PORTAGE | Gov. Mike Pence honored public safety personnel from around the region Friday morning during a stop at Portage Fire Station 1.
"I'm here to pay a debt of gratitude," Pence told the firefighters, police officers, national guard members and NIPSCO personnel gathered in the apparatus bay.
In particular Pence singled out two police officers, presenting them with the first Hoosier Public Safety Awards.
LaPorte County Deputy Slawek Czupryna was recognized for his efforts earlier this week in capturing Michael David Elliot, a convicted murderer who had escaped the day before from a Michigan prison.
Czupryna initiated a traffic stop on Elliot, who was driving a stolen car, which ultimately led to his arrest.
Pence also recognized Portage Police officer Rich Schmitt and his K-9 partner Chuckie for their efforts in arresting three men Wednesday for attempting to use stolen debit cards. One of the men was wanted in Chicago and California.
"It is really an honor to be recognized by the governor's office and being a part of this recognition ceremony," said Czupryna.
"I'm humbled," said Schmitt. "I was honestly just doing the job and keeping Portage safe. I didn't expect it."
Pence also recognized the efforts of those who responded to the massive pile up on Interstate 94 last month, including Indiana State Police Trooper Jerry Williams.
He mentioned several other efforts made during the continuing harsh winter weather, including rescuing a cell tower worker and a pregnant woman, calling those instances examples of determination and persistence.
"We keep working the situation until the situation is resolves," said Pence.
Awards were also given to several other public safety departments during the ceremony.