Division of Criminal Justice Services

The Police Officer of the Year Award

The Police Officer of the Year Award provides statewide recognition of the police officer or officers who have demonstrated exceptional valor in service to the people of New York State, thereby upholding the highest traditions of law enforcement.

2018 Recipients: Lieutenant James Milana, Officer Victoria Losurdo and Officer Travis Rheinheimer of the Syracuse Police Department

The three officers were honored for their apprehension of a gunman who shot at Lieutenant Milana – the bullet striking his vehicle’s windshield near his head – after he responded to a call of an individual with a gun on February 4, 2018.

Officer Losurdo was the first to respond to a call for a man with a gun on South Salina Street near West Calthrop Avenue. She saw an individual who looked as if he was holding something in his waistband and ordered him to stop and show his hands. He refused. While Officer Losurdo engaged with the individual, Lieutenant Milana, who was the Third Platoon sergeant at the time, arrived. He stopped his patrol vehicle a few yards north of where Thomas was standing, idling it between the individual and Officer Losurdo.

Before Lieutenant Milana got out of the vehicle, the gunman pulled a semi-automatic pistol from his waistband and fired several shots at him. The bullets struck the vehicle’s hood and windshield, close to Sgt. Milana's head. The individual then ran across South Salina Street toward a nearby ramp to Highway 81, firing over his shoulder at Sgt. Milana and Officer Losurdo, who returned fire.

Officer Travis Rheinheimer arrived on scene to assist his fellow officers. The individual, who was shot at least once, continued to flee, discarding his firearm, leaping over a fence and attempting to hide before other officers took him into custody. The assailant, later identified as Leon Thomas, pleaded guilty to attempted murder earlier this year and is serving a 23-year prison sentence.