Correction — An earlier version of this story misstated Kenneth Benjamin’s connection to the mother. He is the brother, not brother in law as previously stated.
ITHACA, N.Y. — In what was one of the most stressful moments of her career, colleagues of Tompkins County Sheriff’s Deputy Makenzi Alling said she maintained her composure when a child custody incident in Enfield turned chaotic.
Deputy Alling received the Frank G. Hammer Officer of the Month Award on Monday from the Kiwanis Club of Ithaca-Cayuga. The event, held at Kendal at Ithaca, was packed with friends, family and officers from several local law enforcement agencies. Alling, who has worked at the sheriff’s office for four years, was honored for how she was able to safely take control of an incident when a gun was pulled on her. The suspect was recently sentenced in Tompkins County Court.
In February 2017, Alling responded a house in Enfield for a child custody complaint involving the emergency removal of a child from the mother. Alling was there to assist the biological father who had paperwork ordering the removal of the child from the mother. The scene increasingly grew “chaotic and stressful,” Sgt. Ryan Slocum said.
The father and mother’s brother, Kenneth Benjamin, got into a physical altercation and following that, Benjamin retrieved a .50 caliber rifle from the trunk of a vehicle and pointed it in the direction of Alling and the father because he did not want the child taken away.
According to testimony from the trial in August, Alling tried to pull out her own gun but cut her thumb. As Benjamin ran into the home, Alling chased after, pulling out her taser instead of her Glock because several children were nearby, including a young teen in the doorway.
Alling followed Benjamin into the home, despite not knowing the layout of the house or who was inside, Slocum said. She was able to Benjamin safely into custody.
In addition to her efforts during the incident, Alling also testified when the case went to court. During the trial, Alling testified that that the incident was “one of the most stressful moments of my career.”
As a result of the trial, Benjamin was convicted of menacing a police officer, fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon and endangering the welfare of a child. He was sentenced Dec. 4 to four years in prison.
Assistant District Attorney Diane Lama also commended other police work by Alling, including how she responded to a sex offense case involving a child. Alling’s response and positive interaction with the victim helped lead to prosecuting the suspect later, Lama said.
“Our office is proud to work with you,” Lama said.
Slocum, who is Alling’s supervisor, nominated her for the Officer of the Month Award. During the child custody incident, Slocum said Alling maintained her composure and acted appropriately and safely during the incident. He said Alling showed great restraint not discharging her firearm at the suspect.
“I believe it is safe to say that Deputy Alling will never forget this day, but I am confident it has shown her that her will to survive and police training has prepared her to make life changing decisions during incredibly stressful times,” Slocum said.
Sheriff Ken Lansing said Tompkins County is “lucky to have her as a deputy.”
Alling said she was honored to receive the award and appreciated everyone’s kind words.
Featured image: From left, Mimi Melegrito, president of the Kiwanis Club of Ithaca-Cayuga, Sheriff Ken Lansing, Sgt. Ryan Slocum, Deputy Makenzi Alling and District Attorney Matthew Van Houten.