Metro

‘We will be with you always,’ Baker tells family of fallen police officer

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (left) with Boston police Officer Sergeant Norberto B. Perez and other Boston police officers at Thursday’s ceremony.

Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker (left) with Boston police Officer Sergeant Norberto B. Perez and other Boston police officers at Thursday’s ceremony.

The family of Auburn police Officer Ronald Tarentino Jr. was in the well of the House chamber at the State House on Thursday as the slain police officer was posthumously awarded the Hanna Medal of Honor, the highest honor in Massachusetts law enforcement.

Tarentino’s widow, Tricia Tarentino, exchanged a brief hug with Governor Charlie Baker, who presided at the awards annually recognizing the professionalism and courage of the state’s law enforcement community. and who recalled visiting the officer’s family after the May 22, 2016, shooting.

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“We’re with you always. We will be with you always,” Baker said to the Tarentinos before the formal presentation of the Hanna medal. “We are so sorry for your loss.”

Tarentino, 42, was conducting a routine traffic stop when he was shot four times by Jorge A. Zambrano. Hours later, Zambrano fled into an Oxford home, where he engaged in a shootout with State Police troopers before being fatally shot.

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The three troopers involved in that final standoff with Zambrano were also named as Medal of Honor recipients, including Trooper Albert J. Kardoos, who was shot in the shoulder as he and other members of the Special Tactical Operations Team searched inside a duplex.

After being shot, Kardoos was helped to safety by Sergeant Scott M. McDonald and Sergeant Michael H. Baker, who were also able to return fire, fatally injuring Zambrano, who had also unleashed his pit bull at the troopers.

Facing an “act of sudden violence directed at them, Trooper Kardoos, and Sergeant Baker and McDonald remained poised and acted in accordance with the highest levels of their rigorous training,’’ according to a summary of their award.

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The other honorees were Boston police officers — including Officer Matthew J. Morris, who was a Medal of Honor recipient in 2006 — who responded to an East Boston apartment on Oct. 12, 2016, where a mentally disturbed man wearing a bulletproof vest shot two police officers, nearly killing both.

Morris was shot in his femoral artery and was bleeding heavily, while Officer Richard D. Cintolo was shot in the neck and chest. Morris, Cintolo, and Officer Eric Schmidt exchanged gunfire with the suspect, Kirk P. Figueroa, while other officers rushed to the scene.

Morris and Cintolo were weakened because of their wounds. Schmidt stayed with them, firing at the suspect and providing cover as other officers provided first aid to their colleagues. Those officers — Sergeant Norberto B. Perez, SWAT Officer Clifton Singletary, and Officer Lenin Ortiz — were recognized with the Medal of Valor for the dangerous, life-threatening rescue efforts.

Singletary put his finger in the bullet wound in Morris’s leg, and Perez used his belt as a tourniquet, while the other officers risked their lives to shield and then remove the wounded men to safety and awaiting ambulances.

“It is no exaggeration to say that if these officers had not taken that action, Officer Morris would not have survived,’’ according to a summary.

Boston police Officer Keith Kaplan was awarded the Medal of Valor for capturing a known drug dealer on Jan. 8, 2016, who had wounded Officer Kurt S. Stokinger in the area of Mount Bowdoin Terrace. Stokinger was awarded the Medal of Honor for firing a shot at the suspect despite his wounds and engaging in a gun battle.

Other Medal of Valor winners were:

 Everett police Officer Joseph F. Pepicelli, who fatally shot a man who rushed towards him with a knife in a major Everett intersection on April 21, 2016.

 Fall River police Officers James T. Hoar and David L. Gouveia, who engaged in a gun battle with an armed Rhode Island murder suspect on June 13, 2016.

 Lynn police Officers John R. Bernard, Matthew R. Coppinger, Michael J. McEachern, and Joshua M. Seaman, who were confronted by a man who carjacked a woman at gunpoint and repeatedly pointed a handgun at police on Jan. 29, 2016.

Lowell Police Officers Guillermo Rojas and Chase Suong rushed to a home March 25, 2016 where a caller said a family member was going to kill them all. The suspect’s hands were stained with blood and he was armed with both a knife and hatchet. Despite their efforts to deescalate the situation the officers were forced to fire, fatally wounding him.

Lowell Police Officer Buntha Kieng rushed to the scene of an armed home invasion on Feb. 6, 2016, spotted two injured people and rushed inside by himself. The suspect pointed a gun at him, and Kieng fired, twice wounding the suspect. As other officers arrived, Kieng gave first aid to the suspect who recovered.

 State Police Trooper David M. Stucenski and his K-9 Frankie, who worked together to disarm and arrest a man who fired a .357-caliber pistol directly at the trooper, who was unharmed when the bullet fell short of its target. The man was injured.

John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com.
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