A 34-year veteran of the Shelter Island Police Department was honored Friday not only with his department’s Officer of the Year award, but with an award for the overall Officer of the Year on the East End.
Officer David McGayhey was chosen for the high honors by department leaders and given at the Southampton Kiwanis Club’s 49th Annual Police Awards Ceremony, at the Sea Star Ballroom in Riverhead.
The Kiwanis Club began the awards and initially limited it to Southampton departments, but eventually expanded it to all East End departments.
Several years ago, it created the Howard Stock Memorial Award, which was named after the man who founded the awards program, and is given to the town’s top East End officer, as selected by the Kiwanis Club.
This year, Officer McGayhey was the recipient of that award as well.
Sergeant Terrence LeGrady said that Officer McGayhey was chosen “for his overall job performance.” But he singled out a couple of cases.
“In the afternoon hours of March 19, Officer McGayhey responded to a possible home invasion in the Silver Beach section of Shelter Island,” Sergeant LeGrady said. “Upon arrival, he observed an elderly man on the floor, semiconscious, bound and barely breathing.”
The victim was identified as 87-year-old Reverend Canon Paul Wancura, a retired Episcopal minister.
“Officer McGayhey knew he needed to act fast because it was apparent that the victim had been on the floor for days with no food and no water,” Sergeant LeGrady said. “Officer McGayhey quickly cut through the binding and was able to free the victim without further injury. While waiting for backup units to arrive, he rendered first aid to the victim and quickly searched the residence to make sure the perpetrator was not still on scene.”
Reverend Wancura was then airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital, during which time Officer McGayhey began preserving crucial evidence and played an intricate role in assisting detectives in the investigation,” Sergeant LeGrady said.
“What Dave walked into that afternoon would’ve shaken the most hardened veteran cop,” Sergeant LeGrady said. “But he handled the case like a true professional.”
Despite Officer McGayhey’s efforts, Reverend Wancura died in the hospital three weeks later, and the case is now considered a homicide, and has been turned over to Suffolk County Police Department. No arrests have been made.
Officer McGayhey also was commended for another incident he handled, on May 13, when he responded to a report of an unconscious man in West Neck.
“Officer McGayhey observed what appeared to be drug paraphernalia near the victim, and quickly ascertained that this was a possible drug overdose,” Sergeant LeGrady said. He administered nasal naloxone (NARCAN)) and rendered first aid to the victim, who regained consciousness shortly after.
“It was Officer McGayhey’s experience and quick thinking that helped save the victim’s life,” Sergeant LeGrady said.
Debbie Brown, the event chairwoman for the Kiwanis Club, said they originally had a three-way tie for the Howard Stock award, but they can only have one recipient, and Officer McGayhey was selected.
“Those who know him best, know that Dave is a cop’s cop,” Sergeant LeGrady said. “He’s the officer you want coming in your family’s time of need.”