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Windermere Observer Wednesday, Mar. 13, 2019 4 months ago

Windermere Prep SRO, Orange County Master Dep. Del Guercio receives Medal of Merit

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Orange County Sheriff's Master Dep. Frank Del Guercio, along with three other deputies, was recognized for helping save the life of a teen contemplating suicide.
by: Danielle Hendrix Associate Editor

Some days, Orange County Sheriff’s Office Master Dep. Frank Del Guercio feels as if he was put into the right place at the right time. Oct. 5, 2018, was one of those days.

Del Guercio, along with three other Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies — Dep. Andrew Luna, Dep. Styler Miller and Cpl. Chuck Samek — recently were recognized with a Medal of Merit by OCSO for their efforts that day that resulted in saving the life of a teenager who was contemplating suicide.

Del Guercio has been with OCSO for the last 18 years of his 21-year law-enforcement career. He currently serves in the Sector III Uniform Patrol Division and as a Special Projects deputy, as well as being the main school resource officer at Windermere Preparatory School.

“I handle a lot of the issues that the captain may have and others may have in the community,” Del Guercio said of his role in Sector III, which spans much of southwest Orange County. “I try to keep that stuff taken care of and listen to what’s going on in the community and try to be proactive. I’m just trying to stay ahead of the game and make sure people are informed about what’s going on.”

 

VOICE OF REASON

On that Friday in October, Del Guercio and his fellow deputies received the call about a teenager in crisis. The teen was on the Gotha Road overpass above Florida’s Turnpike and appeared to be contemplating jumping from the bridge.

“Sometimes, we’re just in the right place at the right time,” he said. “I wasn’t the only one (who) responded to the call. When I responded, there was another deputy already on scene who works as the SRO at Gotha Middle, Dep. Andrew Luna. We were the first two to respond, and two others (from OCSO) responded. … Dep. Luna got there first and was initially talking to him. I got there, and Luna moved so he could try to see the kid’s eyes and establish a better rapport with him. 

“Then, Dep. Miller and Cpl. Samek got there and were on scene,” he said. “We obviously wanted to communicate with (the teenager) and we’ve been trained to talk with people in crisis. We talked to him, and it just happened to be that whatever was said or whatever he was thinking, it just worked together, and we were able to have a successful outcome.”

Other law-enforcement officers arrived on scene at the turnpike, Del Guercio said, and the deputies were able to work with them to direct trucks to move closer to the overpass in case of a negative outcome. But through teamwork, the foursome from OCSO was able to talk the teen out of jumping and bring him to safety so he could receive help.

“We all had different assignments that day,” he said. “Myself and Miller were assigned to patrol two different areas. Samek is with our truancy unit and happened to be in the area, as well. It’s just one of those things where Luna could’ve had training on the day this happened and not have been there. Sometimes, things just happen for a reason, and fortunately for us, we were all involved that way and it was a successful outcome.”

Unfortunately, Del Guercio said, situations such as these tend to be more common than people realize. The next day, he said, he ended up stopping another juvenile in crisis elsewhere. And on that Sunday, he saved a woman’s life in the Dr. Phillips area by giving her CPR.

“As deputies and police officers, we all go through that every day,” he said. “There’s periods of time where we may not have anything like that happen, and all of a sudden in one weekend, you have three life-or-death incidents in a row like I did. Those things were to me just as serious as this kid who was in crisis.”

 

DESIRE TO SERVE
Orange County Sheriff John Mina awarded Master Dep. Del Guercio with the Medal of Merit, with his family in attendance.

Del Guercio and his fellow deputies received the Medal of Merit awards for their roles in saving the teenager’s life a couple of weeks ago. And although it’s nice to be recognized for the work they do, it’s more rewarding to serve in a role where they can have this impact on people’s lives daily.

“When we take this job it’s not really so much of a, ‘Why did we want to step up?’” he said. “We had to step up. We want to help people no matter how stressful or dangerous that situation is. We are trained to handle those situations. Later on, there might be some emotional or mental strain on the situation, but it’s something that we are trained to do. It’s basically second nature. We get that call, and we just go and respond.

“There’s kind of a stigma associated with police work,” he said. “The real reason we all took this job is because we want to help people. Even though we might be arresting a criminal, for example, there is a victim, and the victim is the one we’re ultimately out there to help. No matter what community it’s in, we’re out there to help the victims and make the community feel safer.”

For a few weeks after he helped save the teenager’s life, Del Guercio said he was constantly replaying things in his head and trying to determine what he and his fellow deputies could have done differently or better. There isn’t always a successful outcome, and officers want to repeat successes from past situations and learn from each one.

“It feels great any time you’re able to help somebody,” he said. “It reaffirms why we decided to do this job and why we’ve been doing it. This is why I took this job, because I wanted to help people. When you do stuff like that, it makes you feel good, because you know you’re out there making a difference. … In my work at Windermere Prep or Dep. Luna’s work at Gotha Middle, every day (law-enforcement officers) are helping and they’re there. You know that you’re indeed helping people and there’s a reason why we’re there.

“They say it takes a village to raise kids, and I feel like I’m part of that village,” he said. “Whether it’s adults or kids, we have to come together and have a sense of community. I always want to put my best foot forward and make sure I’m working for the best interest of our community.”

Danielle Hendrix is the Associate Editor for the West Orange Times & Observer and the Windermere Observer. She is a 2015 graduate of the University of Central Florida, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in journalism with a minor in world comparative studies. ...

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