Community Spirit, Bravery Honoured

By Ron Fanfair, Toronto Police Service Published: 11:48 a.m. October 20, 2014

Eleanor Cohen leapt onto a subway track, with a train just minutes away, after spotting a man lying motionless across the tracks last June.

A woman holding a framed certificate
Eleanor Cohen was commended by police for saving a man who fell onto subway tracks

The professional instincts kicked in for the Emergency nurse, who was at Dufferin station on her way to work at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre when she heard a thudding sound from track level.

“When I looked down and saw he was flat on his back, my nursing training said he has a head injury, he’s probably going to vomit and then swallow it and he’s going to go into respiratory arrest that would lead to a cardiac arrest,” she recalled. “I knew I had a few minutes before the train came by. I am pretty well trained to know how long a minute is and I knew I had some time to go on the track. It didn’t occur to me not to.”

Standing too close to the platform, the man lost his balance and fell onto the track.

“He was very confused and a bit combative when I reached him,” Cohen recounted. “That was because he had a knock to his head and didn’t know where he was. I pulled him on to the median that separates the tracks for the trains going in opposite directions, and stayed with him to ensure that he didn’t roll back onto the track.”

When police arrived, Cohen was monitoring the victim’s vital signs while directing and advising Toronto Transit Commission employees. The victim was subsequently removed from track level and taken to hospital for medical attention.

Cohen was among the recipients of Community Member Awards presented by the Toronto Police Services Board to individuals for unselfish, noble and often times lifesaving acts in assistance to fellow community members and the police.

“This is quite an honour,” she said, at the awards ceremony on October 19 at police headquarters. “The police on the scene took my name and I had to go home and clean up the soot that got on me from the tracks. I then took a cab to work and was there on time.”

A man holds a framed certificate in front of two girls and a woman and police officers look on
Biagio Tassone shows off his commendation to his wife and children for helping pull a suicidal woman from the ledge of a bridge

Toronto Police Service Board Chair Alok Mukherjee thanked Cohen and the rest of the recipients for their admirable contributions and reminded them that selfless and compassionate acts play a critical role in building safe neighbourhoods and communities.

“Individuals like you contribute, beyond measure, in making Toronto the best and the safest city in the world,” he said. “…As we thank and honour members of the community for their acts of selfless bravery, caring and compassion, we are reminded that there are many in our city who care and are prepared to go the extra distance to demonstrate this. Through their actions, they give meaning to the idea that we are each other’s keepers and, when it comes to building a safe community, there aren’t bystanders or spectators.

“….These people chose to get involved, to help someone else even if others had turned away, even if it would be easier to walk by, and even if it puts them at risk.  This is what makes someone a true hero. Each of the individuals being honoured today rose to the challenge and did what was necessary to prevent a death, injury or a crime…Through their quick thinking, keen observation, their compassion  and their persistence, they helped to capture suspects, solve crimes, assist people in need and even save lives.”

Chief Bill Blair congratulated the winners and added that honouring community members at police headquarters is a special occasion for the Service.

“One of the things that make Toronto a remarkable, liveable place is its extraordinary citizens,” he noted. “…Today, we recognize good citizens in our city…There is perhaps no higher calling that any of us can answer than the call to service, particularly to the service of our fellow citizens. Today we have an opportunity to recognize those extraordinary men and women who have helped us make the City of Toronto a better place, a safer place, a more liveable place and, through their example, can act as an inspiration to all the young people gathered here today. Young people need good role models and we are going to put some good role models on display this afternoon.”

Stories of Community Member Awards:

Tanisha Martinez (Submitted by 13 Division) 

On July 13, 2013, an altercation occurred between several men who were attending an event. During the altercation two men were stabbed. One of the victims, who had sustained stab wounds to his chest and to his stomach, began to bleed profusely and collapsed.Several citizens saw the victim on the ground and called police. Tanisha Martinez was one of those citizens. She immediately took charge and began to administer first aid. Tanisha, who is trained in CPR and first aid, had her emergency first aid kit with her and began to treat and assist the victim. 

