Master Patrol Officer Jeffrey Kritz (left) and Officer Harry Augello (right).
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Master Patrol Officer Jeffrey Kritz and Officer Harry Augello as its Officers of the Month for June 2009.
The economic downturn has had devastating effects on people across America. In the case of a man from Rhode Island, the strain proved to be too much. In a three-year period this gentleman, an established carpenter, lost his business, his home and his family. Seeking warmer temperatures he moved to Florida for a fresh start.
Unable to find employment, within a matter of weeks he was again homeless and was forced to spend the night at the Tampa International Airport. Distraught after being ejected from the airport in the morning, he felt his only option was to end his life and set off to a nearby bridge. That morning, it never occurred to him that Master Patrol Officer Jeffrey Kritz and Officer Harry Augello would disrupt those hastily devised plans.
On March 10, 2009, the Tampa Police Department received a call that a man was walking across the Howard Frankland Bridge, by far the most traveled of Tampa Bay's vehicular bridges and one that is closed to pedestrian traffic. Officer Augello was the first officer on the scene and immediately realized that the subject was in crisis and contemplating suicide. Officer Augello engaged the subject in conversation as he waited for backup to arrive.
MPO Kritz arrived shortly thereafter and noticed that the subject was walking backwards away from Officer Augello as the two spoke. MPO Kritz quickly positioned his patrol vehicle roughly 30 feet past the subject, putting the subject between himself and Officer Augello.
As he walked forward to the subject, MPO Kritz stated that he recognized him — that he had seen him before. The subject became very nervous having MPO Kritz positioned behind him and insisted that MPO Kritz get out of the way. Officer Augello explained to the subject that MPO Kritz was only there to control the traffic as they were on the side of a four lane highway with traffic traveling at speeds of up to 65 miles per hour.
The officers soon realized that the subject was determined to commit suicide. In order to save his life, they would have to act quickly. MPO Kritz pretended to control traffic, as Officer Augello continued speak to the subject, keeping him distracted so as not to see that MPO Kritz had removed his TASER electronic control device. As the subject walked closer, MPO Kritz nodded to Officer Augello and deployed his device, striking the man in the back. The shock of the TASER restrained the subject, and he fell to the ground where the officers restrained him.
As the subject was led into an awaiting ambulance, he began to cry. Witnesses said that all the stress and pain this man had been through came flooding out in his tears. MPO Kritz stated that he felt the subject was thankful; that in fact all he really wanted was to be helped. Before the ambulance left the scene, MPO Kritz approached the man, telling him that everything would be OK and the two embraced.
MPO Kritz and Officer Augello were extremely pleased with the outcome but noted that suicide calls are becoming more common as a result of the economic situation. Tampa Police Sergeant J.I. Penichet had nothing but praise for the two officers. "Master Patrol Officer Jeffrey Kritz and Officer Harry Augello's quick response and efforts were no doubt lifesaving, and offered the subject another chance at life," he stated.
Master Patrol Officer Jeffrey Kritz is a 22-year veteran of the Tampa Police Department. He has received numerous awards and commendations throughout his law enforcement career. He also serves as a Field Training Officer for the department. Officer Harry Augello has been a law enforcement officer for 16 years. He is a member of the Tampa Police Benevolent Association and serves on the District Latent Investigations section and the Westshore Alliance squad.
Located in the nation's capital, the NLEOMF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America's law enforcement officers. The NLEOMF Officer of the Month Program began in September 1996 and recognizes federal, state and local officers who distinguish themselves through exemplary law enforcement service and devotion to duty.
MPO Kritz and Officer Augello, along with the other Officers of the Month for 2009, will be honored at a special awards luncheon in Washington, DC, in May 2010 during National Police Week. In addition, their stories of heroism and service will be featured in the Memorial Fund's 2011 calendar.