediately took aim at Lt. Norwood, directing a barrage of gunfire at him,” Clayton County Assistant Police Chief Jeff Turner said in reading Norwood's citation. “Lt. Norwood, although temporarily blinded by the deployment of the (patrol car's) air bag, simultaneously unholstered his weapon and transferred the weapon to his left hand while tactically repositioning himself on the seat and returned fire.”

The brief exchange ended when Blanks pulled up and fired at Wyatt, causing him to surrender.

Nicholas and Gant were the two officers who shot the same trespassing suspect in the same shoulder during different moments of an Aug. 13 incident at an apartment complex on Garden Walk Boulevard. Nicholas fired on the man and hit him in the right shoulder as he fled the scene, almost running over Nicholas in the process.

The suspect circled around and wrecked his car in the same complex, running away on foot with Gant in pursuit. Gant shot the suspect again in the right shoulder when he turned on the officer with something in his hand.

Massarelli was forced to shoot a suspect on June 17 after the suspect began dragging Massarelli with his car.