Four Guttenberg police officers won honors last week for feats ranging from subduing a knife-wielding assailant to rescuing victims of Hurricane Sandy.
The Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 46 held a ceremony to give the awards on May 22 at the Fiesta in Wood-Ridge.
Police Officers Laura Sorto and Albert Hernandez received their kudos for an incident on April 26, 2012. At 5 a.m. that day, Officer Sorto was flagged down by a citizen apprising her of a man with a knife in a Bergenline Avenue deli. She called for backup. After Hernandez arrived, the officers entered the store.
As they did, Sorto and Hernandez ran right into a man and woman trying to flee the store. The man was brandishing a bloody knife.
“We got to the store and it was face to face,” Hernandez said. “We took him down at gunpoint, and the woman as well.”
The store owner had been stabbed and killed.
Hernandez described the incident as “intense” and the crime scene “graphic.”
Sorto and Hernandez were honored with Excellent Police Service awards for their actions that day.
“We took him down at gunpoint.” – Police Officer Albert Hernandez
Police Officers Joseph Torello and Shaundel Barker were honored for their actions on Oct. 29, 2012, during Hurricane Sandy. Torello had just completed a 16-hour shift and was on break when he heard a police radio report of citizens needing help in a flooded area in Weehawken.
Torello and Barker responded, donning wet suits at the scene and boarding raft boats to save survivors. The debris from the hurricane was so voluminous, at times Torello had to walk or swim through the water.
“At the deepest part, my feet were on tops of cars,” he said. Holding on to second floor balconies helped him navigate the waters.
The pair of Guttenberg officers saved a 32-week pregnant woman, her dog, and her cat, as well as a male teenager. Then they went back to help other victims.
“They were just really happy we were there to get them out,” Torello said.
All told, Torello worked two days straight in the various Sandy rescue efforts, only stopping to take short, required Police Department breaks.
Torello and Barker received Excellent Police Service Awards for their actions.
Sorto and Barker could not make the ceremony, but were honored in absentia.
In FOP business, North Bergen resident Frank Pinto received the Lodge 46 Member of the Year award from the organization. Pinto, now retired, was a North Bergen police officer for 30 years.
In the scholarship portion of the program, Hoboken High School student Brandon Sodano received the Debra Basic Memorial Grant of $1,000. He will be attending the New Jersey Institute of Technology in Newark in the fall.
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.