Medal of Valor awarded to six Allegheny Co. Jail employees

By Terri Hill | September 24, 2018

Six county jail officers were presented with the Medal of Valor during a ceremony Monday afternoon.

The Medal of Valor is given to jail employees who take courageous actions that set a standard of excellence for all Allegheny County Jail employees to strive to meet, according to Jail Warden Orlando Harper.

“In each case, these officers demonstrated care, dedication, pride, and honor in their work and showed courage in extraordinary circumstances. Their actions represent well the morals and values of this institution. I am thankful for their service, and proud to present them with this award recognizing their actions,” said Harper.

Officer Christopher Vojtas and Captain Michael Terry received the medal for actions they took on May 24 when an inmate threatened Officer Vojtas with a deadly weapon.

Officer Vojtas was able to deflect the weapon and activate an alarm, causing the inmate to retreat to his cell, where he bound his cellmate with torn bed linens and held him at knifepoint. Cpt. Terry talked the inmate into relinquishing his weapon. Because of the actions of Officer Vojtas and Cpt. Terry, the situation resulted in the inmate surrendering without any injuries to inmates or staff, according to Harper.

On July 24 Officer Tobias Coleman rushed to the aid of an employee of a CoGo’s convenience store in the Greenfield section of Pittsburgh, when a man attacked the employee with two machetes. Officer Coleman and another customer restrained the attacker until police arrived.

“The employee suffered stab wounds because of the attack, but without Officer Coleman’s actions, the encounter quickly could have become even more serious, if not deadly,” said Harper.

Officers Michael Marzano, Paul Romanelli and Sergeant Andrew Coulter were honored for their actions on July 27 during an attack by two inmates.

While conducting a routine cell search, Officer Marzano was injured in an attack by two inmates with deadly weapons.  Officer Paul Romanelli rushed to assist him and was also assaulted and wounded. Sgt. Coulter was able to lock down the pod and rush to help the injured officers.

One inmate fled his cell and attempted to discard a weapon. Sgt. Coulter subdued and held the inmate while also keeping other inmates from grabbing the weapon until other officers arrived. The other inmate was eventually subdued by Officer Marzano and Officer Romanelli.

Warden Harper said, “The actions of the three officers protected other officers from further assault and ended the incident quickly with the inmates back in confinement.”

“We know that working in a county jail is a difficult job and is one that’s not for everyone. It’s why we are grateful to the men and women who come in every day on behalf of our county residents,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

The jail administration was joined by county officials, and employees’ friends and family at the awards ceremony.

Terri Hill can be contacted at



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