By Sean Barron
Police officer Brad Ditullio vividly remembers when a driver he had tried to pull over struck and dragged him through a backyard off Connecticut Avenue on the West Side.
He also was aware of his split second to act.
“I knew my life was in danger if I didn’t shoot him. All my training kicked in,” Ditullio explained. “I would have been dragged to death.”
Instead, the 12-year Youngstown officer received the Medal of Valor during the Youngstown Police Department’s annual awards ceremony Thursday in Our Lady of Mount Carmel’s Church Hall, 343 Via Mount Carmel Drive.
Ditullio took home the department’s highest honor, which recognized his act of bravery that resulted in the driver’s arrest and thwarted a further threat.
An estimated 87 other awards and commendation letters were distributed during the one-hour luncheon to officers who apprehended violent offenders, saved lives and removed firearms from the streets, as well as for other acts of exceptional performance in the past year, chief Rod Foley noted.
While on patrol just before midnight Dec. 16, 2012, Ditullio investigated a suspicious vehicle and attempted a traffic stop near Connecticut Avenue. Instead, the driver accelerated toward the officer, striking and dragging him several feet, which resulted in a severe leg injury, Ditullio recalled. The driver, who had an extensive criminal record, had been released from prison a few months earlier, he continued.
“I wasn’t expecting this award; I’m honored to say the least,” Ditullio said, adding that his job’s most-rewarding aspects are serving the public and saving lives.
Additional awards were for firearms reductions, excellence on duty, investigative excellence, meritorious service and saving lives. Twenty-seven commendation letters also were given.
Among the recipients of the live-saving award was Jerry Fulmer, one of three officers who responded to a suicidal man who threatened to jump from a bridge. After establishing rapport with the man, Fulmer helped pull him from a guardrail and saved his life.
Officer Chad Zubal, who responded to a fire on the South Side, found three people sleeping inside the residence and safely removed them.
Twelve officers, including Fulmer, received the Firearm Reduction Award, which recognizes efforts to curb the surge in gun violence in the city, Foley explained. Too often, guns are used to settle disputes, he continued.
Nevertheless, Foley said, the first quarter of 2013 shows a 40 percent reduction in felonious assaults in Youngstown, compared with the first three months of 2012. Also, drug- and weapons-related arrests increased 241 percent and 267 percent, respectively, over the same period, he pointed out.
Making a big difference is the department’s call-in structure to meet with gang members and other high-risk individuals, as well as a firearms interdiction program, which is a leg of the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence program, the chief said.
CIRV aims to combine law enforcement with social-services efforts and faith-based programs to provide means for violent youngsters to change their lives, Foley said.