SKY Valor Honors local heroes in June

New salutes at 8:35am each weekday
We salute our area’s first responders, for their dedication to protect our families and communities.  Every weekday in June, listen to the Bob Rose Show as we honor local heroes…for their bravery, going above and beyond the call of duty.  A new story, a new honoree, at 8:35 each morning.  VALOR presented by Automax of Ocala, Lawful Defense, and Shoot G-T-R.
SKY Valor Honors Photo credit 97.3 The SKY

Friday June 24 honorees:

From the Marion County Sheriff's Office...saluting Deputy Branden Donahue and his K-9 ‘Scout.’

In March of last year (2021), Donahue and his partner “Scout” were assisting in apprehending a wanted person, who had 3 felony warrants issued for his arrest. After waiting at a location for 1½ hours, the suspect arrived, and immediately ran. Scout and Deputy Donahue pursued and caught the man, who then pulled a handgun and was attempting to use it.  A long, violent struggle lasted over 6 minutes until back-up arrived on-scene. The suspect bit Donahue, and bit the K-9 on his ear. Scout never once let go and stayed in the fight, which allowed Donahue to eventually wrestle the gun away. Still, it took the help of two responding deputies to finally take the suspect into custody. Although deadly force was an understandable option, Donahue showed great restraint and teamwork with his K-9 partner.

Thursday June 23 honoree:

From Marion County Fire Rescue…saluting Lieutenant for Community Paramedicine, Tyrone Edwards.

Hear Lt. Edwards' story here on the Bob Rose Show podcast

Edwards was the Fire Chief's original pick to lead the first ever “Community Paramedicine team”.  Marion Fire Rescue’s C-P team completes home visits to designated patients that have been high system utilizers of the 911 system, or to persons that have been referred by Fire Rescue’s hospital partner.  Employing his managerial and organizational skills, Edwards spearheaded the COVID-19 home vaccination program, helping homebound citizens.

During the program, Edwards came across a homeless US Army Veteran, and immediately stepped in to assist him.  Edwards was able to secure healthcare for the vet through the VA system.  Edwards worked to get him permanent housing through many different veteran groups, and job training through the VA.  This veteran now stands tall and proud, because of Edwards efforts.

Wednesday June 22 honoree:

From the Marion County Sheriff’s Office…saluting Deputy Elijah Serrano.

Hear Deputy Serrano's story here on the Bob Rose Show podcast

In January of last year (2021), Deputy Serrano conducted a traffic stop in “On Top of the World.”  After initially stopping, the driver fled and a short pursuit ensued.  When the vehicle stopped again, the driver stepped out, brandishing a revolver, and asked Deputy Serrano to shoot him.  The suicidal driver was facing going back to prison on another charge.  Although Serrano was justified in the use of deadly force, he chose to try and negotiate with the suspect.  After an intense period of negotiations, the driver dropped the gun, but attempted to get away.  Serrano chased the suspect, and using a Taser, captured him.

Tuesday June 21 honoree:

From the Marion County Sheriff's Office...saluting Deputy Jonathan Coleman.

Hear Coleman's story of Valor on the Bob Rose Show podcast

In March of 2021, another Marion County deputy, Deputy Osborne, was assisting in a vehicle pursuit when he lost control of his car and crashed into a tree. After hearing of the accident over the radio, Deputy Coleman responded, proceeding to the last GPS location of Osborne to find him. Coleman located the crash, saw that Osborne was severely injured, and his vehicle was on fire. Coleman, with the help of citizens on the scene, was able to remove Osborne, and pull him to safety. The patrol car became fully engulfed with fire, but the fast action of Coleman and on-site citizens saved the deputy’s life.

Friday June 17 honoree:

From the Florida Highway Patrol...saluting Trooper Jordan Wildeman-Stuart.

Wildeman-Stuart is 24, and has been with FHP’s Ocala Troop B since 2019.

