By jim DresbachOctober 1, 2012
The Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Police Department was among this year's Anti-Defamation League SHIELD award winners for outstanding law enforcement work in deterring hate crimes and terrorism in the Mid-Atlantic states region.
Representing JBM-HH's Directorate of Emergency Services at the Sept. 24 program at Washington D.C.'s National Press Club were DES Director Lt. Col. Kenneth J. Sheppard, Deputy of the DES and Chief of Police William Johnson, Chief of Investigations Chris Miller, Assistant Chief Jennifer Gazdowicz, Capt. Tracie Miller and Sgt. Nicholas Kalenich. The third annual SHIELD awards were presented to law enforcement departments who displayed outstanding efforts and leadership in thwarting five separate acts of hate crimes, extremism and terrorism.
One of those crime-fighting acts involved the joint base police department.
In the early-morning hours of June 17, 2011, Yonathan Melaku was apprehended in Arlington National Cemetery by JBM-HH PD. A search of the suspect and his backpack yielded information pointing toward Melaku's involvement in shootings throughout northern Virginia at various military installations, the Pentagon, armed forces recruiting centers and a pair of rifle assaults at the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va.
While Sheppard mentioned that the award commendation was a team effort and the whole department was praised for their police work, the DES director was highly appreciative of Kalenich who apprehended Melaku.
"He's probably the main reason why we're here tonight," the lieutenant colonel said. "He's the officer who made the apprehension of Mr. Melaku that really led to tying him into the actual shootings. The evidence found on him when he was apprehended was what keyed the FBI's investigation into the shooting at the Pentagon, the museum and the Marine Corps recruiting station out there in Fairfax." Kalenich recalls the night when he halted the Marine Corps reservist turned terrorist who was attempting to inflict additional damage to American interests and property.
"It was about zero nineteen in the morning when I was patrolling Arlington National Cemetery, and we had a BOLO -- be on the lookout -- for an individual who assaulted a DPW worker with a knife," Kalenich started with the story. "So I was in there looking for that individual when I saw a shadow cross over the street by the columbarium. I thought that was the person we were going after. He took off running; I pursued him on foot, and I apprehended him just before he got to the gate. I brought him back to the vehicle, searched him, and that's where I found the ammonium nitrate and his journal with all the writing in it."
Other metro law enforcement agencies and departments also were cited for the Melaku arrest. Joining Sheppard on stage to receive the award for halting the northern Virginia shooting and terrorism spree were representatives from the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, the Quantico Police Department, Loudoun County Sheriff's Department, Virginia State Police, Coast Guard Investigative Service, Prince William County Police Department, Fairfax County Police Department, Arlington Police Department, Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the FBI Washington Field Office Joint Terrorism Task Force Squads CT-1, CT-4, CT-10, CT-11 and the Evidence Response Team.
The United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia was also honored for its work on the Melaku case.
A number of phrases summed up the feelings held by Sheppard right before the issuing of the award. "Proud is a word that describes what I feel," Sheppard said of the honor. "I'm honored and humbled that the Anti Defamation League chose our agency. The SHIELD award is for exceptional leadership in law enforcement, so that's why you have the respective chiefs of police and agencies here tonight, but the credit goes to all of us who broke the Melaku case."
The ADL SHIELD awards annually recognize professionals in the law enforcement field who protect the public against violent acts of terror and hate. The award recipients were chosen by an ADL selection committee of law enforcement executives from the municipal, state and federal levels from the District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.