Tanisha was eventually relieved by police and ambulance staff but remained on scene to assist with updating paramedics. 

It was determined that the victim required emergency transport to hospital as he was in critical condition. The victim was treated at the hospital and recovered from the stabbing. 

Jonathan Machado (Submitted by 14 Division)

On October 28, 2013, officers responded to a theft that had occurred at a LCBO. While placing two suspects under arrest a struggle ensued between the arrested parties and the officers. The accused parties were able to free themselves and flee from the officers. Jonathan Machado was in the area and observed the altercation. He observed that one of the accused was running away with an officer in pursuit. Jonathan ran up to the officer and volunteered his assistance. He then pursued and caught the accused and held him for the arresting officer. 

Without Jonathan’s assistance the accused may not have been apprehended. 

Lindsay Wood and Ryan McDonald (Submitted by 14 Division)

On March 8, 2014, Lindsay Wood and Ryan McDonald were leaving their place of work when they witnessed a female walking down the street in obvious distress. They approached her in an attempt to offer whatever assistance they could. While speaking with her, they noticed that she was bleeding from the lower mid-section and they immediately offered to call an ambulance. The woman refused any help and walked away. Concerned for her welfare, Lindsay and Ryan followed the woman. It quickly became obvious to Lindsay and Ryan that the woman was giving birth. They called 9-1-1 and rushed to help. In her traumatized state, the woman attempted to leave stating that she just wanted to go home. Concerned, not only for the safety of the woman, but also for her newborn baby, Lindsay and Ryan kept the woman at the scene and waited for the arrival of the police. 

Officers and the emergency medical services personnel arrived and attended to the woman and the child and transported them both to the hospital. 

Jennifer Powell (Submitted by 22 Division)

On October 29, 2013, an officer responded to an accident call which involved a car being driven into a pole. When the officer arrived on scene he found the driver unconscious. He was not breathing nor did he have a pulse. The officer advised the dispatcher and requested a rush on the ambulance. The officer then began CPR. Jennifer Powell happened upon the scene and immediately offered to assist the officer. She assisted with the CPR performing chest compressions until the ambulance arrived. 

Linda Peters (Submitted by 23 Division)

On May 28, 2013, officers were called to attend to a suspicious incident at a daycare. When officers arrived they spoke to the complainant and caregiver Linda Peters, who advised them that she was outside in the playground with the children when she noticed one child offering another child something to eat. 

Linda approached the children and learned that the young child had removed a baggy from her jacket and was giving what she believed to be a cracker to the other child. Linda immediately intervened and took the baggy from the child. The baggy contained an off white substance. Linda immediately notified her supervisor and called police. 

Investigation revealed that the substance in the baggy was crack cocaine. 

Marcia Diakun and Clara Parnell (Submitted by 31 Division)

On October 17, 2013 officers were dispatched to get information on a missing teenager who was suffering from depression and had made a previous attempt on her life. Officers were informed that she had not returned home from school and that this was unusual. 

Officers attended the school and with the assistance of the school security officer, Clara Parnell, and the principal Marcia Diakun, officers began the search for the missing girl. The police dog was used to search the school premises. School videos were viewed and it was confirmed that the girl had left the school. Principal Diakun and Security Officer Parnell worked closely with the police providing useful information about the girl’s friends, searching her locker, and confirming that she had not attended her last class. 

The next day, a man who was seen on the video with the missing girl and who had been identified by Principal Diakun and Security Officer Parnell, arrived at the school. When he became aware that an investigation was being conducted he came forward and advised authorities that the girl was at his home. 

Officers attended and the girl was transported to hospital. Without the total involvement of both the school security officer and the principal the investigation would not have been concluded in a timely manner. 

