Local man honored for quick thinking

PA State Police and Moon Township Police telecommunications operator Dave Novak, of Bellevue, is pictured at left receiving his “MacGyver Creative Thing” award.

Ask any first responder and they will tell you that a good telecommunications operator -- previously referred to as a dispatcher -- can play a major role in the outcome of any call requiring a response by police, firefighters or EMS. These behind-the-scenes professionals often provide critical information to police officers on the street, dispatch additional fire companies, or provide the sole line of communication with a person in a medical crisis, among other equally vital responsibilities.

And David Novak of Bellevue is, without a doubt, a very good telecommunications operator, something recently recognized as the Amen Corner and the Fraternal Order Of Leatherheads FOOLS) presented their annual awards to fire, EMS and others in the life-saving business.

Novak’s award came as a result of his actions on a particularly difficult night -- Nov. 17, 2017, when New Kensington Police Officer Brian Shaw was shot and killed during an attempted traffic stop.

It eventually would be determined that Shaw was shot by a passenger in the vehicle who jumped out of the moving SUV and fled on foot, pursued by Shaw. The vehicle itself sped off.

In the earliest moments of a lengthy investigation, however, police were working with vague information on their best lead, the vehicle that had left the scene. The license plate on the car was temporary, and there was no concrete information on make, model or color.

Novak -- who started decades of dispatching in Avalon Borough -- now works for the Pennsylvania State Police as well as for Moon Township Police. He and his partner at Moon that night were monitoring radio transmissions when they decided to see what information they could get by entering the plate number into the Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR). What they found was that the vehicle bearing that plate had been caught on various cameras in multiple communities. Novak found a daylight shot of the car, and was able to send that photo and correct information on the vehicle to Westmoreland County Police detectives and update the 911 centers in Westmoreland and Allegheny counties.
Within 15 minutes, that vehicle was located, and provided the first solid link in the chain of investigation that ended with the arrest of Rahmael Sal Holt for the murder of Officer Shaw.
For his role in that case, Novak received the :MacGyver Creative Thinking” award during a reception held Thursday, May 31, at the Rivers Casino.