Two corrections officers to receive national awards

Valor cited for quick
reactions to serious

Staff Writer

Valor cited for quick
reactions to serious
Staff Writer

CHARLES W. KIM Middlesex County Adult Correction Center Warden Ed Ciccho (l) honors officer Chris Wilson of Jamesburg (center) for stopping an attack on fellow officer Tim Morris (r).CHARLES W. KIM Middlesex County Adult Correction Center Warden Ed Ciccho (l) honors officer Chris Wilson of Jamesburg (center) for stopping an attack on fellow officer Tim Morris (r).

Two Middlesex County corrections officers were praised as heroes last week.

Corrections officer Chris Wilson of Jamesburg and Sgt. Joseph DeMatteo of Jackson, who work at the Middlesex County Adult Correction Center in North Brunswick, are being recognized by a national organization for their response to two separate incidents this year.

"They went above board to do their jobs and didn’t ask anything for it," Warden Ed Ciccho said following a press conference April 1.

DeMatteo, a 22-year veteran at the facility, helped save two people involved in a traffic accident on July 23.

DeMatteo had just stopped at a BP gasoline station on Route 130 for coffee on his way to work. A man who had also just stopped at the same station to get coffee was in front of him, traveling north on Route 130.

A car traveling south lost control on the mist-covered road at about 6:10 a.m. and crossed over the grass median, striking the vehicle head-on in front of DeMatteo.

The car then spun around and flipped over, landing on its roof.

DeMatteo, who had previously served on a volunteer first aid and fire company in Edison, stopped and went to assist the drivers.

When DeMatteo reached the car that was hit head-on, he found the driver pinned in the front seat.

"The man was covered in blood from head to toe. The motor was in the front seat. He was pinned from the chest down," DeMatteo said.

As he tried to assist the driver with the help of another passing motorist, DeMatteo noticed that flames were starting to come from the other vehicle, which had flipped over.

DeMatteo ran to the second vehicle and worked to get that driver out as well.

"He was still buckled in the seat. The doors were locked, so we had to break the windows," DeMatteo said.

DeMatteo and the other motorist were able to free that driver and get him onto the grass.

The other motorist then got a fire extinguisher and put out the fire in the car.

With the one driver stabilized, DeMatteo returned to the other car and stayed with the driver until he could be extricated by emergency workers.

"I stayed with him the whole time. He wouldn’t let go of my hand. The main thing was to keep him calm," DeMatteo said.

The men were transported to the hospital, and DeMatteo continued on to his job at the correction center. Once there, he cleaned up and went to the hospital to see how the men were.

"When I got there, the driver that was pinned was already in surgery. I did speak to his wife," DeMatteo said.

DeMatteo said that he received thank-you cards from the family for his help in the accident, but he felt the best four months later, when he saw the man buying coffee in the gas station.

DeMatteo said that the man was walking with a cane and did not rec­ognize him at first.

"He later asked the clerk if I was the officer that helped him. He was in and out of it the day of the accident," DeMatteo said.

DeMatteo is receiving the 2003 Life­saving Medal of Valor from Correc­tions USA for his efforts.

Corrections USA is a national or­ganization that was formed in 1998 initially to fight the privatization of correctional facilities. The organiza­tion, with about 90,000 members in 40 states and Canada, now works to en­hance the image of corrections offi­cers.

"People don’t know what corrections officers do behind the walls," said Lt. Michael Haley of the Worcester, Mass., Sheriff’s Office.

Haley is also a member of the Cor­rections USA awards committee.

The awards started last year with 11 officers in the nation recognized for heroic acts.

Haley said that there is no set num­ber of awards given out in a year.

"It depends on what happens," he said.

In addition to DeMatteo’s award, a Gold Medal of Valor was earned by of­ficer Chris Wilson.

Wilson was able to stop a brutal at­tack on another guard by an inmate at the Route 130 facility on July 16.

Corrections officer Tim Morris was filling out a log form in a secured area in the facility when he was at­tacked from behind by two inmates.

While fighting the inmates off, Morris received a large cut above his right eye, seven broken ribs and a concussion.

While trying to battle the inmates, Morris tried to reach an emergency button on his radio to request assis­tance.

After he was able to put one of the inmates down, Morris was finally able to yell into his radio for help.

Wilson was about 40 feet away in a different secured location when he heard the call and immediately went to his colleague’s aid.

"It was a very bloody room. You could smell it when you came in the door," Wilson remembered.

Wilson saw Morris pinned in the corner by the remaining inmate.

"He was covered in blood. I re­strained and subdued the remaining inmate," Wilson said.

Morris received eight stitches for the cut above his eye.

Morris said that it could have been much worse if Wilson had not inter­vened.

"If it wasn’t for this officer [Wilson], who knows what would’ve happened. I may have left in a plastic bag," Morris said.

Morris said that he will never for­get Wilson or the incident.

"It was my wife’s birthday," Morris said.

Middlesex County Freeholder Christopher D. Rafano said that the freeholder board was very proud of the officers and the facility.

"You make us look good," Rafano said.

Both officers will receive the actual medals during a ceremony in Wash­ington, D.C., on May 11. The awards will be presented by Rep. Rush Holt (D-12th District).