Penn College Police officer’s heroics merit national Silver Star

Published 12.14.2022

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A Pennsylvania College of Technology police officer, whose vigilant pursuit – even after being repeatedly fired upon – resulted in the quick apprehension of an armed suspect earlier this fall, was presented with a nationally sanctioned award during a surprise campus ceremony on Dec. 13.

Lt. David C. Pletz, a 25-year Penn College Police veteran, received a Silver Star for Bravery on behalf of the college and Chief Jack L. Rinchich, president of The National Association of Chiefs of Police (which maintains the American Police Hall of Fame and Museum in Titusville, Florida).

Pennsylvania College of Technology Police Lt. David C. Pletz (holding plaque) has received national recognition for actions leading to the Sept. 28 apprehension of an armed suspect near campus. Among those on hand at an awards ceremony are (from left) Penn College President Michael J. Reed; Penn College Police Chief Chris E. Miller; and Elliott Strickland, vice president for student affairs. College President Michael J. Reed summarized the noontime events of Sept. 28, when Pletz responded to Lycoming County 911’s dispatch about a disturbance involving a gun on Vine Avenue, just north of campus. On the scene in less than 60 seconds, he continued, Pletz immediately engaged the suspect.

“Within seconds of their encounter, the suspect fired multiple rounds at Dave from a 9 mm handgun,” Reed said. “Dave took cover behind his police car and stayed in the fight by visually scanning the area for the flight path of the suspect. He was able to radio out the description of the suspect and where he was heading, then continued to pursue the suspect in his vehicle.”

The Silver Star for Bravery is awarded for "extraordinary heroism" performed in the line of duty.Pletz’s actions commendably gave the other responding officers critical information and the ability to move into the area of the suspect's path. When he again saw the suspect, the president said, the lieutenant was able to direct Penn College Police Chief Chris E. Miller and Williamsport Bureau of Police officers to the alleged gunman’s exact location, where he was quickly taken into custody.

“In looking at the timeline of this incident, it was only a minute and nine seconds from the time the first bullet was fired at Dave until the suspect was handcuffed,” Reed related. “This is an extraordinary feat given the circumstances. If it was not for Dave's actions and his relentless pursuit, the suspect may have not been apprehended.”

The Silver Star was presented by Miller, who emotionally explained that the award is intended to honor extraordinary heroism in the line of duty.

“It recognizes an officer whose act of courage goes above and beyond the call of duty,” said the chief, who also serves as director of campus safety. “What you did this September day certainly fits. I could not be prouder of how you handled yourself in this volatile situation.”

Jenna R. Romano pins the award to her father's uniform.He added that Pletz’s response is a reflection of annual departmental training in cautious preparation for such “active shooting” situations.

Reed (at podium) recounts the lieutenant's "extraordinary feat" for the PDC audience.“I must also recognize the commitment that the college has made to our department in providing the necessary funds and personnel to accomplish our mission of protecting our community – both on and off campus – and to foster a safer learning environment for our students,” Miller said.

Introduced by his chief as “a friend, a guiding light, a calm voice and a true leader,” Pletz showed characteristic humility when he stepped up to the mic.

Law enforcement and civilian personnel – including Fletcher W. Farr (foreground), police officer lead person – watch Pletz accept deserved honors.“The chief deserves this as much as I do,” he said, noting that Miller joined the pursuit in obvious awareness of the danger. “Knowing that the suspect was armed and had just fired on an officer? That certainly ups the ante.”

Acknowledging the officer’s aversion to the spotlight, the administration employed secrecy and subterfuge to get him to the ceremony.

Pletz (center) is accompanied into the PDC's Mountain Laurel Room by Officers Matthew S. McCormick (left) and Adam J. Haffley.Pletz had gathered for a departmental photo in the lobby of the Davie Jane Gilmour Center early Tuesday evening, then walked across campus for what he thought was a staff meeting in the Thompson Professional Development Center.

He was met there by family and co-workers, and surprised in the brief ceremony that included Elliott Strickland, vice president for student affairs; Pletz’s daughter, Jenna R. Romano, who pinned the star onto her father’s uniform; and representatives of the Williamsport Bureau of Police.

For more about the college, a national leader in applied technology education, email the Admissions Office or call toll-free 800-367-9222.

Photos by Cindy Davis Meixel, writer/photo editor