Hear Wildeman-Stuart's story of Valor here on the Bob Rose Show podcast

On the afternoon of this past May 25th, Trooper Wildeman-Stuart responded to a call, a “motorist welfare check” at the I-75 Southbound Rest Area near Ocala. Upon arrival, he located a tractor-trailer to conduct the check. There was no response from inside the sleeper-cab. Trooper Wildeman-Stuart used his ASP baton to gain entry, then observed the truck’s driver in distress, laboring to breathe, sweating profusely and semi-conscious. Wildeman-Stuart called emergency medical responders. Medical personnel determined that glucose levels were abnormal, and transported the driver to West Marion Hospital. Wildeman-Stuart’s quick response and action saved the truck driver’s life.

For his professionalism, which exemplifies the guiding FHP values of “courtesy, service and protection,” the Florida Highway Partol’s Ocala Troop B and 97.3 The SKY are proud to salute Trooper Jordan Wildeman-Stuart as a SKY Valor honoree.

Thursday June 16 honoree:

From the Levy County Dept. of Public Safety...saluting Paramedic Mark Fowler.

Hear Fowler's story on the Bob Rose Show podcast

This past March, a school bus unloading children on US Hwy 19 was struck from behind by a semi-tractor trailer. Many units from Levy County and surrounding agencies responded to the emergency. Two young children were critically injured on the bus. Mark Fowler was off duty, and received notice of the accident while he was traveling in the area. When he noticed a helicopter responding, Fowler thought additional assistance may be needed and joined the effort. A detailed, lengthy, and complicated extrication was undertaken, to safely attend to the injured. Once the children were off the bus, Fowler and the crew of ShandsCair loaded one child on a helicopter. The second responding helicopter suffered a bird strike, and was unable to reach the scene. The decision was made to use ground transport for another child. Without hesitation, Fowler boarded to assist in the treatment.

While everyone’s efforts on this scene should be commended, Fowler went above and beyond, responding while off-duty.  He consistently shows his pride in his community and Emergency Services by working on rescue teams, teaching CPR in local schools, teaching recertification courses, and Fowler has been pivotal in a memorial scholarship program, benefitting high school students looking to pursue a career in EMS.

Monday June 13 honorees:

From the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office…saluting Deputy Chris Drake and his Belgian Malinois K-9, Rous.

Drake has been a deputy with the department since 2007.

Hear their story on the Bob Rose Show podcast

Drake, his K-9, and several other deputies were searching for an armed and dangerous subject, wanted in recent shootings as well as multiple violent felony warrants. While fleeing from law enforcement, the suspect entered an apartment without invitation and hid in a bedroom. The residents fled the apartment, but a non-ambulatory 7-year-old disabled child remained in a room adjacent to the suspect. Despite the threat posed by the armed individual, the decision was made to enter the room to save the child. Deputy Drake and Rous’ quick thinking and selfless courage resulted in the rescue of the disabled child from potential harm, and the apprehension of a violent felon.

Friday June 10 honorees:

From Gainesville Fire and Rescue…saluting Lieutenant Chase Prince and Firefighter Josh Gossett.

Prince has served with G-F-R for 18 years, and Gossett for 3 years.

Hear their story on the Bob Rose Show Podcast

This past December 11th, Prince and Gossett were part of the emergency response to a multi-residential apartment building fire. Upon arrival they entered the building to search for occupants. After forcing entry through a glass slider, the team navigated thick smoke and extreme conditions, then located an unresponsive subject in a rear bedroom. Prince and Gossett quickly worked to secure and remove the subject to the exterior, where she regained consciousness. While the individual was required to undergo multiple medical interventions, she is likely alive today as a result of the knowledge, skills, abilities, and training that resulted in split-second decisive action under duress.

Thursday June 9 honoree:

From the Florida Highway Patrol’s Gainesville Troop-B…saluting Captain William J. Berger.

Berger joined FHP in July 1999, advancing through the ranks over the years.

Hear his story here on the Bob Rose Show Podcast

Last October while traveling on U.S. 441 in Alachua County, then-Lieutenant Berger observed a significant four-vehicle crash on the south side of the roadway.

