WORCESTER — Chief David Scott is pleased to report that two Pepperell Police Officers were awarded the Medal of Valor at the annual George L. Hanna Memorial Awards for Bravery.
Sgt. Nick L. Parker and Officer Justin D. Zink were awarded the Medal of Valor — the state’s second-highest honor for bravery — by Gov. Charlie Baker and the daughters of the ceremony’s namesake, fallen Massachusetts State Trooper George L. Hanna, during a ceremony at Mechanics Hall in Worcester on Thursday.
On June 25, 2020, Sgt. Parker and Officer Zink arrived at the residence of a 30-year-old Pepperell man to serve a Warrant of Apprehension. When Sgt. Parker and Officer Zink were granted entry to the residence, the man being sought immediately charged at Sgt. Parker while holding a knife above his head.
Officer Zink made his way into the tight quarters of the home where Sgt. Parker was struggling to avoid being stabbed. Officer Zink fired one round from his department-issued firearm, striking the suspect, who immediately ceased his attempts to injure Sgt. Parker.
The officers then provided first aid to the suspect, who was taken to a local hospital and recovered from his injuries.
“Sgt. Parker and Officer Zink faced a situation that all officers hope to avoid, but train for nonetheless — a confrontation in which alternatives to using potentially deadly force are not viable. Upon seeing Sgt. Parker struggling with an armed suspect, Officer Zink acted immediately and heroically to prevent Sgt. Parker from suffering serious injury or death,” said Chief Scott. “Both officers then immediately provided first aid, also upholding their vital duty to respect all human life under all circumstances.”
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Public Safety and Security Secretary Terrance Reidy and other state and local officials were also on hand at Thursday’s ceremony to recognize the work of 12 police officers from across the state who distinguished themselves in the past two years.
The Medal of Valor is awarded to officers who demonstrate actions above and beyond the call of duty, exhibiting valor, courage and bravery while disregarding the potential for danger or great risk to themselves during the course of an individual incident.
In response to an internal assessment of the incident, Pepperell Police proactively secured grant funding to begin conducting intensive local Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training. The training prepares officers to safely handle calls involving individuals who suffer from mental health and/or substance use disorders and who may be in crisis.
Pepperell Police are also the lead agency in the ten-town Community Outreach Initiative Network (COIN), which is committed to addressing mental health issues and substance abuse disorders among individuals in member communities. Through its partnership with Family Continuity, a local mental health provider, COIN has brought in a mental health clinician to assist the departments with finding help for their residents in need and diverting them from the criminal justice system.
“Officer Zink and Sgt. Parker were professional and courageous when their lives were at risk, but as we constantly strive to improve outcomes, we are now working to further reduce situations in which officers must place their lives and the lives of others on the line,” said Chief Scott. “I applaud the officers’ bravery, and the eagerness of all Pepperell Police Department officers to constantly better themselves by working to prevent life-threatening situations before they arise.”
For more information on CIT training, click here.
Anyone who is struggling with mental health issues or substance misuse issues – or knows somebody who is – should call COIN at 508-488-5072. Someone will call back within one business day.