Troy, NY - Officer Joshua Comitale received the Congressional Badge of Bravery from U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer Thursday for his actions in a fatal 2015 gun battle with a carjacking suspect in Lansingburgh.
Comitale became the first police officer in New York state to be honored with the federal award.
Previously, Comitale has declined to talk about the night of Aug. 22, 2015 when he and Officer Chad Klein were severely wounded in a shootout with Thaddeus Faison, 39, of Albany who died after he was shot five times. But he spoke briefly Thursday afternoon.
Comitale said the Congressional Badge of Bravery means a lot to his family, who had to endure what he suffered through as he recovered.
The night of the incident, the officers responded to a call about a carjacking. Comitale was on foot, while Klein was in a police SUV when he was shot from behind in the shoulder by Faison on 112th Street between Fifth Avenue and the 112th Street Park. After Comitale saw Faison shoot Klein, he opened fire and was shot in both legs during the shootout in which 25 rounds were fired. Although he was downed and his gun jammed, he reloaded as Faison fired at him. He then applied tourniquets to his legs to stop the bleeding.
Schumer, D- New York, said Comitale "deserved special recognition" for going above and beyond his duty in protecting the community. Schumer also spoke to Klein thanking him for "your bravery and your service."
Before the 100 people at the ceremony, Schumer said, "We will continue to fight in Washington for the programs that protect and defend our police departments."
A Rensselaer County grand jury investigated the case and issued a true no bill, meaning they found no evidence of Comitale committing a crime when he shot Faison. Toxicology tests found marijuana and PCP in Faison's system.
The officers are still recuperating from their wounds and have not yet returned to duty. Klein said he's hopeful that he'll be back on the job in the near future.
The citation recounts the actions Comitale and Klein took in responding to a call for an attempted carjacking and the events that followed.
"Officer Comitale, having witnessed the suspect firing on Officer Klein, he returned fire at the suspect, striking him and causing him to fall," Chief John Tedesco said in reading the citation describing the events that summer night.
"The actions of Officer Comitale demonstrate extraordinary bravery and a willingness to save the lives of others, without regard to his own personal safety," Tedesco continued.