It was February 4th, 2018, when then-Syracuse Police Sgt. James Milana pulled up on the scene of a man wielding a gun on South Salina Street near West Calthrop Avenue. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul picks up the story…
"Before Lt. Milana could get out of the vehicle, the gunman pulled his semi-automatic pistol from his waistband and fired shots at him. The bullets struck the hood and windshield, passing dangerously close to his head."
Now-Lieutenant Milana recalls the events of that day.
"I didn't really realize it or process it at the time. After the fact, I took that all in. Everything happened so quickly that you just react," Milana said. "Things like this happen more frequently than the public knows in law enforcement, unfortunately. There's definitely a lot of other officers out there very deserving of this type of an award."
Monday, he, along with Officer Victoria Losurdo and Travis Rheinheimer, were named New York State’s Officers of the Year. All three returned fire, injuring the suspect. They apprehended Leon Thomas even as he ran toward I-81 and continued firing at officers over his shoulder.
Police Chief Kenton Buckner says they may not be the perfect department, but they are professional.
"I think many of our citizens see the kind of work that's going on every day. Some of it's not captured in an award recognition. But there are heroic acts going on every day."
By the way, Thomas pleaded guilty to attempted murder and is serving a 23-year prison sentence.