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Amy Dalrymple, Published March 14 2009

Fargo police honor officers and residents

Officer Chris Bergem says his job with the Fargo Police Department is pretty routine 90 percent of the time.

But every day it’s in the back of his mind: He could encounter a life-threatening situation.

Fargo police honored officers and citizens Friday for how they responded in dangerous situations.

Bergem received a combat cross, which is awarded to officers who distinguish themselves when threatened by an armed adversary.

Bergem was one of four officers who traded gunfire with Vincent Degidio Jr. last April after Degidio kidnapped a woman from Fargo and forced her to drive to Moorhead.

The police department also recognized many officers for outstanding service, including officer Scott Stenerson who received the employee of the year award and a commendable service award.

Stenerson was honored for his work as the downtown resource officer, a post he’s held since 2002.

The North Dakota American Legion presented Officer Travis Stefonowicz with the Ray Atol Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award.

Many other officers were recognized for taking on extra duties, such as participating on the SWAT team or the K-9 unit.

Police also recognized five citizens who assisted two men who were close to drowning or dying of hypothermia in the Red River.

Mitchell Nelson, Nicole White, Nicholas Dehaan, Laura Fiegen and Eric Peterson were on a nearby bike path and heard yells coming from the river. They called 911 and assisted the men until emergency responders arrived.

“All of us think that we were doing what we hope anyone would do in that situation,” Fiegen said.

Other awards:

- Combat cross: Officers Shane Aberle, Travis Stefonowicz and Thomas Shaw received the award for assisting the Red River Valley SWAT team with a barricaded suspect near Luverne, N.D.

- Silver star award: Lt. Joel Vettel received the honor for how he handled a suicidal male who doused himself with gasoline and was about to strike a match. Vettel talked to the man and at the right moment did a diving tackle and prevented him from striking the match.

Officer Brad Zieska received the award for preventing a suicide on the First Avenue North bridge. Zieska talked to the man and pulled him to safety, a considerable risk because the man was larger than Zieska and the Red River was above flood stage.

- Lifesaving award: Officers Travis Moser and David Boelke were honored for using a defibrillator and performing CPR to save lives when responding to medical assists.

- Distinguished service medal: Records manager Anna Welder received the honor for how she interacts with the public.

- Commendable service award: Officer Brad Baer was recognized for his work as a downtown resource officer.

Officer Grant Benjamin received the award for being a leader in the school resource officer program.

Moser was honored for his quick action during the Degidio incident for notifying officers to take precautions.

Deb Tellinghuisen was recognized for her work with the Safe Rental Housing Program, which has decreased property crime.

- Chief’s medal: Capt. Tod Dahle received the honor for serving as interim director of the Red River Regional Dispatch Center.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590