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BPD police officer awarded medal

BRADENTON — A Bradenton Police Department officer has been selected to receive the department’s third highest award after he helped save an infant girl’s life this month.

Officer Dean Buttitta, who has been with the department since 2005, said he was stopped on 14th Street West on Dec. 5 when a woman stopped her vehicle in the middle of the road and started screaming for help.

“I ran out to the car. I told her to hurry up and park in the parking lot. When she first got out, I could only hear her saying, ‘Help. Help,’” he said. “She started screaming, ‘My baby is choking.’”

Buttitta found the 5-month-old girl choking on a liquid substance.

“I lifted up her chin so it would straighten out the airway to get the stuff to come down. I put my finger in her mouth and I reached in to see if there was something in there,” he said.

Buttitta said he was concerned about trying to perform CPR on a baby so small.

However, fluid spilled out of the child’s mouth and she began breathing easier.

“She was breathing a little better. You could still hear the sound of liquid in her throat,” he said.

The child was taken to Manatee Memorial Hospital and stabilized by paramedics.

On average, about two to three officers receive the medal of merit every year, said Deputy Chief Jeffrey Lewis.

The award is given to officers who show initiative, save a life, accomplish an assignment, or retire from the department after 25 years. All officers of the year receive the honor, he said.

Most of the recent awards have been for saving lives and the past three officers of the year all saved lives while on duty he said.

It’s not too uncommon for officers to encounter medical issues. All officers, like Buttitta, are trained in CPR and other first responder life-saving techniques.

“It’s so they can apply medical assistance to someone not breathing or bleeding,” Lewis said. “Most of the time if their life-saving efforts are effective, then they are recognized.”

In 2007, Sgt. Josh Cramer was recognized for administering CPR to a child who had drowned. In 2008, Officer Tim Smith convinced a man to stop cutting himself on a suicide call. This year, Sgt. Bill Knight was honored after he saved someone from a burning building.

All three officers received the medal of merit as well as officer of the year, Lewis said.