Sheriff's deputies honored for bravery, life-saving, outstanding service
York County Sheriff's Deputy Michael Lutz spent quite a bit of time in front of a crowd of supporters, accepting awards and accolades for what Sheriff Richard Keuerleber said was his bravery and self-sacrifice.
At one point during the York County Sheriff's Office's annual awards ceremony Thursday, Oct. 19, he started to walk back to his seat, but his boss stopped him.
"You're not done yet," Keuerleber said, drawing laughs from the crowd.
Lutz, 36, was shot in the face at point-blank range while serving a warrant on June 9, 2016.
He and other deputies were trying to arrest James Nickol, 38, just before 9 a.m. in the 900 block of East Philadelphia Street of York City when Nickol pulled a gun out of his backpack and shot Lutz in the face and thumb.
Lutz returned fire, fatally wounding Nickol.
Lutz has been on medical leave since that day but is hoping to return to active duty in early 2018. He has a facial surgery scheduled next week to remove part of the bullet still in his right cheek.
Good vs. evil: After receiving a standing ovation, Lutz said he was "humbled" by all the awards he received and said he believes angels and two fellow deputies saved his life that day.
"There's a constant battle of good and evil in this world," he said. "In the end, good will always prevail, no matter what."
Lutz, who was hired as a deputy in 2011, has written his account of the violent encounter, titled "My Guardian Angel Testimony." (See attached story below.)
"I talk about this from my heart ... as a sign of hope for people," he said.
A 1999 graduate of Red Lion Area High School, Lutz served in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard from '99 to 2014, spending a year in combat in Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, sometimes dodging sniper fire and improvised explosive devices and sometimes using metal detectors to find IEDs and their parts so he and his unit could destroy them.
Mostly, he said, he did "door-kicking," meaning tracking down and arresting bomb-makers and other wanted terrorists.
The honors: Lutz received the Curtis D. Sowers Medal, the medal of valor and a medal for being injured in the line of duty, all awarded by the sheriff's department.
The Sowers Medal is awarded to deputies who show "gallantry and intrepidity" at the risk of of their own lives as they go above and beyond the call of duty. Sowers was a North York police officer and part-time York County sheriff's deputy when he was fatally shot in 1929 by a wanted cattle rustler.
Lutz also was presented with a 2016 award of valor from the York-based Police Heritage Museum as well as a letter of gratitude from Gov. Tom Wolf. He also received his first-degree black belt ranking from his sensei, Ken Marsh.
Lutz credited Deputy Nathan Payne and former Deputy Richard Drum, who's also a retired state police trooper, with saving his life.
"I would've been dead that day" had the two deputies not taken immediate action to stop his profuse facial bleeding, he said.
Payne and Drum received life-saving medals — and hugs from Lutz — at the ceremony for their quick actions.
Lt. Lou retires: Also honored Thursday with distinguished service medals for their years of service were Lt. Lou, a tracking bloodhound, and his partner, Sgt. Sam Shipley.
Lou became part of the sheriff's office and the York County Missing Child Task Force in 2008.
Since then, the partners have tracked fugitives and missing persons and were dispatched to more than 140 incidents in all kinds of weather, at all hours and on weekends, according to Lt. David Godfrey, who presented the awards.
Shipley and Lt. Lou also have spent hundreds of hours at various community events as goodwill ambassadors.
Shipley is staying on the job, while Lt. Lou gets to spend his days relaxing at home.
"It hasn't sunk in yet," Shipley told The York Dispatch.
Jaen Shipley, the sergeant's wife, said that at home, Lou has quite a personality. She described him as spunky and energetic.
Promotions, more awards: Sgt. Ashley Donley and Sgt. Justin Koller were recognized for their promotions to sergeant from corporal earlier this year.
Both sergeants received other awards as well for their work in the past year.
Koller, retired Sgt. Richard Reincke, Deputy James Ring and civilian Michele Chronister received life-saving medals and Red Cross Heart Saver Hero awards for saving the life of a man who suffered a cardiac arrest in the York County Judicial Center on Jan. 13.
Sgt. Shannon Martz and Deputies Shawn Malehorn, Gregory Witmer and Chad Smith received life-saving medals for saving a deputy who was choking in the lunchroom on April 10.
Deputy Morell Sipe received a life-saving medal for reviving an opioid-overdose victim with the antidote Narcan in the county's central booking unit on Aug. 2.
Part of human chain: Deputy Donnie Miller received a distinguished public-service award for his role in saving two people submerged in a vehicle in chest-deep water along Industrial Highway in Springettsbury Township on July 17.
Miller and others formed a human chain to rescue the two crash victims.
Deputy Cody Myers received a distinguished public-service award for chasing down and apprehending a fleeing felon June 15. The crack dealer was in possession of a stolen gun, but Myers gave him no chance to use it, officials said.
Deputy Stephen Perkins and former deputies John Brubaker and Jeffrey Knouse received commendable-service awards for finding concealed contraband from people trying to enter the York County Judicial Center.
In separate incidents, Perkins found a loaded handgun, Knouse found a ceramic knife and Brubaker found a bottle of urine being smuggled in by someone who was going to see her probation officer.
Protected bystanders: Sgt. Bienamino Lopez and Deputy Jeremy Smith received commendable-service awards for their handling of an irate man standing at the front doors of the judicial center on Nov. 24. They calmed him down and convinced him to place his gun and a knife on the ground, thereby protecting innocent bystanders.
Deputy Albert Lynch received a commendable-service award for his years of work on the department's Honor Guard, of which he is a founding member.
The Honor Guard has been present at numerous parades, funerals and other ceremonies over the years. Lynch has served with the Honor Guard since 2002.
Godfrey, Martz, Donley and Deputy Sarah Welsh received distinguished public-service awards for their work coordinating and overseeing Operation Safe Surrender, which allowed people with outstanding warrants to turn themselves in at a neutral, faith-based location.
A number of other deputies received special achievement awards for their work on Operation Safe Surrender.
They are: Koller, Lopez, Smith, Sipe and Deputies Jose "Tony" Curet, Bryan Stehle, Adrian Stull, Michael Reese, Mark Runkle, Brittany Inkrote, James Ring, Mitchell Kaehler, Kathleen Blankenstein, Gary Landis, Tyler Everhart and Christine Snyder, as well as retired Lt. David Allison.
The sheriff also honored LifePath Christian Ministries and its CEO, Matthew Carey, as well as Stillmeadow Church of the Nazarene and its pastor, the Rev. Kent Vandervort, for their help with Operation Safe Surrender.
Russ and Michele Wantz were given certificates of appreciation for their support of the sheriff's K-9 unit.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.