VSA presents 2017 ‘Valor’ and ‘Deputy of the Year’ awards

The Virginia Sheriffs’ Association presented two of its members with the organization’s highest honors last week. Halifax County Lieutenant Seth Bowen was the recipient of the Valor Award, and Culpeper County Sergeant Chat Abate received the Deputy of the Year Award. Governor Terry McAuliffe was on hand to present the awards before 300 sheriffs and deputies attending the association’s annual fall conference in Williamsburg.

Sheriff Fred Clark nominated Lt. Bowen, a 17-year veteran of the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office. “He has been an exceptional law enforcement officer during his entire career but the night of April 24, 2016 put all of his experience and training to a true ‘test.’ With that being said, Lt. Bowen saved many lives during that fateful night.”

In his nomination below, Sheriff Clark described the chaotic situation involving a shooter inside a VFW hall with approximately 200 party guests. After Lt. Bowen and other law enforcement officials were able to get the situation under control, it was confirmed that five people were shot during the course of the night by the shooter, who has since plead guilty to all charges and is now serving time in jail. “There is no doubt in my mind that Lt. Bowen saved many lives that night,” said Sheriff Clark. “He is an asset to Halifax County, to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and to the entire law enforcement profession. I am proud to know this man, and to work alongside him.”

Sheriff Scott Jenkins nominated Sgt. Abate as “Deputy of the Year” for his leadership during an active shooter event in a Culpeper residence. “The actions of all involved were incredible given the split-second decisions that were made that evening,” said Sheriff Jenkins. “The position Sergeant Abate found himself in, and the decision he had to make, were nothing short of heroic. He potentially saved the lives of other law enforcement officers on the scene – to say nothing of what might have happened had the shooter reentered the Good Samaritan’s house.”

In his nomination below, Sheriff Jenkins described how Sgt. Abate’s actions potentially helped save lives: “Listening to the 911 tape and viewing the in-car camera footage is chilling. The coordinated effort by Sergeant Abate while taking command on scene was textbook, and the forethought to position his cruiser with lights facing the home in question created a focal point for the suspect on which to focus. Again textbook. Sgt. Abate knowing this, tactically relocated to a solid point of cover that allowed him to cover his assigned area, along with giving him clear access to take charge of the incident – all the while giving clear and concise commands. He remained calm, stayed focused, and provided updated intel to dispatch while waiting for the shooter’s next move. That night two lives were lost, but for Sgt. Abate’s quick actions, who knows how many more might have been lost. Under great personal danger he lived up to the highest standards of law enforcement – and for that we owe him a debt of gratitude.”

The Virginia Sheriffs’ Association commends Lt. Bowen and Sgt. Abate for their service to their communities and for representing all of the men and women across Virginia who wear the badge in the name of public safety.


Lieutenant Seth Bowen
2017 Valor Award recipient

Halifax County Sheriff Fred Clark nominated Lieutenant Seth Bowen for the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association’s 2017 Valor Award:

Lt. Seth Bowen has been a deputy sheriff at the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office for seventeen years. He has been an exceptional law enforcement officer during his entire career but the night of April 24, 2016 put all of his experience and training to a true “test.” With that being said, Lt. Bowen saved many lives during that fateful night.

At approximately 1:49 a.m. on April 24, 2016, the Halifax County Sheriff’s Lt. Bowen was initially dispatched to a call at the VFW building located in the Town of Halifax for a parking complaint at a birthday celebration. Lt. Bowen arrived on scene within a minute. Lt. Bowen noticed the parking lot was overflowing with vehicles as well as vehicles double parked in the adjoining grassy areas. A security officer approached Lt. Bowen and asked him if deputies could assist with some traffic control in order for the event to be shut down in an orderly fashion. Lt. Bowen advised the security guard that he would stay in the area and proceeded back towards his vehicle. As Lt. Bowen was backing up his vehicle, he heard yelling from inside the building and the security guard shouted towards Lt. Bowen that there were people fighting. Lt. Bowen notified dispatch of the situation and requested assistance, exited his vehicle, and asked the security guard to get the DJ to announce on the microphone that everyone needed to leave the premises. Lt. Bowen entered the building and noticed there were approximately 200 people inside the building. Lt. Bowen exited the front door at that time, stepping just outside the building. At that time, Lt. Bowen heard gun shots along with screams and chaos from inside the building. Lt. Bowen dropped to the corner of the building while drawing his weapon. Lt. Bowen then started moving to get a vantage point of the inside of the building. During this time, a male individual was backing out of the building, firing back into the building. As the shooter was in the doorway, people were running by him and out both ends of the building. Lt. Bowen gave the individual several commands to drop the weapon while advancing towards him. The shooter exited the doorway walking backwards towards the parking lot. There were people running in every direction. Lt. Bowen continued to give the shooter commands to drop the weapon. Lt. Bowen kept his weapon on him in an attempt to wait for him to be clear of the people that were trying to flee. The shooter got approximately 25 feet from the door of the building and turned towards Lt. Bowen with firearm still in his hand and pointed it at Lt. Bowen. As people were still running in every direction, Lt. Bowen took a shot and aimed low center mass on the subject so that the shots would not hit any of the people around him and if Lt. Bowen missed they would hit the ground before hitting anyone else. Lt. Bowen fired the first shot and the shooter stumbled backwards still facing Lt. Bowen. Lt. Bowen fired the second shot, and the shooter fell towards the ground. Lt. Bowen the moved towards the shooter as the shooter got to his feet and began to run away. Lt. Bowen continued to command the shooter to drop his weapon. The shooter stumbled into the parking lot throwing his gun while falling. Lt. Bowen reached the parking lot and took the shooter into custody.

