Officer Matthew DeMatteo
Suffolk County (NY) Police Department
Washington, DC – The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund has announced the selection of Officer Matthew DeMatteo of the Suffolk County (NY) Police Department as its Officer of the Month for April 2011.
On Monday, January 17, 2011, Officer DeMatteo responded to a call at the Great South Bay in Sayville, New York. An 11-year-old girl had fallen into the freezing Bay water when a neighbor’s dog unexpectedly dragged her onto the thin ice layer.
Officer DeMatteo was first on the scene, where he spotted the young girl roughly 50 yards offshore. She was straining to keep her head above water, her cries for help growing weaker every second. Officer DeMatteo had to act quickly; he estimated she had been in the frigid water for more than ten minutes. After securing his duty belt, he retrieved a ring buoy from his cruiser and proceeded out onto a rock jetty to minimize the distance he would have to travel on the ice.
Officer DeMatteo crawled approximately 20 yards across the ice on his stomach to reach the girl, who was immobile. He carefully dispersed his body weight to avoid breaking through the sheet of ice. With skilled caution, Officer DeMatteo delicately extracted the young girl from the water then slowly and meticulously began towing the girl back to shore.
Once closer to the shoreline, Sayville (NY) Firefighter Chris Gonzales threw Officer DeMatteo a vehicle tow rope to help pull them to safety. As Officer DeMatteo continued to inch closer to the shore, both he and the girl suddenly crashed through the ice. Luckily, the water was shallow enough that Officer DeMatteo was able to stand and carry the girl to safety. Both were transported to a local hospital, treated, and released.
At a news conference following the lifesaving event, Officer DeMatteo spoke modestly and graciously about the rescue. “Thank God I was able to make it out to her and get her out in one swoop. Honestly, it’s doing my job. You see someone in distress, you need to help them out,” he said.
In his nomination of Officer DeMatteo, Suffolk County (NY) Police Commissioner Richard Dormer wrote, “Officer DeMatteo’s quick thinking and actions, while exercising considerable judgment to minimize further risk to the victim or himself, allowed him to retrieve the girl from the water without further permanent injury or death to either of them.”
Located in the nation’s capital, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers. The Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Program began in September 1996 and recognizes federal, state and local officers who distinguish themselves through exemplary law enforcement service and devotion to duty.
Officer DeMatteo, along with the other Officers of the Month for 2011, will be honored at a special awards luncheon in Washington, DC, in May 2012 during National Police Week. In addition, their stories of heroism and service will be featured in the Memorial Fund’s 2013 calendar.