St. Charles Sheriff honors deputies for service and valor

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 14, 2003

By LEONARD GRAY-Staff Reporter

HAHNVILLE – A St. Charles Parish sheriff’s deputy received two Awards of Valor on Aug. 7 for saving the life of an elderly handicapped person from a fire and also an injured driver from a submerged vehicle.

It’s all in a day’s work for Deputy Gwendolyn Jennings.

The first incident happened in January when she was dispatched to a house fire in Norco. When she arrived, flames and black smoke were still billowing. A neighbor told her two people were likely still inside.

She ran into the house, through to a backyard patio and found one of the residents, who told her the second was still inside. Jennings again plunged into the house and located the other resident. She received treatment for smoke inhalation and soon returned to duty.

The second incident happened on June 5, when a pickup truck plunged into the Airline Drive Canal. The driver was injured and barely managed to leave the submerged cab, but could not reach shore. She immediately plunged in and brought him to safety.

Hers were not the only life-saving heroes of the awards presentation, held in the parish council chambers in Hahnville.

Sheriff Greg C. Champagne also awarded a Distinguished Service Award to Lt. George Breedy for preventing a suicide by shooting in Monsanto Park during May 2002. The nomination noted: “If not for Lt. Brady’s calm demeanor, expertise and courage, this incident may not have turned out as a success.”

A Distinguished Service Award went to Deputy Adolph Federico after he located a young Ama man who in March 2002 had consumed 100 prescription pills and slashed his wrists, then disappeared into a wooded area, hoping to die.

Federico borrowed an all-terrain vehicle to extensively search the area, located him under some brush, and hauled him from the woods to EMTs awaiting his arrival.

The treating physician said the man survived “because of the quick action by Deputy Federico in locating him and getting him to medical care.”

Also, Sgt. Warren “Pie” LeBeauf Jr., working as a DARE officer, prevented a student from seriously injuring herself during a psychotic event.

She appeared to suffer a blackout, and when she awoke, she broke away, ran up a flight of stairs and threatened to throw herself off. Lebeauf managed to approach her without being seen and snatched her from the edge.

Distinguished Service Awards also went to Detective-Sgt. Rodney Madere, Cpl. Morris Cavaliere and Cpl. Johnny Champagne for halting a jewelry store robbery in its tracks last December.

A robber had invaded a Boutte store, holding the manager and a customer inside the store. The alarm had been raised by a customer who managed to escape. Madere and his colleagues set up a perimeter and awaited the departure of the robber. According to the nomination: “By use of his training and tactical skills, Sgt. Madere was able to apprehend an armed robber without putting any civilians in harm’s way… The quick action, cool head and execution of duty made by Cpls. Cavaliere and Champagne made for a good outcome to this extremely dangerous situation. All of the jewelry and money stolen was recovered with no injury to any of the hostages.”

Finally, Distinguished Service Awards went to Sgt. Jimmy Robert Jr., Cpls. Richard Miguez and Robert Villere and Deputy Steve Stewart, in relation to the safe apprehension of a fugitive wanted for shooting a St. James Parish deputy and for several carjacking incidents.

The suspect was being pursued by St. James and St. John parish deputies along Louisiana Highway 3127 in February. At the Nelson Coleman Correctional Center, Villere used a spike strip to disable the vehicle. Robert, Miguez and Stewart exchanged gunfire with the suspect, until he was struck once and taken into custody.

Citizen awards were presented to the Paul Chaisson family for their aid and comfort of deputies working Tropical Storm Isidore. Chaisson, his wife Erin, and their children Simone, Christophe, Etienne, Jean-Paul and Sophie gave frazzled deputies soft drinks, ice water, popcorn, muffins and thank-you cards as a morale booster.

Another citizen award went to Wayne Gaupp, whose leadership and organizational skills led to the establishment of the Madere’s Children’s Advocacy Center in Luling. The center counsels victims, and provides law enforcement officials an additional tool toward prosecuting offenders.

Letters of commendation were also presented by the sheriff to several officers, as well as a Unit Citation to the crime scene investigations squad.

In one noteworthy case, Lt. George Breedy posed as a New York City organized crime figure and negotiated a marijuana buy from the Houston area. In March 2002, Breedy met with three men at a local motel and took delivery of 92 pounds of high-grade marijuana. Moments later, with Lt. Roddy Landry and Detectives Jason Guidry, Joe Ganote and Wayne Joseph, the third-largest drug bust in the last 20 years in the parish was made.