“Being honored at the Heroes Luncheon was the high point of my career as a detective and it was much appreciated,” stated Riverview resident Eric Houston who was chosen as Officer of the Year at the 14th Annual Heroes Luncheon held at the Tampa Convention Center.
Taking place earlier this month, those honored at the luncheon besides Houston were Trooper Leif Cardwell, Reserve Officer George Seiler, Trooper Jack Hypes, Captain James Wingo, Captain Bobby Kostopoulos, Corporal James Barth, Captain Russell Spicola, Officer Luis Flores, Captain Charlie Bridges, FireMedic Jay Wilkins, Deputy Ferdinand Pichardo, Officer Wesley Cooper, Officer Dominick Marckese, Assistant Chief Miguel Rivera, Deputy Christopher Maddaloni and Deputy Charlotte Raschke. According to Event Coordinator Barbie Natale, president of The Entertainment Factory, Inc., the annual event is held each year “to honor the first responders of Hillsborough County.”
Having been with the police force the last 18 years, Houston decided to become a homicide detective in 2004. Transitioning to the Cold Case Homicide Unit in 2005, he has solved eight murders and is currently working on 11 of Tampa’s 290 open cases, dating as far back as 1949. “I chose to become a homicide detective because of the challenge. When someone commits a premeditated murder, they have to believe that they are going to get away with it. It comes as a surprise to them when the police come knocking on their door five, 10 or 20 years later to arrest them for a murder that they thought was forgotten,” mentioned Houston.
With an audience of 2,100, which included guest speakers Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio and Chuck Sykes, president and CEO of Sykes Enterprises, Inc., a sponsor of the event along with WQYK, these 17 honorees took center stage, receiving recognition for their courageous acts wrought throughout the year. Besides the honoring of these local heroes, eight college students, children of various officials, were honored as Coy L. Sykes Memorial Scholarship 2008 recipients which included Stephen Frey, Tyler Metcalf, Alyssa Martinez, Kaleigh Hill, Amanda Gilbertsen, James Wolff, Daniel Kiefer and Michelle Cimo.
Later in the evening, Brandon resident Ron Harrison, the fallen officer of Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, was remembered.
For more information, contact Natale at 651-3600 or go to www.tampabayheroes.org.