DA Early Honors Sturbridge First Responders for Reviving Off-Duty Police Officer

February 28, 2024

For Immediate Release

Contact: Lindsay Corcoran (508) 368-7252 or (774) 670-8811

STURBRIDGE – A group of Sturbridge first responders were recognized by Worcester County District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. today for reviving one of their fellow officers from a heart attack last year.

The District Attorney’s Team Excellence and Merit – TEAM Award – was presented to Sturbridge Police Officers Daniel Hemingway, Garrett Danna, Nicole Patterson, East Brookfield Police Officer Matthew Schlegel, Sturbridge Firefighter/Paramedic Lt. Sean Moynagh, Sturbridge Firefighter/EMT Joseph Doldoorian, and Sturbridge Emergency Communications Unit Dispatchers Benjamin Grasso and Aaron Berry for their efforts and actions on the evening of Dec. 17, 2023 that saved the life of Officer Jeffrey Lavallee. Additionally, Officer Lavallee’s wife, Sandra Murphy, and his stepson, Brayden Fillios, were also recognized with civilian awards for their actions that night.

“They answer the bell anytime they are called, no matter what. For these officers, this is one of the worst scenarios they can face – having to work on one of their own. They knew the severity of the situation and that they had to put aside their personal feelings to save a life,” Mr. Early said. “Quick thinking by his family members and the teamwork of the crew of emergency responders ensured not a minute was wasted in the fight to save Officer Lavallee’s life. Because of each person’s actions on that night, he is still with us today.”

Around 10:02 p.m., Sturbridge Emergency Communications Unit dispatcher Grasso received a 911 call requesting an ambulance for a man who was having trouble breathing. The caller, Sandra Murphy, reported that her husband had told her he was not feeling well and was going to rest. When she went to check on him, she found him unconscious and not breathing. Murphy immediately called the police to request an ambulance before rushing downstairs to request assistance from Schlegel, who lived there in an in-law apartment.

Schlegel, off-duty from his job at the East Brookfield Police Department, was the first to begin performing CPR on Lavallee. Schlegel worked with Lavallee’s stepson, Brayden, to pull Lavallee down from the bed and onto the floor to begin chest compressions until help could arrive.

Dispatcher Berry sent Officers Danna, Patterson, and Hemingway to the scene and they immediately recognized the address of one of their fellow officers. Lavallee was a 25-year veteran of the Sturbridge Police Department who had retired from full-time duty only recently. He was still serving as a part-time officer when this incident occurred.

Officer Danna was the first to arrive followed by Patterson then Hemingway. Danna had an automated external defibrillator (AED) machine and administered shocks to Lavallee. Both police and paramedics delivered multiple shocks on scene and on the way to the hospital.

Sturbridge Fire Department’s Lt. Sean Moynagh and Joseph Doldoorian arrived shortly after the officers, stepping in to provide next-level care. They transported Lavallee to Harrington Memorial Hospital.

Initially, medical personnel were unsure whether Officer Lavallee would survive the heart attack. He had to be put into a medically induced coma and have his body temperature brought down for several days. However, Officer Lavallee has since been released from the hospital and is working his way toward a full recovery.

“You never think you’ll be the call, never in a million years did I think it would be me,” Officer Lavallee said. “Everybody I train with when we do our CPR training and when I look around my roll call room, I know I’m around capable people at all levels. It’s been an emotional thing for me and my family. I’m sure it affected the other officers. Emotionally it’s going to hit everybody. Nobody is promised tomorrow. I just couldn’t be more thankful to the guys who’ve assisted me in this whole thing.”

“As a police chief, you’re used to answering the phone at all hours of the night, and you know when the phone rings it’s not going to be a good call, but you’re not used to getting a call about one of your own officers, not breathing, not responding, CPR in progress,” said Sturbridge Police Chief Earl Dessert. “It causes a little different anxiety. But me answering that call was nothing compared to what the first responders on the scene must have felt working on their own friend. It was so nice to have this official recognition from the District Attorney’s Office today. First responders across the country are doing this work, day in and day out, and it’s often overlooked. Having this recognition makes a big difference.”

“The TEAM Award is an appropriate name. You’ll notice we’re all up here in different uniforms, but we’re all on one team,” said Sturbridge Fire Chief John Grasso.

The TEAM Award was created by Mr. Early in 2019 to recognize public safety employees who go above and beyond the call of duty. Contact the Worcester County District Attorney’s Office at (508) 755-8601 to nominate someone for this award.

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