Berger, with Officer Tiaunshe’ Brown of the Alachua Police Department and a citizen involved in the accident, immediately responded to the most seriously injured victim, who was not breathing. The driver was unable to be removed from a vehicle. The 3 immediately performed CPR until the arrival of Alachua County Fire Rescue. Berger, Officer Brown and Mr. LeDoux did not hesitate in their attempt to save the life of another.
Their actions represent kindness and courage during a very stressful situation. By his actions, Berger demonstrated the core values of the Florida Highway Patrol - Courtesy, Service & Protection. The three were instrumental in the injured male driver not only surviving, but making a full recovery. Berger was promoted to the rank of Captain this month.

Wednesday June 8 honoree:

From the Ocala Police Department…saluting Officer Jorge Fernandez.

Fernandez has served OPD for 24 years, and 2nd year as a School Resource Officer.

Hear Officer Fernandez's story on the Bob Rose Show podcast

Officer Fernandez is a School Resource Officer at Howard Middle School. He has been seeing a student named Yometh, and his mother, walk miles to and from school each day. Fernandez took time to talk and get to know the student. He learned that Yometh was new to the area, and spoke little English.
During one of their conversations, Yometh mentioned that he had never owned a bicycle…and didn't even know how to ride one. When Officer Fernandez learned that the boy's birthday was coming up, he wanted to find a way to get him his first bike. With some help, Fernandez secured a donation and made it happen. After school on October 8, 2021, Officer Fernandez surprised Yometh with a brand new bicycle and helmet for his birthday.
When Ocala Police shared the good deed on social media, the video went viral…with nearly two and a half million views. The story even inspired some viewers to donate additional bicycles for Yometh's mother, and other children at Howard Middle who may need a bike. Yometh and his mom were absolutely thrilled by the birthday surprise and by the community's overwhelming support.

Tuesday June 7 honoree:

From the University of Florida Police Department…saluting Officer Susan Pratt.

Pratt has been the Evidence Custodian and Polygraph Examiner for the Department.

Hear her story on the Bob Rose Show Podcast

As Evidence Custodian, Officer Pratt has meticulously maintained property and evidence, requiring extra attention during the trying times of the pandemic…as well as through UF-PD’s relocation to a new building. She fully inspected, packed and moved 7,549 pieces of property and evidence. Pratt’s work has maintained the Department’s multiple accreditations, a massive feat. She was instrumental in coordinating vault relocation…and evidence, bike and vehicle storage moves. All this while Pratt’s position was transferred from the oversight of the Criminal Investigation Division to the Training Division…with the additional challenges of switching supervisors during a major transition period.
In addition, Officer Pratt is one of UF-PD’s lead Polygraph Examiners. She performed a whopping 37 polygraphs during 2020, integral to the accurate and timely background investigations for new employees.
Officer Pratt also represents the Department on the Board of Directors for the Florida Crime Prevention Association; is the President of the Property and Evidence Association of Florida for Region 6; is on the Board for the Newberry Criminal Justice Advisory Association, as well as staying active with the Special Olympics Athletes…Pratt just spent the last week in Orlando working at the Special Olympics USA Games.
Officer Pratt helped to create the Community Police Academy with UF Officer Ullery. Despite the pandemic, she assisted with teaching every class that was held.
She is a busy professional, who goes above and beyond her heavy workload to represent UF-PD in several outside community groups in a positive light.

Monday June 6 honorees:

From the Levy County Sheriff’s Department…saluting Deputies Hunter Dean and Gerard Williams.

Deputy Dean began his career in October of 2019 and Deputy Williams began his in June of 2020.

Hear their story on the Bob Rose Show podcast

On February 6, Dean and Williams responded to a distress call at the Yankeetown Boat Ramp. Upon arrival they discovered that a vehicle had accidentally run off the ramp and was submerged in the water. There were three people inside the vehicle. Despite the darkness and freezing temperatures, the deputies entered the water and helped get all three subjects to safety.

