JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office honored its policemen and women Thursday at a ceremony for their excellence and service.
Officers were awarded for their public service and going above the call of duty to help the community, many times while off duty.
Sheriff John Rutherford presented Officer Mark Muchowicz with the medal of valor.
"There's certainly melancholy because the gentleman who I pulled out of the car did not survive," Muchowicz said.
On Aug. 1, Muchowicz was driving home when he heard an emergency radio call of a van that drove into the St. Johns River at the Southbank boat ramp. Muchowicz knew he was the closest officer, so he raced over, took off his gun belt and dove in, using a special tool to break the van windows.
His uniform and bulletproof vest were too heavy, and Muchowicz sunk to the bottom. He pushed off and went back to the van.
"After cutting the seat belt, he reached across the unconscious victim's chest and secured him in a cross-chest rescue carry, extracting him from the vehicle and bringing him to the surface," Rutherford said.
Awaiting officers performed CPR. The 76-year-old man was rushed to the hospital, where he died.
"It's just a representation of all the officers I work with every single day," Muchowicz said. "I just happened to get there before they did."
Rutherford also honored JSO's Isaiah Fields as Officer of the Month, along with citizen Buddy Cain.
In April, Fields, also off duty, stopped to help a 77-year-old woman who was robbed by a man pretending to help her with her broken down vehicle.
Cain and Fields chased down the 24-year-old suspect and caught him.
Cain also went beyond the call of duty to paint a woman's home after he heard it was spray-painted with "KKK" six weeks before. That woman, Audrey Parker, was battling cancer and couldn't afford to clean it up.
"When Isaiah went to pick up the supplies, the manager actually donated 10 gallons of paint, along with primer and some other supplies," Rutherford said. "The manager also offered to put together a team of their own employees."
JSO employees also joined in, and in two hours, Parker's house was painted.
Rutherford honored David Torres as December's Corrections Officer of the Month for his exceptional work at the Duval County jail.
And he awarded Sgt. David Guthrie as Civilian Supervisor of the Month for helping officers capture three burglary suspects.
Rutherford recognized officers for recent promotions and others for decades of service with the agency.
"Officer Muchowicz, he didn't have to leave his house and respond to that call, but he did," Rutherford said. "And that's the kind of people we have on this agency, and we're very blessed to have them."