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Deputy Joey Tortorella (Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, NY)

Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor

Deputy Joey Tortorella is honored for his heroic actions in a gunfight with a suspect in order to rescue wounded hostages and prevent further loss of life.

On April 17, 2015, the Niagara County Sheriff's Communications Center received a 911 hang-up phone call. The center's staff failed to make contact with the caller and dispatched Deputy Tortorella to the address, which was next door to an elementary school. After making several attempts to get a response, Deputy Tortorella eventually reached a man who was acting erratically. He said that he would step outside after he got dressed. As he started to close the door, Deputy Tortorella heard what he believed to be a cry for help. He asked dispatch to send back-up units to the scene.

After a brief period, Deputy Tortorella moved toward the driveway of the residence, where he saw the man-now pacing back and forth across the driveway-with what appeared to be blood on his hands and clothing.

Concerned for the safety of the students at the school, his own children among them, Deputy Tortorella advised the dispatch center to lock down the school.

He then ordered the man to his knees and tried to talk to him. The man's responses were evasive and erratic. As they spoke, the man frequently reached toward the rear of his waistband. Deputy Tortorella ordered him to keep his hands up, but the man ignored him. The suspect then produced a handgun and the two men exchanged several rounds of gunfire. During the exchange, Deputy Tortorella was struck in the lower left side of his ballistic vest. The suspect took cover behind a vehicle in the driveway, then retreated to the rear of the house.

As other patrol units arrived, the 911 dispatch center was about to contact the assailant's mother and father, who were inside the house. They told the dispatcher that their son had shot them both, in the face and neck. Patrol units went inside, found the parents, and administered first aid. They also found the suspect in the kitchen, dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. The man's parents were airlifted to a nearby trauma center where they were treated for their injuries.

Date Published: September 8, 2020