Staff Photo: Jason Braverman. The Gold Medal of Valor was awarded to Master Patrolman Bobby Johnson with the Duluth Police Department. Johnson pulled a 10-month-old baby from a burning home in November.
DULUTH -- When a stray bullet ripped apart Tijuana Shambry's life, killing her 13-year-old son Tre, moving forward was extremely painful, especially when she couldn't make sense of the crime.
But a pair of dedicated police officers wouldn't give up until they found the killer and helped the family heal.
"They brought a bit of peace and closure that we didn't have," Shambry said of the men, Cpl. Dennis Hennelly and Sgt. Edward Restrepo of the Gwinnett County Police Department, who were honored Friday as Gwinnett's Public Safety Officers of the Year at the Chamber of Commerce's Valor Awards. "They had a vision. They had compassion. They were focused and driven. They never, never, never gave up."
At the time of the January 2010 shooting, there were no leads, little evidence and no eye witnesses. Not even a reward brought new information to light.
But Police Chief Charles Walters said in a video that Restrepo and Hennelly conducted wiretaps and surveillance at one of the nearby apartment units and discovered a drug ring that resulted in a dozen arrests. In an interrogation, the killer confessed.
"We believe that these remarkable officers deserve nothing but honor and recognition," Shambry said, standing with her two daughters at the Duluth awards ceremony.
In another emotional award acceptance, Duluth Police Master Patrolman Bobby Johnson dedicated his award to his father, who recently died of cancer.
In November, Johnson broke a window of an engulfed home to pull a 10-month-old baby out of the fire.
For another heroic act, Gwinnett Police officers Jeremy Bailey and Darin Mitchum were given the Silver Medal. The officers went into a burning house in July, saving a disabled man trapped inside.
This year's Communications Person of the Year Award went to Lauren Sullins and Daphne Vernold, who teamed up in February 2010 to talk to a suicidal woman while using coordinates to dispatch help to her location along Lake Lanier.
The Public Safety Unit of the Year award was given to the Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department's sex offender registry unit, and the Lifesaving Award went to firefighter Dan Rimmer, who performed CPR while he was off duty and revived a man who had collapsed at a 5K race.
The Medal of Merit was given to Battalion Chief Eddie Myers for the Gwinnett Fire Department's FLAME program, in which firefighters mentor kids in about 30 local schools.