Oakland resident Cory Rutland received the Oakland Police Chief’s Award for stopping to help a man whose wife was killed in a hit-and-run.
The Oakland Police Department has recognized Oakland resident Cory Rutland for his role in supporting a couple involved in a hit-and-run Feb. 16 while walking across West Colonial Drive. Police Chief John Peek praised Rutland for his efforts and presented him with the Oakland Police Chief’s Award at the June 23 Town Commission meeting.
“During this horrific tragedy, you provided comfort and emotional support to a stranger who was suffering a great anguish,” Peek said to Rutland during the presentation. “Throughout the evening you helped this man whom you had never met, provided emotional, psychological and physical support during his time of crisis. Many officers couldn’t help but notice your compassion and empathy during this tragic event.”
It was storming the night of the crime, and Rutland was ready to get home and out of the rain. He pulled his car into a turn lane at West Colonial Drive and Tubb Street and had to swerve to avoid a man and woman in the road. Sheena Rodriguez had been struck and was lying in the turn lane; her husband, Johnny Rodriguez, was with her.
“As he was over his wife telling her to hold on … I just stood there and comforted him and went and got a towel out of the back of my car and held it over them so they wouldn’t get wet,” Rutland said.
While police were questioning Johnny Rodriguez, Rutland went home and picked up a dry shirt and jacket for him. Rutland said he stopped to help the couple because he was raised to help others.
“I just wanted to help him,” Rutland said. “I didn’t know what condition they were in; I just knew it was the right thing to do. … I’m always helping people in need or trying to give a helping hand.”
He said he had never met the Rodriguezes, who recently moved to Oakland from Key West.
Sheena Rodriguez later died of her injuries.
Police are still looking for the vehicle involved and is described as a blue or dark-colored older sedan, possibly a Nissan, with a white top. It may have sustained front end damage at the time of the crash. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Oakland Police Department at (407) 656-9797.
Rutland said he was speechless when he heard he was receiving the award.
“It was a blessing,” he said. “I will always cherish it. And I’ll keep doing good deeds to honor that award they gave me.”
IN OTHER NEWS
• Mayor Kathy Stark and Commissioner Mike Satterfield were sworn in for another four-year term. Commissioner Sal Ramos was not present at the meeting and will be sworn in at a future date.
• Commissioners heard an update on the Healthy West Orange Arts and Heritage Center. Final work is being done on the facility, located near Town Hall off Tubb Street. A soft opening could be held this month and then the town will schedule small tours and appointments for residents. Initially, the center will be open two days a week.
Town Manager Steve Koontz said the request for concessionaires will be issued in a few weeks. Space across the road from the facility will be set up with picnic tables.
The town is building a digital database framework of Oakland’s past residents and institutions from public census and municipal records. The database is starting with the three Oakland cemeteries and U.S. Census records through 1940 and will create an archive repository for residents to share documents and photographs digitally. When it is deemed safe, residents will be invited to take their paper items to be scanned for the archive.
• The commission passed the first public hearing of two ordinances. One pertains to minute changes in the Zoning Code/Land Development Code. The other is a volunteer annexation of a five-acre parcel of land at 7 Orange Ave. currently in the town’s Joint Planning Area with Orange County. The applicant, Oakland Capital Group LLC, is proposing to develop single-family homes along Johns Lake and commercial along West Colonial Drive.
• The second public hearing of a third ordinance was passed that grants Duke Energy Florida a 20-year electric energy franchise that includes two five-year extensions.
• Residents of Oakland have been slow to complete their 2020 Census, Koontz said, and the town has been working to increase the response rate. Census information is used to determine federal funding for essential services in the future.
• Commissioners awarded a bid to Petticoat-Schmitt Civil Contractors in the amount of $311,200 for lift station No. 5 and force main improvements. The 350-gallon-per-minute lift station will be constructed on the south side of the intersection of Hull and Arrington avenues.