Friday June 3 honorees:

From the High Springs Fire Department and the High Springs Police Department…saluting Lieutenant Kimberly Wilson, Firefighter-Paramedic Kim Arnold, Lieutenant Kevin Pearson, Firefighter E-M-T Frank Wooten, and Sergeant Dustyn Shenk.

Hear their story on the Bob Rose Show podcast

This past winter on February 4th, High Springs Police, High Springs Fire, and Alachua County Fire Rescue were dispatched to a medical emergency in High Springs. A male subject was found unresponsive, not breathing, and had a discolored face. In full cardiac arrest, arriving High Springs Police units utilized their A-E-D (defibrillator) and delivered two shocks to the patient. The officers assumed the primary responsibility of chest compressions while High Springs Fire and arriving County personnel performed critical advanced life support measures. The patient was transported to the hospital by County Fire-Rescue, where he recovered.

Thursday June 2 honoree:

From Ocala Fire Rescue…saluting the unexpected heroism of Fire Engine Operator and Paramedic Jerry Tafoya.

Hear his story on the Bob Rose Show podcast

A career Firefighter and paramedic, Tafoya experienced one of the greatest fears…that all first responders dread…knowing the person in an emergency.
The job is to answer every 9-1-1 call. But imagine your mother is your emergency.
This past January, Tafoya was filling in at the city’s busiest engine company in Northeast Ocala. The call…a person was unresponsive in a parked vehicle.
We want to thank Captain M Shane Ferguson for relaying Tafoya’s emotional story…
Arriving at the scene, Tafoya became fixated on the make and model of the patient's vehicle…then found his mother slumped over the wheel. Tafoya broke the window, and directed his crew to rapidly remove her. Enroute to a hospital, Tafoya realized his mother had experienced a possible stroke. In his 28 years, Tafoya said it was the worst he had seen…and he was preparing himself that she might not recover. Tafoya performed emergency protocols, and his mother was transported to a local stroke center.
The story has a happy ending, as his mother recovered fully.

Wednesday June 1 honorees:

From the Gainesville Police Department…saluting Sgt. John Pandak, Officer Thomas Kooplikkattu, Officer Kristen Hall, Officer Aldo Mesa, Officer Kalief Gamble, and Officer Jacob Sowards.

Hear their story on the Bob Rose Show podcast

Last June 24th (2021), just before 11:30 at night, frantic calls to 911 poured in…an active shooter, at a teen party at the American Legion in NW Gainesville. Multiple children were shot. The first officers arrived to a chaotic scene. People were running in all directions, screaming. The officers had no idea of how many shooters there were, and if they were still on scene.
Disregarding their own safety, the responding officers at first searched for victims…locating a juvenile male inside on the main dance floor, laying in a large pool of blood. Sgt. Pandak and Officer Hall began performing CPR and trauma care to that victim. Officer Kooplikkattu administered medical aid to another wounded teen. A female juvenile victim sustained a thigh gunshot, and was tended to by Officer Mesa. The screaming chaos continued as the other juvenile party-goers and family members remained on scene, which made caring for the injured more difficult. Officers Gamble and Mesa found another wounded juvenile, and rendered aid to him as well. Finally, a 5th teen victim was located, and received prompt care by Officer Sowards.
With the victims all being treated, officers worked gathering witness and suspect information. A black Nissan had been stolen from the scene. Based on radio information relayed from the scene, an Alachua County Sheriff’s deputy attempted to stop the stolen car miles away on Newberry Road. A chase led to Apartments on SW 20th Avenue, where 2 suspects ditched the car, fled on foot and disposed of a handgun. They were soon apprehended.
The juvenile victim with a gunshot head-wound was transported alive by EMS…his status at the time of transport is a testament to the rapid trauma care provided to him by Sgt. Pandak and Officer Hall. The other juveniles that were shot were also promptly treated by Officers Sowards, Kooplikkatu, Gamble and Mesa…care that minimized their injuries and prevented further harm.
End result from the shootings at the teen party…one juvenile died. A total of 3 suspects were identified, captured and charged.