Two police officers from Long Island were among more than three dozen honored Tuesday -- many posthumously -- for valor, heroism and service during the NYPD's annual medal day ceremony presided over by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Commissioner William Bratton.
John Schmitt, 44, of Nassau County, who retired from the NYPD and is now a Nassau police officer, was awarded the Combat Cross for a July 21, 2007 shootout with a suspect in Queens. He asked that his current hometown not be revealed.
Awarded the Medal for Valor was officer Joseph Arbia, 33, of Glen Cove, who fired upon and killed a suspect during the Dec. 31, 2011 robbery of a pharmacy in Seaford in which federal agent John Capano was killed.
Three detectives who died in the line of duty last year -- Wenjian Liu, Rafael L. Ramos and Dennis E. Guerra -- were posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor, the department's highest award. Ramos and Liu were shot dead by an assailant in December, and Guerra succumbed to injuries suffered after he and partner Rosa Rodriguez responded to an arson fire on April 6, 2014 in a public housing development in Coney Island. Rodriguez was also awarded the Medal of Honor.
Schmitt, who works in the Nassau County Police Department's criminal intelligence rapid response team, was on foot patrol on Sutphin Boulevard in the 113th Precinct in Queens when he and his partner heard gunfire. They saw a suspect firing a gun into the lobby of a building at another man, who shot back. Schmitt ordered the first suspect to drop his weapon, but the man turned and fired at Schmitt.
"At one point, we actually had three people shooting at us," Schmitt said Tuesday. He exchanged shots with the suspect and later arrested him.
"A lot of people were out on the street, believe it or not, during this whole thing that could have been struck," said Schmitt, whose wife, Rebecca, is a detective with the NYPD and was his partner during the shooting.
Arbia, currently assigned to Patrol Borough Queens South, said he was reporting for duty as part of the Times Square News Year's Eve detail when he stopped at a Seaford deli on his way to work. A witness came into the deli and told Arbia that the nearby Charlie's Family Pharmacy was being robbed at gunpoint.
Investigators said Arbia and a retired NYPD lieutenant responded. Ultimately, Arbia had to fire three times at one of the suspects, who was pronounced dead. Capano died trying to arrest one of the suspects before Arbia arrived.