Deputy Walters, Deputy Ninivaggi and Deputy Rolfe received the award today.

Ithaca, N.Y. — Three deputies in the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Office were honored Monday for arresting a murder suspect during a reported robbery in the Village of Lansing in October 2013.

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Deputies Scott Walters, Marc Ninivaggi and James Rolfe received the Frank G. Hammer Officer of the Month Award at Kendal at Ithaca on Monday, according to a news release.

Deputy Walters, Deputy Ninivaggi and Deputy Rolfe received the award today. Provided photo

The following information comes from the letter written by Sgt. James J. Vann to nominate the deputies for the award:

On Oct. 30, 2013, Deputy Walters arrived at the scene of a reported robbery at the Econolodge at 2303 North Triphammer Road.

Walters was on the scene in less than five minutes and stayed with the victim of the crime, “which allowed for responding units to have updated suspect description and direction of travel,” according to Sgt. Vann.

Deputy Ninivaggis and Sgt. Vann took the route the suspect had fled. After checking shrubs and hiding spots behind the nearby Pizza Hut, Ninivaggi suggested going inside the Pizza Hut to see if the staff had seen anything or anyone matching the suspect’s description.

“Once inside, it was discovered that a suspect was inside one of the bathrooms. Being that a weapon was involved, patrons and employees were asked to vacate,” Vann’s letter states.

Deputy Walters and Deputy Rolfe also arrived on scene as bystanders left. The suspect was then ordered to leave the bathroom.

“This was a very tense situation,” Vann’s letter says, but “I felt confident and privileged to have all three of the deputies alongside me when I ordered the suspect out. I felt that if the situation ‘went south’ that the guys I was with had my back no matter what and they knew exactly what was taking place.”

The standoff would end peacefully.

Elhajji M. Elshabazz, wanted on second-degree murder charges, would surrender. He was number 2 on Buffalo city police’s “Most Wanted” list, according to Vann’s letter.

The Associated Press has reported that Elshabazz was convicted of beating a 96-year-old deacon to death.

Elshabazz was discovered to have a “large amount of drugs (crack cocaine, heroin, marijuana and more), according to Vann’s letter. A loaded gun was found in the woman’s restroom as well, according to Vann.

Vann thanked the deputies who worked with him on Elshabazz’s arrest.

“Although several other members were involved throughout the lenght of the case from our Criminal Investigations Division, these three members played a critical role to the apprehension of Elshabazz. Their quick response and attention to officer safety in such a tense situation was highlighted until the apprehension of Elshabazz,” Sgt. Vann’s letter says.

“It is a true honor to work side-by-side with such outstanding men.’


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.