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Carroll County Sheriff's deputies honored for hostage situation response

Commissioner Richard Weaver, Commissioner Doug Howard, Col. Suther, Sheriff DeWees, Deputy Piper, DFC Kriete, Cpl. Fitzgerald, Sgt. Lawrence, Commissioner Dennis Frazier and Commissioner Stephen Wantz participate in an award ceremoney for Sheriff's Office deputies.
Commissioner Richard Weaver, Commissioner Doug Howard, Col. Suther, Sheriff DeWees, Deputy Piper, DFC Kriete, Cpl. Fitzgerald, Sgt. Lawrence, Commissioner Dennis Frazier and Commissioner Stephen Wantz participate in an award ceremoney for Sheriff's Office deputies. (Carroll County government)

Four officials from the Carroll County Sheriff's Office were awarded top law enforcement honors Thursday for their efforts during a hostage situation in Union Bridge earlier this month.

In recognition of their handling of the situation, Sheriff Jim DeWees announced that Sgt. Phillip Lawrence would be awarded the department's highest honor — the Medal of Valor — while Deputy Gregory Piper, Deputy First Class Douglas Kriete and Cpl. Michael Fitzgerald were awarded the Sheriff's Star. DeWees presented the awards at a small ceremony held during the Board of Commissioners' meeting on Thursday.

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"I was honored to receive the award," said Lawrence, who said he didn't know before Thursday that he was going to receive the Medal of Valor.

He said he did what any other Carroll deputy would have done in the same situation.

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"It's not the reason I go to work every day," he said. But "it's nice to be recognized."

On the evening of April 1, Piper and Kriete responded to a call about a domestic dispute near the local community center, DeWees said. On the way, the deputies were informed by the 911 dispatcher that there was a man at the center who was holding his girlfriend at knifepoint and threatening to kill her and her baby daughter.

"Deputy Piper was the first to arrive and he located the suspect in the Community Center parking lot holding the female victim at knife point," DeWees said in a statement. "The victim was sitting on the ground and the suspect was standing behind her holding a large black-handled knife against the top of her head."

"Deputy Piper took a defensive position and attempted to negotiate with the suspect; but he refused to talk; only telling Deputy Piper to put his weapon away or he would kill the victim," he said. "The suspect told Deputy Piper he was going to kill his girlfriend and stated several times that he also wanted to die."

When Kriete arrived, DeWees said, the deputies were able to convince the man, later identified as Union Bridge resident Tevin Ransom Whittaker, to allow them to remove the 20-month-old child from a nearby car and take her to a safe location.

When Fitzgerald and Lawrence arrived at the location, DeWees said, Whittaker had grown increasingly restless, indicating that we would stab the woman.

"Cpl. Fitzgerald and Sgt. Lawrence quickly devised a plan to distract the suspect so Sgt. Lawrence could approach him from the rear and deploy his Taser," DeWees said. "Cpl. Fitzgerald and Deputies Kriete and Piper all began to talk with the suspect while Sgt. Lawrence used the darkness to his advantage and quietly worked his way behind the suspect into a position where he was able to discharge the Taser into the suspect's upper back. The suspect instantly dropped the knife, which gave Sgt. Lawrence the opportunity to grab him and safely take him to the ground."

After Whittaker had been taken into custody, he told officers multiple times that we had wanted to commit suicide by cop, DeWees said.

Whittaker was indicted on Thursday on charges of first-degree assault, second-degree assault, reckless endangerment and wearing and carrying a dangerous weapon with the intent to injure.

"This situation could have easily turned deadly at any moment. Because of the actions of these deputies, the female victim and her 20-month-old daughter are alive and unharmed, and so is the hostage taker, which is very rare in these situations," DeWees said.

DeWees said that he wanted to make sure the deputies were recognized for their work.

"I thought that it was appropriate to bring this to this forum and put it on TV that these guys go through an awful lot," DeWees said at the commissioners' meeting. "I felt that it was important for the community to see that these guys go to great lengths to protect lives, and in this case they did."

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