They saved lives, solved murders, made sure felons were charged and undertook other heroic actions that officials say happen in Aurora — and across the nation — every day.
They are the 20 Aurora Police officers who were honored as employees or co-employees of the month for going “above and beyond the call of duty” last year, and from among them, the 2015 Employee of the Year was named.
He is Officer Ronald McNeff.
An Aurora police officer for less than four years, McNeff was selected because of his actions on three high-profile incidents that occurred over a three-day period, two of which were on the same shift.
On July 21, 2015, he was on his way to a call when he noticed a subject who was profiled in an internal investigations bulletin and was wanted for questioning involving an attempted child abduction. McNeff made contact with the man, proceeded to gather all of his pertinent information, took his picture, and contacted the lead investigator in the case making him aware of the possible identification. Coincidentally, the case was closed by investigators after the man was interviewed.
On July 24, McNeff responded to a call for a suicidal woman on the High Street Bridge. Upon arrival, he located the woman who began to run when he called out to her. When she began to climb over the railing, McNeff grabbed her in a bear hug and pulled her back to safety, saving her life. An on-scene sergeant said the woman was very distraught and was continually making suicidal statements. He believes she would have succeeded in taking her own life had it not been for McNeff’s quick actions.
A short time after that call, McNeff was the first officer on the scene of an 18-month-old baby who had drowned in a backyard pool in the 800 block of Hinman Street. Despite his best life-saving efforts including administering CPR, the child had been under water too long and did not survive.
A fourth incident in which Officer McNeff discovered the identity of a suspect involved in a shooting, also contributed to his being chosen Employee of the Year.
Aurora Police Chief Kristen Ziman said choosing the Employee of the Year is no easy feat
“It’s difficult to compare fantastic police work, life-saving efforts and acts of compassion because they are all such different tasks, but again, that’s the day in the life of a police officer,” she said. “Officer McNeff displayed several actions that comprise both good police work and life-saving actions which made his efforts stand out.”
Calling it one of his favorite ceremonies of the year, Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner said, “It represents the most realistic stories of police officers today, and that, despite what people may think, their work and the decisions they make are not easy. It is an extremely difficult job and we are extremely proud of what they do every day.”
In accepting the award, Officer McNeff praised the work of his colleagues and added that, “Police work is not like TV and I think what (those in attendance) heard tonight proves that. These (incidents) are examples of what happens every day at the Aurora Police Department.”
The other officers honored at the ceremony were:
- Officers Matthew Fichtel and Jeremyah Kelley for rescuing a 62 year old man from his burning apartment in a downtown building in December 2014.
- Officers Marco Gomez and Greg Spayth for resolving a January 2015 shooting that injured a 17 year old male and led to charges against a suspect.
- Officer John Stull and Sergeant Brian Pierce for their actions that led to the quick arrests of two murder suspects in February.
- Officers Dave Bemer and Jason Woolsey for their actions that led to felony charges against a known gang member and the confiscation of two guns in March.
- Officers Ryan Feeney and Derrick Hight for their efforts at resuscitating an 88 year old woman who suffered a possible heart attack.
- Officer Dean Tucker for saving the life of a seven year old girl who was a passenger in a vehicle that ended up in a Far West Side retention pond. The crash claimed the life of the girl’s mother and brother.
- Officer Michael Townsend for his actions on two high-profile cases that led to felony charges against two men and three juveniles.
- Officer Jeremyah Kelley for his life-saving actions on a two-week old infant who was neither conscious nor breathing when he arrived at a home for an assist ambulance call.
- Traffic Investigator Jeff Talley for his compassion and generosity when he purchased two child restraint seats for a disabled, unemployed Aurora man who had been court-mandated to have his previous child seats inspected due to a citation he received.
- Officer Kurt Thomas for his efforts on a traffic stop that turned into a seizure of two pounds of cannabis after stopping a man for speeding on the Far East side, and,
- Investigators Len Casamassimo, Max Worchester, Tom Maguire, Darrell Moore and Guillermo Trujillo were honored for their work in the shooting death of a 19 year old Aurora man.
Feature Photo Caption: Officer McNeff (center) with Aurora Mayor Tom Weisner and the Aurora Police Command Staff. (L to R)Commanders Mike Doerzaph and Keith Cross; Police Chief Kristen Ziman, Officer McNeff, Mayor Weisner, Deputy Police Chief Keefe Jackson and Commander Paul Nelson.