Officer Matthew Bowling and Officer Vincent Martucci
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Washington, DC—The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund has announced the selection of Officer Matthew Bowling and Officer Vincent Martucci, of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), as its Officers of the Month for May 2014.
At approximately 8:00 pm on Monday, October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall in New York City. A full moon generated unusually high tides and amplified Sandy’s storm surge. Ocean water gushed over seawalls, streets flooded, and trees and power lines were knocked down. Emergency call centers were overloaded and few calls got through. After several unsuccessful attempts to reach a 911 operator, CBP Officer Mariano Fontana placed a frantic call to the CBP Command Center at John F. Kennedy International Airport. He explained that he and his family were trapped in the attic of their home, located just blocks from the ocean, in Howard Beach, Queens. At the time of the call, the lower levels of the residence were already completely flooded.
CBP Officers Matthew Bowling and Vincent Martucci, along with CBP Chief David Bello, responded to the call. Due to the extreme weather conditions, it took more than 30 minutes for the officers to drive the six miles to the Fontana’s home. With winds exceeding 75 mph, along with the pounding rain, the flooding and debris covering the roadways, the closest the officers could get to the house was four city blocks away. Officers Bowling and Martucci parked their vehicle, grabbed over 50 pounds of equipment, and ventured into the neck deep water.
Downed electrical lines and debris hampered their progress. At times they had to swim, rather than walk, as the flood levels exceeded six feet. During this dangerous trek, the officers took turns motivating one another to keep going. When they located the residence, they were relieved to learn that the family was safe. The next task was to determine the safest way to evacuate the family from the residence. Officers Bowling and Martucci stayed in constant contact with the CBP Command Center, and soon a secure evacuation route was established. However, Officers Bowling and Martucci realized that other residents on that street might need assistance as well. The two officers went door-to-door to the neighboring homes to offer their help before escorting the Fontana family to the CBP personnel waiting to transport them to a safe location.
More than 280 people lost their lives as Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc from the Caribbean islands, up the East coast to Canada, and out to the Appalachians and the Midwest. If not for the bravery of Officers Bowling and Martucci, the Fontana family might have been included in that staggering statistic.
According to Customs and Border Protection Officer Monyr Thabet, “Officers Bowling and Martucci rose above and beyond the call of duty when faced with imminent danger to help those in need.” In submitting the nomination of Officers Bowling and Martucci, Supervisory CBP Officer Alan Wolfe stated, “Officer Bowling and Officer Martucci are both courageous and outstanding officers who show the true meaning of what the Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Award stands for.”
Located in the nation’s capital, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers. The Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Program began in 1996 and recognizes federal, state, and local officers who distinguish themselves through exemplary law enforcement service and devotion to duty.
CBP Officers Matthew Bowling and Vincent Martucci, along with the other Officer of the Month Award winners for 2014, will be honored at a special awards luncheon in Washington, DC, in May 2015, during National Police Week. In addition, their stories of heroism and service will be featured in the Memorial Fund’s annual calendar.
The Police Unity Tour is the official sponsor of the Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Program.