The New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police (NJSACOP) announced that three Cranford police officers have won the 2023 Valor Award, which recognizes New Jersey police officers each year who demonstrate exceptional heroism in protecting and serving the public.
The award this year included 11 nominees, as police chiefs from across the state submitted police reports that highlighted superb policing. The winners are a trio of Cranford police officers – Officer Michael Gamba, Officer Nicholas Cook and Sgt. Steven D’Ambola – who responded to a domestic violence call last spring at a senior housing residence.
A Union Township man had threatened a woman at the senior housing complex near Meeker Avenue and Heinrich Street. He had pointed a firearm and said he would kill her, himself and anyone who interceded.
By the time police arrived, the suspect fled the scene and police were concerned the armed man might harm someone. Gamba, D’Ambola and Cook began looking for him in the suburban neighborhood.
They encountered the suspect on a nearby Cranford street. As they approached, the suspect reached into his waistband. Gamba saw the grip of his handgun and grabbed it.
Police said the suspect was carrying a “ghost gun” — a firearm made from parts purchased online or 3D printed and assembled at home, rendering them untraceable.
As Gamba wrestled with the suspect, he kept the gun pointed away from his colleagues and bystanders. D’Ambola and Cook jumped to his immediate aid, tackling the suspect.
The suspect was charged with weapons possession, making terroristic threats and aggravated assault with a firearm, but took a plea deal for weapons possession and is now serving a five-year sentence, court records show.
Founded in 1912, the NJSACOP established its Valor Award in 2000 to recognize New Jersey
police officers and private citizens who demonstrate exceptional commitment to their profession, their law enforcement agency and to the public they serve. Learn more about the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police at www.NJSACOP.org
Photo Caption: (L-R) Officer Michael Gamba, Officer Nicholas Cook, Sergeant Steven D’Ambola