Essam Badawy and Tracy Smith (Submitted by 33 Division)

On June 15, 2013, officers responded to a call that a person had drowned in a hotel pool. When officers arrived they found members of Toronto EMS performing lifesaving CPR on the victim on the pool deck. The victim was revived and transported to hospital where he was listed as being in stable but critical condition. 

This person had arrived at the hotel as a part of a tour group. Together, with his friends, he went to the hotel pool for a swim. He was not a strong swimmer and entered the pool in the shallow end. As he gradually moved towards his friends who were in the middle of the pool he slipped. He began to panic and called for help. One of his friends grabbed his arm in an attempt to pull him back into the shallow end but the victim began to struggle and pulled himself and his friend further into the deep end. The friend, fearing that he would be pulled under water, let go of his grasp at which point the victim sank to the bottom of the pool. 

Another member of the group ran to the front desk area of the hotel to get help. Essam Badawy and Tracy Smith, who were guests at the hotel, heard the distress call. Both ran to the pool area where they observed the victim at the bottom of the pool. They instructed hotel staff to call 911. Essam immediately entered the pool in an attempt to save the victim but was unsuccessful. At this time Tracy Smith entered the pool and together they were able to pull the victim from the bottom of the pool and place him on the pool deck. Tracy Smith performed CPR on the victim until EMS arrived. 

AraFath Rukara and Mark Wahba (Submitted 41 Division)

On January 16, 2014, Mark Wahba, Arafath Rukara and their friend were walking through the bus bay area at a subway station. As Mark and Arafath reached the inside of the station they realized that their friend was no longer with them. Immediately, Mark and Arafath retraced their steps in an attempt to locate him. 

As they were walking back through the bus bays they observed their friend lying on the ground partially in the lanes for bus traffic. Mark and Arafath rushed over to assist. They found their friend not moving and on further examination they determined that he was unconscious and not breathing. 

Arafath called 9-1-1. Mark checked the victim for a pulse; when he could not locate a pulse he immediately began to perform CPR. As Mark became exhausted from performing CPR, Arafath took over from him until paramedics arrived. 

Doctors later told police that the victim most likely would not have survived this incident had it not been for the actions of these men. 

Lynda Cox (Submitted by 43 Division)

On January 04, 2014, Lynda Cox was at her home with her husband James Cox. At this time James collapsed and went into distress. Lynda was alone with her husband and immediately called 9-1-1. While on the phone with 911 James stopped breathing and his heart stopped functioning. 

After receiving instructions via the 9-1-1 operator Lynda began to perform CPR on her husband. She continued CPR on her own until the arrival of Toronto Police and EMS. James continued to receive medical attention on scene and EMS was able to revive him. He was then transported to hospital for further treatment. 

The emergency physician who attended to James advised police and EMS that if it had not been for Lynda’s swift and immediate action in commencing CPR her husband would not have survived. 

Rayphal Slade (Submitted by 43 Division)

On March 21, 2014, Rayphal Slade was in the City of Toronto on business. He was travelling westbound on Lawrence Avenue East in his car. He was driving over the overpass at Colonel Danforth Park. This overpass is located approx. 100 feet over the park. As he passed over the bridge expansion he observed a young woman on the north sidewalk climb onto the railing. Given the actions of the young lady, and out of concern for her well-being, Rayphal returned to her location. 

The young woman was in crisis and about to jump from the overpass. Rayphal approached the distraught female and quickly grabbed her in a bear hug to prevent her from committing this final act. As Rayphal was on one side of the railing and the young woman was on the other side of the railing there was little that Rayphal could do other than hang on to her. Passers-by alerted police via 9-1-1 and officers from 43 Division attended the scene. 

With the aid of the officers the young woman was removed from this position of peril. The young woman was then transported to hospital to receive the appropriate medical attention. It should be noted that at the time of the original 9-1-1 call further information was received from the young woman’s frantic mother that her daughter had indeed left a note of her intentions to end her life. 

