Robbery arrest among acts that led to commendations for Janesville police
JANESVILLE—Police officers never know whether today's shift will be the one when they meet a guy with a gun.
Officer Mario Vitaioli's turn came last September.
It was the night after an armed robbery of the Walgreens drugstore on Milton Avenue, when the robber, wearing camouflage face paint, displayed a shotgun and got away with narcotics, police reported.
Deputy Chief Dan Davis said Vitaioli was patrolling the same area in the early morning hours a day later when he spotted a man near a car in the parking lot of the Janesville Athletic Club on Black Bridge Road.
The man wasn't dressed as if he was going to work out at the club, which has 24-hour access.
A closer look reminded Vitaioli of the description of the robber from the night before, Davis said.
Vitaioli sneaked up on the man, what police call “a tactical approach.”
The man was looking in his trunk when Vitaioli called out, and the man looked over his shoulder.
Vitaioli asked him if he had a gun. The man said “yes,” and Vitaioli “took him down at gunpoint,” Davis said.
The man had a 12-gauge shotgun concealed in the leg of his pants, Davis said, and he admitted the robbery of the night before.
He also admitted he was headed back to Walgreens for more of the same, Davis said.
Vitaioli's quick thinking and action solved one crime and prevented another, Davis said.
The incident could have gone very wrong were it not for Vitaioli's decisions that night, Davis said.
“It's one of those things you'll never know, but Mario tactically positioned himself as he did, holding off on contact until he was in a position of advantage, which (police believe) caused the guy to give up, as opposed to launching an assault,” Davis said.
Vitaioli received a commendation for his work, which went “beyond the normal expectation of duty” and was based on “determined and intelligent performance,” according to a news release.
The Janesville Police Department recently awarded similar commendations to:
-- Officer Chad Woodman, for his actions during a domestic dispute in which he removed two children from the scene, protected the victim and himself and took an armed suspect into custody.
-- Officer Alexander Erlien, for initiating a traffic stop that resulted in the seizure of drugs, a loaded .25 caliber handgun, and the arrest of a suspect accused in two shootings earlier in the day in Beloit.
-- Officer Laurie Valley, for coordinating the collection and delivery of Christmas presents to five children whose mother was arrested for allegedly being drunk and abusing her children in a public place one week before Christmas.
Valley's efforts on behalf of the children came on her own time with the assistance of other local mothers.
-- Officer Mark S. Standish, for his actions leading to the arrest of three suspects who were fleeing the scene of a robbery at EZ Money Payday Loans, 1603 Milton Ave.. Standish had little information on the suspected getaway vehicle but “instinctively” made a traffic stop that resulted in the arrests.
-- Officer Joshua Norem, for his five years with the department's Street Crimes Unit. Norem helped close more than 180 drug houses, investigated more than 55 overdoses, arrested more than 700 suspects and seized 14 motor vehicles and over $1 million in drug evidence.
Norem also gave drug presentations for local schools, businesses and other law enforcement personnel.
-- Sgt. Jimmy Holford, for his leadership of the Street Crimes Unit from January 2009 to Dec. 31, 2013. He guided the development of many interdiction programs and a prescription-medication alert program.
In 2011, Holford supervised what was at the time the largest synthetic marijuana investigation in the United States.
Holford aided in the development of all the unit's officers, who became experts on drugs and gangs and made numerous presentations to judges, doctors, educators and other law enforcement personnel.