Public Information Officer
A K-9 handler whose dog survived getting shot in the line of duty and an investigator whose dedication and skillful work helped dismantle a major racketeering operation were among the honorees Tuesday as the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office recognized its Employees of the Quarter. The five workers were named the tops in the Sheriff’s Office for the 4th quarter of 2015, with the group being honored during an awards ceremony Tuesday morning at the agency’s Deputy Stephen Saboda Training Center in Daytona Beach. Sheriff Ben Johnson pointed out to the assembled audience that the honorees were nominated and selected by their co-workers and peers for the awards. “They were selected because they impressed their fellow employees,” said Sheriff Johnson.
Earning Deputy of the Quarter honors was Deputy Brett Whitson. Deputy Whitson deployed his K-9 partner, Endo, into a wooded area of Deltona on Nov. 4, 2015 in search of an armed man who was at the center of a violent domestic quarrel. Shortly after deputies began arriving at the scene, shots rang out and a female victim was injured in the arm and side of her body. While deputies held their fire, Endo also was shot in the neck during the melee. The suspect ended up taking his own life and Endo was taken to a local animal hospital for emergency surgery -- but not before Deputy Whitson effectively managed the scene while remaining remarkably calm and waiting for additional back-up units to arrive. Endo has recovered from his injury and returned to duty. “It’s a great honor for me to be able to present this award to you,” Sheriff Johnson told Deputy Whitson. At the same awards ceremony, Sheriff Johnson presented Endo with a purple heart and medal of valor.
Taking home Investigator of the Quarter honors was Investigator Jayson Paul. Among his accomplishments was his role in toppling a large-scale racketeering organization as part of a massive investigation that prompted 23 arrests. The organization was responsible for stealing millions of dollars worth of merchandise from businesses and then returning the stolen goods in exchange for gift cards that were then sold to two local Cash For Gift Card stores. Despite the complexity and demands of the seven-month investigation, Paul successfully also worked a burglary case that resulted in the identification of a juvenile who was being exploited by a known criminal and had become a victim of human trafficking. “Without a doubt, Investigator Paul is making a difference in our community,” said Paul’s supervisor, Sergeant Todd Smith, in a letter nominating Paul for the award.
Patrick Harding, an Information Technology programmer, was named the Sheriff’s Office’s Civilian Employee of the Quarter. He was nominated for his skilled handling of three extremely complex and time-consuming IT projects. Not only did Harding excel in his handling of the special projects, but he did it while juggling his other regular duties. “Our IT staff always finds a way to do it. You keep us moving forward all the time,” remarked Sheriff Johnson.
Kristi Castelli, meanwhile, was selected as the top-performing Telecommunicator of the Quarter. She was nominated by a deputy who praised Castelli for tapping into technology and databases that helped solve two cases in which drivers caused crashes and then fled the scene. “On more than one occasion, Kristi has gone the extra mile and obtained information not readily available to me which helped me identify and locate suspect vehicles in two hit and run accidents,” wrote Deputy Dave Teske in his letter of nomination.
Rounding out the list of Tuesday’s honorees was the Sheriff’s Office’s Volunteer of the Quarter, Sonia Cortes. Cortes volunteers numerous hours with the agency’s Citizen Observer Program (C.O.P.), where she helps recruit new volunteers with her exceptional organizational skills and attention to detail. As part of her volunteer duties, Cortes attends expositions and other events such as the Volusia County Fair and the Home Expo to ensure that the C.O.P. booth is set up and that there are adequate recruitment materials available. Sheriff Johnson added high praise for Cortes and citizens like her who help the Sheriff’s Office maximize its resources and provide essential services to the public -- some of which simply wouldn’t be affordable if not for the volunteer help. “No matter what, we call and they show up,” said Sheriff Johnson. “Thank you for a job well done.”
Administrative offices: West Volusia 386-736-5961 Daytona Beach 386-254-4689 New Smyrna Beach 386-423-3352
Non-emergency dispatch numbers: DeLand 386-943-8276 Daytona Beach 386-239-8276 New Smyrna Beach 386-409-8276 Osteen 407-323-0151