By Tom Dalton
SALEM — Four Salem police officers received the department's second-highest honor yesterday for an arrest two months ago following the robbery of a pet store by a masked gunman.
Sgt. Kristian Hanson, Detective Kevin St. Pierre, and Patrolmen Robert Cunningham and Brian St. Pierre were presented with the Chief's Award in a ceremony at department headquarters.
"These four police officers summoned extraordinary courage ... at great risk to themselves," Chief Paul Tucker said to a room packed with family members and fellow officers.
Hours after the March 16 robbery of a PetSmart on Traders Way, the officers staked out an apartment on Courageous Court, in Vinnin Square, and arrested Raymond K. Wallace, 33, who has a lengthy record of armed robberies and was once shot during a struggle with Waltham police.
Shortly after midnight, Wallace drove into an underground garage at his residence in a rented car, took off a bulletproof vest and put it in the car's trunk, according to police.
The officers, two of whom were inside the garage, ordered the suspect to the ground at gunpoint and arrested the stocky weightlifter after a brief struggle. Inside the trunk, police found two handguns with defaced serial numbers, according to court records.
Tucker called the arrest "decisive and bold."
The officers were praised for courage and quick thinking.
Minutes after the robbery, they located a torched getaway car on Technology Way, having recalled a similar robbery in December at Borders Books in Peabody, in which a car was also left burning on Technology Way.
Suspecting Wallace had a role in the Borders robbery and other recent crimes, they went to his apartment on Courageous Court; found a homemade battering ram, bolt cutters and other items that could be used in a burglary; and obtained a search warrant.
One of the honored officers, Hanson, was not scheduled to work that night. He coaches the St. John's Prep hockey team, which had a tournament game that night. After winning the game, Hanson, who heads the department's Special Response Unit, checked in with headquarters, learned of the robbery and hunt for Wallace and went straight to work.
Officers Brian St. Pierre and Cunningham are also part of the Special Response Unit, which Tucker established last year soon after becoming chief.
The Chief's Award recognizes officers "who by their action promote bravery and honor" in the Police Department, Tucker said.
Wallace was paroled in 2009 after serving part of a six- to 10-year state prison sentence for a series of burglaries in Waltham, which ended when Wallace, dressed as a ninja with a mask, was shot during a struggle with police.
In the Salem pet store robbery, a witness told police the suspect wore a flesh-colored mask.
Wallace has been indicted on armed robbery and firearms charges and is being held without bail. He will be arraigned May 18 in Superior Court.