Elzbieta (Ella) Mazewski and Mandy Peck (Submitted by 51 Division)

On August 25, 2013, an off-duty officer was on his way home on his motorcycle when he was nearly struck by another vehicle travelling approximately 130 km/hr. 

The officer further observed the vehicle nearly hit three other vehicles. The officer believed this was possibly an impaired driver. He requested a driver that had almost been hit to call 9-1-1. His request for assistance was not heeded. 

After the fourth vehicle was nearly struck the off-duty officer drew the attention of Ella Mazewski and her passenger Mandy Peck, who had their vehicle window open. The officer identified himself to Ella and Mandy and requested they call 9-1-1 and to inform the dispatcher that he would be following an impaired driver and to give the dispatcher the description of the impaired suspect vehicle. 

The off-duty officer then suddenly spotted a police car and he informed the officer of what he had observed. The officer in the police car activated his emergency lights, siren and air horn in an attempt to stop the driver but the driver would not stop. Other police vehicles attended and the driver was eventually stopped and arrested. 

The off-duty officer later learned that the officers attending the scene were fully briefed on the situation as it unfolded as Ella and Mandy not only did as he had requested but they went beyond that and kept the dispatcher fully informed of all the details of the dynamic situation that was taking place. 

Lisa Binney (Submitted by 51 Division)

On August 13, 2013, Lisa Binney was at work when she observed one of her co-workers collapse. Lisa immediately rushed to the aid of her colleague and discovered he was without any vital signs. 

She immediately called 9-1-1 and as she is trained in CPR, she began to administer CPR. She kept up her efforts until emergency medical services arrived. 

The victim was then taken by ambulance to the hospital. The paramedics and the doctors at the hospital informed police later that if it were not for the skilled response of Lisa Benny the victim would not have survived. 

Ornella Guizzo and Jamie Frank (Submitted by 53 Division)

On April 6, 2014, a call was received regarding a domestic assault where an unconscious 40-year-old woman was in the basement of a house with her two children. 

Paramedics Ornella Guizzo and Jamie Frank were first to arrive on scene. As directed by the radio call, the paramedics unloaded their medical equipment and proceeded to enter the house. They were startled by a male voice and saw a man blocking the door that lead into the kitchen. The paramedics requested the man step away from the door so that they could enter but he would not comply. He indicated that he and his wife were having an argument and that she had fallen. The paramedics continued to try and coax the suspect away from the door. 

Finally, the suspect complied and the paramedics immediately began to give medical aid to the victim. The victim’s condition was serious. She was on the floor unconscious. There was blood spatter visible on the kitchen floor and wall. The victim’s injuries were assessed as life threatening. Officers arrived on scene and did an emergency run to the hospital. 

Pamela Lovell (Submitted by 54 Division)

On January 8, 2014, a couple were involved in a domestic argument which escalated to the point where the female victim locked herself in the bathroom to get away from her attacker. 

The male suspect kicked in the bathroom door and began to beat the victim with a piece of wood from the broken door. The suspect then retrieved a knife from the kitchen and used the handle, to strike the victim in the forehead. The suspect fled the scene before the police arrived. Investigators attended and quickly identified the suspect. Having concern for the safety of the victim and the public they issued a press release with a photo of the suspect. 

On January 9, 2014 the suspect attended a hospital complaining of blunt-force trauma injuries. He was checked by emergency staff. One of the staff members, Pamela Lovell, noticed that the suspect’s complaints of injury were not consistent with his actions or demeanor. She completed her shift and went home. While watching the news Pamela saw the press release and recognized the suspect. 

In the interest of safety for her co-workers and the public at large, she immediately called police to relay the information of the suspects’ whereabouts. 

Officers attended the hospital and the suspect was placed under arrest. 

