Behrens, Suttle Named LPD Officers of the Year

Brent Behrens, Emily Suttle
Brent Behrens, Emily Suttle

A Lakeland police officer who had to make a split-second decision when facing a gunman who had just shot his ex-girlfriend has been named the Lakeland Police Department’s Officer of the Year along with another officer who assisted at the scene.

Officer Brent Behrens, who has been with the department for four years, and Officer Emily Suttle were awarded the honor during the department’s Annual Awards Ceremony on March 4. In all, 45 officers and civilians were awarded for going above and beyond in their service to Lakeland residents.

According to a news release, on March 7, 2021, just before 6:30 a.m., officers approached Howayne Gayle, 35, who was with his ex-girlfriend in the parking lot of Cobblestone Landings off of Walt Loop Road.  As the woman turned toward officers, Gayle shot her, according to the news release. Officer Behrens then shot Gayle; he died at the scene. The woman died in the hospital.

Behrens’ “quick, decisive, and heroic action potentially saved the lives of the victim’s daughter and also that of his and the other officers on the scene,” Lakeland Police Department officials said.

Officers Behrens and Suttle display their awards

Officer Emily Suttle arrived right after the shots were fired. She cared for the female victim and attempted to save her life, rendering first aid. Once the woman was taken to the hospital, Suttle took over the scene, gathered the facts and briefed detectives, department officials said.

“Officers Behrens and Suttle exhibited a high degree of professional excellence in dealing with a high-stress scene,” department leaders said in a video presented to city commissioners on Monday. “Their commitment to the values of the Lakeland Police Department earned them the distinction of the 2021 Officers of the Year.”

David Waterman
David Waterman

Detective David Waterman was named Detective of the Year for discovering evidence of child sexual abuse in a case that initially involved aggravated stalking of a child.  

Waterman’s typical job is to retrieve evidence from electronics such as cellphones and computers. While examining a cellphone in this particular case, Waterman found evidence indicating the a 52-year-old man was involved in a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old girl. According to court records, Waterman’s discovery led to the defendant being charged with several counts of possession of child pornography and lewd battery.

 “You can imagine that the job of Detective Waterman and the other detectives assigned to reviewing evidence as described is not easy. We are grateful for their work in serving those who often don’t have a voice and ensuring they are protected against those who prey on children,” department officials said in a video aired during Monday’s City Commission meeting.

Click the play arrow to start the video about the four award winners:

City Commission Meeting – March 21, 2022 from City of Lakeland on Vimeo.

Tiffany Stillwell
Tiffany Stillwell

Lead transcriptionist Tiffany Stilwell was honored as Civilian of the Year. She serves in the Criminal Investigations Division. According to the department, she’s known for transcribing 100 recorded interviews each month, and didn’t slow down during staffing shortages in the pandemic. Officials called her “ an exemplary employee …[who] produces an impeccable work product and an unwavering dedication to her craft.”

Police Chief Ruben Garcia had this to say about the four recipients:

“All four of our members recently highlighted for their outstanding performance in 2021 is an example of the great service and personal commitment we see daily from our department members as they strive to provide the best possible service to our citizens. The command staff and I are extremely proud and grateful for the actions of Officers Behrens and Suttle, Detective Waterman, and Ms. Stilwell in these incidents.”

The complete list of 2022 LPD awards:

OFFICERS OF THE YEAR
OFFICER BRENT BEHRENS
OFFICER EMILY SUTTLE

DETECTIVE OF THE YEAR
DETECTIVE DAVID WATERMAN

CIVILIAN OF THE YEAR
TIFFANY STILWELL

CHIEF’S AWARDS
CHARLES DORMER
TRACY GRICE

MEDAL OF VALOR AWARD
OFFICER BRENT BEHRENS

LIFESAVING MEDAL
OFFICER HIRAM CUEVAS
SERGEANT JOSHUA SCHECKER
OFFICER JAKE OGDEN
OFFICER EARL FERNANDEZ
OFFICER ALEXANDAR ĆORALIĆ

MERITORIOUS SERVICE AWARD
OFFICER ROBERT “CODY” VAUGHN
OFFICER FREDRICK LEWIS
OFFICER OSCAR WESLEY
TIFFANY STILWELL
DETECTIVE DAVID WATERMAN
OFFICER EMILY SUTTLE
SERGEANT MICHAEL FULLER
OFFICER MELANIE SULLIVAN
OFFICER NATHAN SMITH
OFFICER BRENTON HALSTEAD
OFFICER DE’ANGELO ANTHONY
OFFICER BRIAN PURDY

MERITORIOUS UNIT COMMENDATION
SERGEANT MARK EBY
OFFICER DAVID BROWN
OFFICER MICHAEL “ALEX” HAYES
OFFICER ANTON JEFFERSON
OFFICER PARKER KELLERMAN
OFFICER JASON MCCAIN
OFFICER JOSEPH NOVIS
SERGEANT WILLIAM “BILL” PETITT
OFFICER CEDRIC HOLTON
SERGEANT JOHN “CHAD” RENEW
OFFICER KENNETH JONES
OFFICER STEVEN “TODD” BAILEY
OFFICER STEPHEN POPE
OFFICER BRENT BEHRENS
OFFICER EDWIN SANCHEZ
OFFICER MICHAEL CARDIN
OFFICER EMILY SUTTLE
OFFICER ROBERTO GARIBALDI

DISTINGUISHED PERFORMANCE
OFFICER ALEXA JONES
OFFICER CHRISTOPHER MCKEE
OFFICER CESAR BARONA
OFFICER JAVIER PEREZ
OFFICER JOSHUA DOROFY
OFFICER KENNETH JONES
OFFICER MATTHEW GRANAS
OFFICER SHELSEY FERNANDEZ
OFFICER MOHAMED SHAW
OFFICER JOSHUA COLLINS
OFFICER JOSEPH NOVIS

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