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OPP Central Region hands out awards for bravery, investigation

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes called it the highlight of his year.

Friday, the OPP Central Region awards ceremony was held at Hawk Ridge Golf and Country Club just outside Orillia. Officers and civilians from the 14 detachments that make up the area were feted in the ceremony, one of nine held by the OPP around the province annually.

“It’s so important for us to recognize those individuals who are so deserving,” Hawkes said. “Not just those members of the organization, but members of the community who have stepped up and done something special, and haven’t gotten paid for it.”

About halfway through the ceremony, the MC for the afternoon looked at Hawkes and remarked the commissioner looked like a “proud papa” as he doled out the honours to the men and women of the provincial police service, alongside the Good Samaritans who received commendations.

That pride swelled down the ranks as well. It was a feeling shared by Insp. Pat Morris, commander of Orillia OPP. Orillia officers were honoured for their work in three specific incidents.

On Sept. 12, 2013, a 15-year-old girl told police a 22-year-old man in Orillia had sexually assaulted her. That man was Shayne Lund.

He was quickly arrested, and police began a thorough investigation of seized electronic devices, which showed years of sexual deviancy, numerous victims and two female co-conspirators. Nearly 130 Criminal Code charges and nearly 90 Youth Criminal Justice Act charges were laid as a result of the investigation.

“The Lund investigation was an absolutely incredible investigation,” Morris said. “They did a great job.”

Two other sets of Orillia officers were lauded for their bravery in saving lives. Constables Paul Catterall and Michael Schieck received the Commissioner’s Citation for Bravery, the Commissioner’s Citation for Lifesaving and the St. John Ambulance Award for their actions June 5, 2016.

The officers were responding to a collision on Highway 11 at the Severn River bridge. When they arrived, they found a minivan blocking traffic, but no one in the vehicle. Firefighters shone light into the river, where a woman was scene floating downstream.

Schieck scaled down the embankment and entered the water. He grabbed the unconscious woman about 30 metres from shore, giving her a sternum rub, which she responded to with a cough. She was brought to shore, where paramedic William Coke and Catterall and performed CPR, resuscitating the woman.

“That was a difficult, difficult call,” Morris said. “They went above and beyond. I mean, going into that river, if you know the area, it’s a significant act – and on a bit of a wing and a prayer in terms of what they could achieve.”

Also receiving a Commissioner’s Citation for Lifesaving were constables Jay McIsaac and Shawn Wilson, who shared the award with Maria Cortez-Buck.

Cortez-Buck called police after hearing screams coming from her downstairs neighbour’s apartment.

“I kind of had a feeling something was wrong, so I went down to knock on her door,” Cortez-Buck recalled. “There was no response, but I could still hear the same kind of noises, so I called the police.”

When the officers arrived, they could hear faint sounds, but nothing seemed too amiss. They had to make a choice that could go either way in order to investigate further.

“There was nothing that was evidently wrong, but they spent a lot of time to discern that there was,” Morris said. “They spent a lot of time and effort before they actually took action, because it’s a fairly significant intrusion of privacy to go and push in the door.”

They found the female “in distress.” She was tangled in Christmas lights on the floor, conscious but incoherent and injured. She was taken to hospital, where she made a full recovery.

Cortez-Buck was proud and honoured to receive the commendation, but that wasn’t the most important part of the story, she said.

“More than anything, I’m really happy the girl is OK now.” 

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