Honored for valor on duty; Weehawken police receive 200 Club of Hudson County Valiant Teamwork Award
In April of 1999, a despondent man from Queens paid a visit to Weehawken, determined to end his life. Upset that he could not find a decent job in the United States, the Serbian man was determined to commit suicide by hanging himself from atop the Palisades. When Weehawken police arrived on the scene that day, they noticed Murat Elik standing atop the railing of the stairwell at the top of Pershing Road that leads down to the NY Waterway ferry terminal. There was a heavy piece of rope tied around the railing at one end, and the other formed a noose around Elik's neck. Elik was frantically telling everyone to stand back because he was ready to throw himself over the railing. The team of Weehawken police officers that arrived on the scene that morning, Sgt. Elia Almoyan, as well as Officers Alex Banos, Richard Caswell, John Johnson, Chris Majewski and Edward Vion, used quick thinking. If they rushed Elik, he might go over the cliffs. There was no room for error. Caswell first talked to the man, trying to assure him that he was going to be fine and that there was no reason for him to end his life. Almoyan used his background and native tongue to help the man, give him a sense of assurance that one of his own was nearby. Gaining Elik's confidence with their consoling approach, the officers were able to act quickly to grab the man and pull him back safely over the railing. Needless to say, the Weehawken police's brilliant thinking, yet soft and caring approach, allowed them to save a man's life that fateful morning. It was the quick work, combined with the bravery and the compassion, that enabled the group of dedicated Weehawken police officers to be presented with the annual Valiant Teamwork Award by the 200 Club of Hudson County, at the 10th annual awards luncheon Wednesday afternoon at the Hi-Hat Restaurant in Bayonne. Annual event
Carson Dunbar, the Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, was the guest speaker. Glenn Cunningham, now a U. S. Marshall, was a featured speaker. Assemblywoman Joan Quigley, the president of the club, made the presentation of the awards. The 200 Club, established in Hudson County in 1984, was founded with the intent to acknowledge the achievements of law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical services personnel in the line of duty, to provide recognition for heroism above and beyond the call of duty, to ensure prompt financial support for the families of officers who lose their lives in public service, and to offer educational assistance to public safety officers and their children, especially in their time of need. An awards committee selects recipients and arranges for appropriate recognition of the deeds of valor. The 200 Club also offers several scholarships each year to public safety officers or their children who meet high academic standards, show exemplary character and have financial need. Wednesday's recognition marks the second time in four that a team of Weehawken police officers was presented with the Valiant Teamwork Award. In 1997, then-captain Robert Del Priore, now a deputy police chief, was honored, along with Lt. James Fabian, Detective Sgt. Thomas Earl, Detective Keith Neuschwanter and Officer John DeCosmis. "It's an honor, especially when it's the public that is recognizing the best that we can be," Almoyan said. "We always try to achieve the best that we have been trained to do. Unfortunately, you never hear the positive that police officers do. Only the negative things are reported. So this is a nice change, to receive an honor for a job well done." Officer Johnson echoed those sentiments. "It's unfortunate that so many good things we do get unnoticed," Johnson said. "But today, it hasn't been that way. It's a great honor and we're all proud to receive it. The public should get a chance to see something like this, because we're the ones who put our lives on the line every day. To receive an award like this makes it a fine day. Today, the tables are turned. There should be more reports of the positive side of what police officers do. It portrays a positive outlook." Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner showed his appreciation for the township's officers. "We're very proud of our police force," Turner said. "The valor of some of our officers has been exemplary and they should be honored. It's nice to know and comforting to know that when a crisis happens, the Weehawken police department rises to the occasion." Seven individual public safety officers received awards. Firefighters Douglas Boyle and Jeffrey Bruder of Kearny, Hudson County Sheriff's Officer John Karras, Jersey City Police Officers Keith Ludwig and Jeff Solokowski, Union City Police Officer Ricardo Ocasio and Bayonne Police Director Mark Smith were honored. Five police officers from North Bergen received the Valiant Teamwork Award, same as the one given to the contingent from Weehawken.