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Officers honored for work
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Richmond Hill Police Chief Mitch Shores with Cpl. Rick Olesky, who was wounded while conducting a welfare check in February. He was one of several law enforcement officers honored during a ceremony on June 8. Photo by Jeff Whitten.
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Richmond Hill Police Chief Mitch Shores with 1st. Sgt. Ruben Acosta.
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Shores with Sgt. William Daniels
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Shores with Detective Jesse Maxwell;
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Army CID Agent Matthew Hartnett (left) and RHPD Det. Tiffany Christian;
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Shores presenting commendations to RHPD officers Spencer Link, Patrick Bailey and Matthew Tufts. Not shown are Det. Peter Delatorre, ATF Agent Lee Hoover and Gregory Ernst.

Richmond Hill Police Department officers and some who work alongside them were honored last week for everything from their work on what is reportedly the biggest outlaw motorcycle gang bust of its kind to less publicized crimes.

There was also a medal for Cpl. Rick Olesky, who received the “wounded in combat,” medal, also known as “the award nobody wants to get,” according to Richmond Hill Police Chief Mitch Shores as he handed out medals and certificates during a June 8 ceremony in the city’s municipal courtroom at RHPD. Olevsky was on a welfare check in February at Ashton Place Apartments when a 64-year-old resident inside the apartment opened fire, shooting Olevsky through the wall and hitting him in the stomach just below his bulletproof vest.

Despite that, Olvesky “maintained his composure” and helped clear the scene before going to the hospital, where he was treated and released. His story, like that of the other honorees, was one of police officers “who go above and beyond what most people do,” Shore said.

Among those officers were Det. Peter Delatorre, ATF Agent Lee Hoover and Officer Gregory Ernst, who were given the Chief’s Medal for their work in Operation Patronus, which has been hailed by Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. In all, indictments were returned against 16 members of the Outcasts motorcycle gang after an operation in which $180,000 in cash and 71 guns were seized.

The indictments followed a lengthy investigation into a 2022 shooting and attempted armed robbery at a Richmond Hill restaurant. More than 40 search warrants were executed and some 1,000 pieces of evidence were found, Shores said.

He called the effort by Delatorre and Hoover “herculean” as they began the investigation, which grew from what was initially reported as an armed robbery attempt into a multi-agency effort to target motorcycle gang violence in Georgia.

That was down to the persistence of Delatorre and Hoover, said Shores, who also praised Ernst. The longtime law enforcement officer was two weeks removed from heart surgery when he was called in to help handle the evidence after Delatorre and Hoover made sure “all the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed.”

“We had over 1,000 pieces of evidence and 11 different search warrants handled simultaneously,” Shores said, “and (Ernst) literally had just had heart surgery two weeks ago and he was in here processing 1,000 pieces of evidence.”

Ernst in turn credited Olvesky and Det. Jesse Maxwell for their help in making sure the evidence was handled correctly and logged accordingly.

“No way I could’ve done it without them,” he said.

Army CID Agent Matthew Hartnett and Detective Tiffany Christian were awarded commendations for their work on Operation Patronus as well. And 1st Sgt. Ruben Acosta was given the K-9 Commendation Medal for his “exceptional eight years of service” as a K-9 officer.

In addition, Maxwell, Sgt. William Daniels and police officers Spencer Link, Patrick Bailey and Matthew Tufts were given commendations for work on cases involving armed robberies and traffic stops that netted drugs.

The Atlantic Judicial Circuit also earned praise from Shores, who noted, as he read from the commendation narratives, “what you’ll see is a recurring theme. These are people who are going above and beyond, doing the things that don’t ordinarily get done.” Before the event police chaplains Steve Lane, the pastor at New Beginnings Community Church, and Jim Brackeen, whose son was a K-9 officer in North Carolina when he was killed, spoke to the officers and their families gathered at the event, then Brackeen led a prayer.

Following the award presentations, officers heard from city councilmembers Robbie Ward and Kristi Cox, who both said the council supports and values the officers.

Afterward, Shores told the officers he was proud to be their chief. “I’m just along for the ride,” he said.

Mayor Russ Carpenter had the last word.

“The chief used the word proud,” he told the officers. “We are also proud of you. There’s a reason why people move to Richmond Hill. It’s often said it’s because of the education system, and that’s true. But it’s also because you can walk on any road in Richmond Hill and feel safe. So thank you for what you do for all of us.”

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