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August 2002

Detective Lou Lizzette (Liz) Williams

Flagler Beach (FL) Police Department

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Detective Lou Lizzette (Liz) Williams as its Officer of the Month for August 2002. Detective Williams has served with the Flagler Beach Police Department for the past seven years.

The daughter of a career Air Force fighter pilot, Liz Williams acquired a strong sense of responsibility and service at an early age. After graduating from the University of the Ozarks in Arkansas, Liz relocated to Florida in 1993. She wanted a career that allowed her to be part of a disciplined organization committed to service and sacrifice; one in which she could dedicate herself to protecting our nation's citizens. In 1995 Liz graduated second in her class from the St. Augustine Technical School Police Academy and joined the Flagler Beach Police Department, an 11-person department, where she knew she could make a difference. With approximately 4,000 residents, Flagler Beach is located on the upper east coast of Florida and has become a favorite spot for skydivers from around the world.

On January 23, 1999 the serenity of this beach community was shattered, when a skydiving outing went seriously wrong. A team of international adventurers had taken off from a local airport and were planning to jump despite a strong wind advisory and storm warnings. A miscalculation resulted in four of the skydivers landing in the ocean. The fate of the two divers who had landed further out to sea was of primary concern. The seas were rough; waves ranged from four to six feet with a northern current registering 10 to 15 knots. Trapped in these icy waters were Martin Barnette of England and Barbara Palmieri of Italy.

Responding to a call from the Flagler Beach Pier manager, then Officer Liz Williams and Deputy Sheriff Matt Long were dispatched to the scene. Barnette had landed just south of the pier. Tangled around him, his parachute kept him completely submerged while the currents slammed him into the pier stanchions. Officer Williams' and Deputy Long's efforts to reach Barnett were hampered by the rough seas. Having been pulled under twice, Officer Williams eventually reached the drowning man, cut away his parachute and with the assistance of Deputy Long, brought him to shore. Unresponsive and suffering from severe hypothermia, Barnett was taken to a nearby hospital.

Officer Williams then directed her attention to Barbara Palmieri, the second diver still in the water north of the pier. In an effort to assist in her rescue, Officer Williams set up a marker so that the Volusia County Sheriff's helicopter could identify where Palmieri had last been spotted. She too was safety brought to shore. Although neither victim had been wearing a floatation device, both fully recovered from their injuries.

Officer Williams' quick actions that cold January morning embody her "serve and protect" attitude. Flagler Beach Police Chief John M. Plummer states, "Officer Williams did an outstanding job on that cold morning, her dedication to duty and the community shows how true a professional law enforcement officer she is."

Officer Williams has received several awards including, the 1999 Flagler Beach Officer of the Year, Life Saving Chief's Award, and Meritorious Conduct, and has completed courses in rape crisis, domestic violence and intervention, field training officer, and violent crime investigation. Promoted to Detective in early 2002, she developed and coordinates the Victim Advocate Program in her community.