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ELIZABETH, NJ – May 7, 2012— On May 4th, Mayor Bollwage attended the Two Hundred Club of Union County’s 43rd Annual Valor Awards, where ten police officers and firefighters were honored for heroic acts performed while in the line of duty. Four Elizabeth Police Officers were among those awarded.

“Each year, this ceremony is held to commemorate those recipients who intentionally risk their lives for a cause they believe is greater than themselves,” said Mayor J. Christian Bollwage. “These officers continue to serve with honor, bravery and distinction and I am grateful for the opportunity to thank those who continue to risk their lives every day to protect us."

This year’s honorees from Elizabeth include Officer Paul Camarinha, Officer Howard Decker, Detective Raul Dela Prida from the Elizabeth Police Department and Captain Brian Santos from the Elizabeth Fire Department.

Captain Santos, who was off-duty on the way home from his sister’s house, pulled over when he saw a car flipped over and on fire on the side of Route 31 in Clinton. He saw a snapped telephone pole and wires down across the roadway and when he peered into the vehicle, he found the driver unconscious, suspended upside down by his safety belt.

Even with increasing fire and smoke Captain Santos crawled into the passenger side, trying to free the driver. After several attempts, he called out to bystanders for a knife to break him loose. A local firefighter arrived and commanded that Santos leave the vehicle, but he would not leave without the driver. After receiving the knife, he was able to pull the driver into safety before emergency vehicles responded.

“Every day, men and women risk their lives to protect us. They are our police officers, paramedics, firefighters, and more,” said Councilman-At-Large Frank Cuesta. “Captain Santos acted without the protective gear and tools or backup, yet he did not stop until he saved that life; for this alone, he is worthy of receiving this award.”

Police officers Paul Camarinha, Howard Decker and Detective Raul Dela Prida received their gold plaques for a day in January, where the report of a carjacking was heard across the radio. Detective Dela Prida, who was close by, saw the vehicle traveling at high speeds on 1 & 9 North towards Newark. Although he was alone, he immediately began pursuit. Officers Camarinha and Decker quickly joined the chase.

Continuing with high speeds onto Route 78, the vehicle began to slow down and both passengers ran from the car, fleeing on foot. All three Officers quickly began to chase after them, when one suspect stopped and aimed a semi-automatic handgun at them. Before, he was able to get a shot, Dela Prida and Camarinha both discharged their weapons. The suspect then dropped his weapon and continued to run.

Both suspects were caught by the officers after they vigorously resisted, both were arrested. The officers recovered a fully loaded .40 caliber Glock 27 with 11 rounds in the weapon and an additional 11 rounds in the suspect’s pocket along with a substantial amount of crack cocaine.

“It is acts like this that show a great deal of bravery and fortitude as they were confronted by a dangerous situation,” said Councilwoman-At-Large Patricia Perkins-Auguste. “All three Officers exhibited selfless procedures as they took immediate action to arrest two fleeing criminals. Certainly their actions went above and beyond the call of duty.”

The event, which was held at L’Affaire, a catering facility in Mountainside, drew more than 200 people. The nonprofit club also awarded four $32,000 college scholarships to sons and daughters of active duty police officers and firefighters.

Other recipients from around Union County included: Officers David Pinto and Christopher Baird of the Union Police Department; Lt. Timothy Brennan and Aldo Tammaro of the Westfield Fire Department and Lt. Roderic Carson and Lt. Jason Lowrey, of the Plainfield Fire Department.