HERSHEY – A trooper who was fatally shot and a fellow officer who was wounded while they helped rescue a kidnapped child in Monroe County last year have been named the Pennsylvania State Police Troopers of the Year for 2009, Commissioner Frank E. Pawlowski announced.
State Police honored Tpr. Robert J. Lombardo and the late Tpr. Joshua D. Miller during an annual awards ceremony at the State Police Academy in Hershey. In addition, 10 other state and municipal police officers were recognized for their efforts at the shooting scene.
"Tpr. Miller gave his life and Tpr. Lombardo, although seriously injured, displayed courage and devotion to duty," Pawlowski said. "Despite the dangers, they did not swerve from the path of duty. They upheld their pledge to protect the citizens of Pennsylvania."
Pawlowski said the incident began on June 7, 2009, when police officers in Nazareth responded to an incident in which a man who was under a Protection From Abuse order threatened his estranged wife with a gun, abducted their son and drove from the scene.
The suspect led troopers and municipal police on a 40-mile pursuit through Northampton and Monroe counties, ending when the fleeing vehicle was brought to a stop in Coolbaugh Township. As troopers approached the car, shots were exchanged, with bullets striking Miller, Lombardo and the suspect, Pawlowski said. The suspect was killed, but his son was rescued from the car.
Despite being shot, Lombardo did not seek medical attention until helping to bring the incident to a close, Pawlowski said. Miller was flown from the scene to Lehigh Valley Hospital, where he died of his wounds.
"We honor both Tprs. Miller and Lombardo, not only for their actions on that fateful day last June, but also for providing exemplary service every day they put on their uniform and reported for duty at the Swiftwater station in Monroe County," Pawlowski said.
Miller, 34, of Pittson, graduated from the State Police Academy in April 2003 and joined the Swiftwater station in July 2004. Lombardo, 36, joined the Swiftwater station upon graduation from the State Police Academy in April 2004.
Miller and Lombardo served as members of an aggressive patrol detail at Swiftwater that focuses on traffic law enforcement. Pawlowski said they consistently were among the department's leaders in driving under the influence arrests.
Pawlowski also presented the State Police Medal of Honor – the department's highest honor – and the State Police Purple Heart to Lombardo during the ceremony. The commissioner noted that Lombardo received a Medal of Honor in 2005 for his efforts in attempting to rescue two children trapped in a fire in Monroe County in 2004.
Miller and Lombardo were nominated for the Trooper of the Year award by Lt. David T. Douglas, station commander at Swiftwater.
Miller is survived by his widow Angela, who previously worked for the State Police as a police communications operator at Troop Y, Wyoming, and three daughters. Lombardo and his wife Jennifer live in Pittston.
Also during the ceremony, Pawlowski presented a Commendation Medal to Tpr. John S. Osterhout of Troop N, Swiftwater, and Commissioner's Letters of Commendation to the following: Tpr. Lauren E. Piccini of Troop M, Belfast; Tpr. William B. Skotleski and Todd M. Tolan, both of Troop N, Swiftwater; Officers Peter Dewey and Peter Swan, both of the Nazareth Police Department; Officers Scott Dunlap, Matthew Nero and Michele Schmidt, all of the Pocono Mountain Regional Police Department; and Cpl. Frederick J. Lahovski of the Tatamy Police Department.
Pawlowski said Osterhout played a particularly crucial role in the rescue of the child by climbing into the suspect's vehicle and removing the child's seat belt so that he could be pulled from the vehicle.
"Each of these officers was an active participant in the pursuit of the kidnapping suspect and was at the scene at the time of the shooting," Pawlowski said. "They helped rescue the child and provided immediate care to the wounded troopers. They performed their duties with the utmost professionalism during one of the most horrendous and stressful situations a police officer could ever face."