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County cadets strive to become state troopers

The six Pennsylvania State Police Academy cadets from Schuylkill County are beating the odds by fighting their instincts and learning new ways to react.

This cadet class, the 131st, is on par with the average graduation rate of about 80 percent, dropping from 157 cadets the first day to 134 by Friday.

Audra Schmidt, 24, of Sheppton; Jack Hoban Jr., 26, of Auburn; Vincent LaSelva, 27, of Palo Alto; Thomas Zarcufsky, 25, of Shenandoah; Alan Zulick, 30, of Saint Clair, and Michael Zulkowski, 26, of Shenandoah, all remain in the class that began Sept. 20.

Each of the six echoed the reason for their success so far: They had realistic expectations about the academy, a paramilitary experience based on West Point standards.

“It’s basically what I was expecting, though every day there are new challenges and some things are a little different than what I thought they might be like,” Hoban said, who is part of B Platoon with LaSelva.

Part of that difference is an internal struggle.



New Pennsylvania State Police cadet class will start training Monday

A new Pennsylvania State Police cadet class will begin training in Hershey on Monday after funding cuts in this year’s state budget threatened to leave nearly 300 trooper positions vacant for another year.

State Police Commissioner Frank Pawlowski said today that 157 prospective cadets representing 47 counties statewide will begin the 28-week trooper training that involves both classroom instruction and physical training.

Pawlowski said his office worked with Gov. Ed Rendell to ensure there was funding for a new cadet class.


A dramatic rescue on Lake Erie

Harry S. Gustafson Jr. greets his first grandchild, Kayley, after her birth on Monday.

Harry S. Gustafson Jr. figured he would be called upon to save a life.

It likely never occurred to him when that day came, he would be off duty and perched precariously atop a capsized fishing boat on Lake Erie.

And yet, the New Castle-based Pennsylvania State Police trooper spent four hours Sunday on the hull of an overturned 17-foot Aquasport. Battered by waves and racked by cramps, Gustafson refused to release his grip from the rope that was the only thing keeping his fishing buddy from drowning.

That friend, 61-year-old Dwayne Dye of North East, remained hospitalized Tuesday at Hamot Medical Center. Gustafson said Dye was suffering from hypothermia, water in the lungs and a mild heart attack.


Nearly killed on the job, trooper to honor fallen officers in bike tour

Ligonier Borough resident Dean Kerklo is, first and foremost, a survivor.

This Pennsylvania state trooper has seen plenty of grief in his 44 years, but he will not let it overwhelm him.

In May, Trooper Kerklo will take part in the 2010 Police Unity Tour. He will ride a bicycle with hundreds of fellow law enforcement officers from northern New Jersey to Washington, D.C., to raise funds for the National Law Enforcement Officers’ Memorial Fund and Museum. They will carry with them the memories of fallen comrades.

Trooper Kerklo, Pittsburgh Lt. Reyne Kacsuta and Aspinwall officer Shawn McMinn announced their involvement with the cause recently at South Allegheny Middle School.

It was a special day for Trooper Kerklo, a Liberty Borough native and 1984 South Allegheny High School graduate. But it was one that almost did not occur.

A little more than a decade ago, he was nearly slain in the line of duty.

Lombardo named Trooper of the Year

The International Association of Chiefs of Police has named trooper Robert Lombardo of the state police Swiftwater barracks as the 2010 IACP/Motorola Trooper of the Year.

Troopers are nominated by their comrades and those nominations are submitted to the IACP, which then reviews information about each nominee before deciding whom will be named Trooper of the Year.

One of four finalists chosen from state and provincial police agencies in the U.S. and Canada, Lombardo was honored at a March 12 ceremony in Alexandria, Va. The other finalists were from Alabama, Michigan and California.

On June 7, 2009, Lombardo, fellow state trooper Joshua Miller and other police were led on a high-speed chase that ended on Route 611, just south of Coolbaugh Elementary Center in Coolbaugh Township. Police boxed in a car driven by Daniel Autenrieth, 31, of Palmer Township, who had a gun and his kidnapped 9-year-old son with him in the car.


Family Honors Fallen PA State Trooper, Donates Breathalyzers to State Police

Although he only briefly served the Pennsylvania State Police, Trooper Kenton E. Iwaniec continues to make an impact nearly two years after his tragic death.

Kenton graduated from the State Police Academy in December 2007. He was then assigned to the Avondale Barracks in Chester County. Three months later on March 27, 2008, he finished his shift and was on his way home on Route 41.

He’d only driven two miles from the barracks, when his Hyundai Sedan was struck head-on by an impaired driver in a Chevy Tahoe at 10:15 p.m. He was flown to Christiana Hospital in Delaware, where he passed away during surgery two hours later, his family wrote on his memorial webpage.

The woman who operated the Chevy Tahoe had a blood alcohol concentration level of 0.34 percent, which was four times the legal limit. In addition, she had 40 nanograms of Oxycodone in her system.


Pa. State Police Get Computerized Ticket-Writing

Pennsylvania state troopers have begun to issue computer-generated traffic citations.

It won’t take the sting out of a speeding ticket, but Pennsylvania State Police spokesman Jack Lewis says the first thing motorists will notice with electronic citations is that they’ll be on their way quicker.

Lewis says that heretofore, it’s taken about 15 minutes for a trooper to produce a citation:

“However, in doing some pilot tests for this particular program, we found that the troopers could just about cut in half the time they spent preparing the citation. So that’s a good thing — get the car back on the road, get the trooper back on the road so they can resume their patrol duties. There are always dangers when cars are on the side of the road.”

And Lewis says that motorists will receive a citation created by a computer printer, instead of one filled out by hand, so no more excuses about not being able to read it.

By Tony Romeo