Heroism and valor in Great Barrington: Police officers honored for work in harrowing calls

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GREAT BARRINGTON — Out on a domestic violence call in February, three police officers arrived to find a man drinking beer on his staircase, an axe in hand and a fire poker at the ready.

Town Police Officers Jason LaForest and Jonathan Finnerty, and Donald Hopkins of the Stockbridge Police Department eventually subdued the man.

But only after a battle, said Great Barrington Police Chief William Walsh at an annual ceremony Tuesday to honor police and citizens for what he said were acts of outstanding bravery and courage in the most harrowing, life-threatening situations.

"He was out of control and that's putting it mildly," Walsh said of the man during the incident. Walsh said the man began throwing beer bottles at the officers. Then he threw the axe at them with such force that it broke when it landed. And then, Walsh said, the man threatened to grab his saw.

The officers tried to reason with him. "Unfortunately, he was having no part of it," Walsh said, just before handing LaForest, Finnerty and Hopkins medals of honor.

When asked about the incident, Hopkins told The Eagle encountering such mayhem is "all part of the job."

"Fortunately, it ended the way it did," he said.

And just before Christmas last year, a burning house on Dresser Avenue was the site of more heroics. Great Barrington Police Sgt. Adam Carlotto, Officer Samuel Stolzar, State Police Trooper Brian Clay and town firefighter Richard Aloisi worked together without protective gear - and no visibility - to pull a 76-year-old bedridden man out of the house.

For this, the four men received medals of valor.

Richard Congdon was honored for his 18 years of service on the town force. When asked what he'll do in retirement, he said he would take care of his grandchildren, and "play a little golf."

Southern Berkshire Medical Services received an award for donations of equipment. President Jim Santos accepted the award.

And Jane Iredale, founder and CEO of Iredale Mineral Cosmetics was honored for her support of the town department's K-9 Unit, and for helping the dog through an illness before it was put down.

K-9 Officer Timothy Ullrich said the unit is mostly funded by donations, and said Iredale helped "get it up and running." He also honored Sandra Lopez, who was not present.

Reach staff writer Heather Bellow 413-329-6871


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