By Paul Liotta Staten Island Advance
STATEN ISLAND, NY — Recovering a loaded gun amid a gang feud in West Brighton, and pulling a woman from a burning building in Stapleton were just some of the NYPD’s stand-out Staten Island stories in the past three months.
Sgt. Thomas Ulitto, and Police Officers Joseph Bruno, Frank Desiderato, Frank Vega Jr., Matthew Panik, and Michael Devito were honored at the Advance’s Grasmere office Monday for their service at a “Cop of the Month” ceremony hosted by the Advance, and NYPD Patrol Borough Staten Island (PBSI).
“This is just some of the tremendous work our officers do every day,” Assistant Chief Kenneth Corey, the borough commander, said.
“Police work is often under-appreciated but (the award ceremony) does really mean a lot to them and their families to see their work recognized.”
Ulitto, Bruno, and Desiderato were honored for their work on July 10, when they helped lead the charge against two rival gang factions involved in a bloody North Shore dispute.
The three men assigned to the 120th Precinct tracked down one of the alleged gunman, who fired the shot that killed 67-year-old Frances “Ms. Frannie” Williams as she waited for a bus in New Brighton.
Bruno said he noticed the accused shooter and alleged gang member Sean Oliveras, 23, standing in front of the West Brighton Houses grabbing his waistband. After apprehending the suspect, they recovered a loaded .38 revolver, according to police.
Bruno’s fiancee, Nicole Clark, said her upbringing in a cop family prepared her for what the loved ones of police officers deal with.
“I do understand why people get nervous,” Clark said. “I also know he was trained right, and that helps keep him safe.”
Vega and Panik were assigned to a patrol in the 120th Precinct on Aug. 25, when a call for a residential fire came over their radios around 9:30 a.m.
Both officers responded to an apartment building on the 100 block of Broad Street, where neighbors informed them that an immobile female senior citizen lived on the building’s second floor.
Before firefighters arrived on scene, the two men carefully made their way to the woman’s apartment, gained entry, and safely removed her.
“We didn’t know where we were going. We couldn’t see more than five feet in front of us,” Vega said because of the smoke that engulfed the apartment building.
Both officers needed treatment at Richmond University Medical Center in West Brighton for smoke inhalation.
Commanding officer of the 120th Precinct Deputy Inspector Isa Abbassi said their heroism was “a true demonstration of what 120 cops do every day for the people of Staten Island.”
“If not for their bravery, that woman would not be alive today,” he said.
Devito, assigned to PBSI’s auto larceny unit, showed great initiative as part of an ongoing investigation into car break-ins in the 120th Precinct, his commanding officer Lt. Greg Bardash said.
After being part of a pursuit on July 16 that led to the arrest of four of six teens allegedly involved in a Silver Lake break-in spree, Devito returned to the scene in the following weeks canvassing the area, working with civilians to obtain video footage, and helped to build a case that has led to 17 arrests for a crime that has plagued Staten Island.
“It shows his dedication to the job,” Bardash said of Devito. “He really went above and beyond.”