Bertrand Murengera, Regis Nsabe and Oliver Uwimana (Submitted by 54 Division)

A suspect who had a very violent past and was on parole for armed robbery and who was also a crack cocaine user had since robbed a grocery store, committed street robberies on pedestrians as well as robbed a taxi cab driver.  On January 31, 2014 a man was drinking at a local sports bar. When the proprietors were not looking the man went behind the bar, opened the till, grabbed the cash, and then fled out of the front door. 

Three patrons who were in the bar observed this and gave chase. They were Bertrand Murengera, Regis Nsabe and Oliver Uwimana. They caught up with the accused and attempted to apprehend him. The accused fought all three men and had to be tackled to the ground. The accused was held by Bertrand, Regis and Oliver until police arrived. 

It was determined by police that the arrested party had a violent past which included many robberies and drug use. 

Biagio Tassone and Mina Smudja (Submitted by 55 Division) 

On January 11, 2013, police were dispatched to attend to an unknown trouble call. Once on scene it was determined that two passerby’s had intervened and pulled a female from the other side of the bridge to safety. Biagio Tassone was driving to work when he observed a woman standing on the ledge of the bridge. Biagio made a quick U-turn and approached the female on foot. He quickly grabbed her. 

Mina Smudja was on a streetcar when she too observed the woman leaning over the bridge. She asked the driver to stop and she quickly ran out of the street car and assisted Biagio pull the woman from the bridge to safety. 

Biagio and Mina held the woman until police arrived. 

Kenneth Pollock (Submitted by Divisional Policing Support Unit)

On December 10, 2013, officers received a radio call for a prowler. Kenneth Pollock was home during this time and was looking out of his front window when he observed a man standing in the neighbouring residence driveway across the street. Kenneth, who knows his community well, thought he was seeing his neighbour arrive home from work early. However, seconds later he became suspicious as the man was just standing in the driveway by the motor vehicle. 

Kenneth then observed the man walk to the next driveway to another neighbour’s motor vehicle. It then became clear to Kenneth that this was not a neighbour but a perpetrator who was breaking into the motor vehicles. 

Kenneth immediately called police and positioned himself without notice in order to observe the perpetrator. The officers who responded were able arrest the male, collect an abundance of evidence, and to bring closure to several outstanding occurrences because of the information provided by Kenneth. 

Robert Plitt (Submitted by Divisional Policing Support Unit)

On July 8, 2013, the city of Toronto was hit with a major rain storm which caused many floods and power outages across the city. In one such affected area a GO Transit train was submerged in water. There were approximately 1,500 passengers still on the train and a city wide call for resources was placed. 

Officers from all over the service attended the area to give assistance. With the help of officers, hundreds of passengers were evacuated from the train and escorted across the tracks to safer ground. 

Robert Plitt approached the officers and provided water and food to the evacuating passengers who had been stuck on the train for approximately 6 hours. Robert loaded approximately 20 litres of bottled water, cups and granola bars in to a police vehicle to be taken to the passengers. Many of the passengers were tired, hungry, and dehydrated. They were very appreciative of the food and water provided by Robert which tied them over until the Red Cross attended with more supplies. 

Karis Anderson (Submitted by 51 Division)

With the City of Toronto being host to many large events, it has become one of the Service’s priorities to develop and improve our ability to address and analyze crimes using technology. This includes analyzing social media sources as a way of preventing crime at these events and obtaining current intelligence as these events take place. 

While completing her Master’s degree for Law Enforcement Intelligence and Analysis at Michigan State University, Karis attended training hosted by the Toronto Police Service and completed the certification program in Crime Analysis Applications. 

During her training Karis volunteered a large amount of her time to help our crime analysts to prepare for the city’s Pride events. These events present unique issues with respect to site security and threat assessments due to the increased density of people in a small, concentrated area. Taking into account the mix of associated social events that happen in bars, clubs and restaurants after the Pride festivities, an increased police presence has historically been used as an effective crime prevention measure. 

Karis analyzed intelligence from social media sources and liaised with her contacts to provide a thorough report on any security issues that needed to be addressed. 

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