October 14, 2021
Governor Kathy Hochul today announced that two police officers have been recognized for exceptional valor and courage in the face of grave danger to themselves and residents of the communities they serve to protect. Rochester Police Department Officer Dennison "Denny" Wright is the recipient of the Governor's Police Officer of the Year Award and Suffolk County Police Officer Christopher Zonin is the recipient of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services' Lifesaving Award.
"Officers Wright and Zonin selflessly answered their call to service, putting themselves in harm's way to keep others safe and serve their communities," Governor Hochul said. "We owe them both a huge debt of gratitude and will never forget their heroism in the face of life-threatening danger."
Governor Hochul announced the awards on the first day of National Police Week, which will be marked in Washington D.C. this year with a series of events today through Sunday, Oct. 17. The Division of Criminal Justice Services coordinates the work of the Police Officer of the Year Award Selection Committee, which also chooses the Lifesaving Award recipient.
Committee members, who include police executives, union representatives, and officials from the statewide associations that represent chiefs and sheriffs, considered nominations submitted by 11 agencies. A total of 20 officers were considered before Officers Wright and Zonin were selected as recipients of the awards for incidents that occurred in 2019.
Nominations for the 2020 awards are being reviewed and the Committee's selection(s) are scheduled to be announced later this year.
On Oct. 4, 2019, while responding to a family dispute that became violent, Officer Wright was confronted by an armed assailant who attacked and blinded him with a knife. Despite his severe injuries and with the aid of Good Samaritans at the scene, Officer Wright was able to prevent the man from harming anyone else.
Officer Zonin, who is also a volunteer firefighter, braved thick smoke and heat to help several residents escape their burning residence in Centereach on Dec. 4, 2019.
The Governor's Police Officer of the Year Award recognizes a single police officer or a team of officers for an exceptional act of valor symbolizing the service of police in New York State. Established in 1984, the award has been presented to 121 officers from 20 different agencies. The Selection Committee established the Lifesaving Award in 2016 and since then, 13 officers from four agencies have received the honor.
Officer Wright is the first Rochester Police Officer to receive the award. In nominating Officer Wright for the award, the Rochester Police Department provided the following account of the events that unfolded on Oct. 4, 2019:
Officer Wright responded to a call for help with a family dispute that involved an emotionally disturbed man hiding under a bed. Upon arriving at the scene, he sought to defuse the situation. Officer Wright talked with the man and coaxed him out of hiding, but the man became agitated and attempted to leave the home.
As family members tried to stop him, he punched Officer Wright in the face and then, without warning, grabbed a 12-inch knife and repeatedly stabbed Officer Wright in the face, head and eyes. Officer Wright fired his weapon once and missed the individual, who continued the attack. Despite severe injuries and impaired vision, Officer Wright persisted and kept others around him safe. With the aid of Good Samaritans who witnessed the violent attack and rushed to his aid, Officer Wright managed to take the suspect into custody. The 23-year-veteran was treated for a skull and facial fractures and multiple stab wounds; he suffered permanent loss of vision in both eyes.
To read more about this story, you can visit Governor Hochul Recognizes Police Officers for Heroism
New York Pressroom
October 13, 2021