After Lt. Bowen and other law enforcement officials were able to get the situation under control, it was confirmed that five people were shot during the course of the night by the shooter. The shooter has since plead guilty to all charges and is now serving time in jail. It is no doubt in my mind that Lt. Bowen saved many lives that night. He is an asset to Halifax County, to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and to the entire law enforcement profession. I am proud to know this man, and to work alongside him.


Culpeper County Sergeant Chad Abate
2017 Deputy of the Year Award recipient

Culpeper County Sheriff Scott Jenkins nominated Sergeant Chad Abate for the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association’s 2017 Deputy of the Year Award:

On June 7, 2016 at approximately 8:55 p.m., a citizen contacted 911 for help. The call was dispatched to the sector unit initially as “shots fired.” The call was shortly upgraded to breaking and entering. The first responding unit had been nearby when the call came through and he arrived on the scene literally minutes after hearing the call.

A neighbor had arrived at the victim’s door step in need of immediate aid. Terrified, she said her husband was trying to kill her. The elderly couple allowed her to enter their home in an attempt to protect her from her estranged husband who others had seen walking and randomly shooting in the direction of the neighbor’s house where his wife just took refuge. He approached the front porch and found a locked front door. All the while the elderly male neighbor is scurrying to find a method of protection for himself, his significant other, and the female who sought interior rooms for safety. He grabbed a knife in the kitchen for protection while at the same time the enraged husband attempted to breach the locked front door by shooting the lock.

The door lock destroyed, the armed husband enters the home and finds the Good Samaritan owner with the knife. He immediately shoots the homeowner then enters the home and to search for his wife. He located her in a bathroom and beats her to unconsciousness until; apparently, he thought he had killed her. During the beating the estranged husband broke the stock to his shotgun.

Finished with beating his wife, the assailant exited the residence seemingly on the prowl looking for additional threats. Meanwhile, responding units were arriving on location and strategically setting up a perimeter around the residence based on the information from the caller (elderly female) who remained safely hidden in her bedroom closet unscathed.

Arriving first was Deputy Oliver Brugoto. He took a cover position behind a tree located on the one/two corner of the residence. While positioning himself, he heard a shot fired. He observed the man with the gun exit the residence onto the front porch and quickly lost sight of him into the darkness of night. He was providing updates to the responding units who were arriving on scene sporadically based on their locations at the time the call was dispatched.

Sergeant Chad Abate arrived – quickly confirming the correct residence with on scene deputies. Utilizing his military and swat team leader knowledge, he positioned his vehicle and exited in one fluid practiced motion.

Incoming units arrived: Detective David Dorrough, Deputy K9 Larry Myers, Deputy Ashton Jenkins and Trooper Wanda Baird. Four of which are also swat trained. With rifles in hand, they tactically coordinated and took covered positions to protect any open ground. Sergeant Abate found himself on the three/four corner of the residence. After confirming there were no rear windows or exit points on the rear of the house he took back cover behind a tree.

While all of this is occurring, the shooter is constantly on the move darting in and out of the darkness. He was given commands to surrender and drop the weapon at which point he replied, “I have just killed two people and you’ll have to kill me.” He refused to surrender. He continued to mill about and dart into the dark. At one point the deputies lose sight of him due to darkness. Moments later the shooter was observed walking across the year toward Sergeant Abate’s marked patrol vehicle, still armed with his shotgun and carrying it at waist level as if looking for another kill. He stalked Sergeant Abate’s cruiser and peered into the windows – as if he was hunting for someone to shoot.

Realizing the vehicle was unoccupied, the shooter raised his head and scanned the area apparently forming another plan. Then he walked away across the lawn toward the direction of his residence when Sergeant Abate shouted yet another command for him to comply and drop his weapon.

The man appeared confused as to the location of the voice. He then heard Sergeant Abate’s radio and began to walk in his direction refusing to surrender – shotgun at the ready.

When he could wait no longer Sergeant Abate fired his rifle striking the man in the abdomen – eliminating the threat to himself and to other deputies on scene. Despite rescue efforts started almost immediately after he was shot, the estranged husband died on scene.

Deputies did find the neighbor who had been shot. Medical efforts to revive him were unsuccessful. The significant other (caller) was found in her bedroom closet safe. The wife and intended target was located in the bathroom. She was beaten severely and was covered in blood, but survived the attack of her husband.

The actions of all involved were incredible given the split second decisions that were made that evening. The position Sergeant Abate found himself in, and the decision he had to make, were nothing short of heroic. He potentially saved the lives of other law enforcement officers on the scene – to say nothing of what might have happened had the shooter reentered the then dead Good Samaritan’s house.

Listening to the 911 tape and viewing the in-car camera footage is chilling. The coordinated effort by Sergeant Abate while taking command on scene was textbook, and the forethought to position his cruiser with lights facing the home in question created a focal point for the suspect on which to focus. Again textbook. Sgt. Abate knowing this, tactically relocated to a solid point of cover that allowed him to cover his assigned area, along with giving him clear access to take charge of the incident – all the while giving clear and concise commands. He remained calm, stayed focused, and provided updated intel to dispatch while waiting for the shooter’s next move.

That night two lives were lost, but for Sgt. Abate’s quick actions, who knows how many more might have been lost. Under great personal danger he lived up to the highest standards of law enforcement – and for that we owe him a debt of gratitude.

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