Right now there are men, women, and children — and even one young deer — happily preparing to enjoy Christmas with their families because police officers were sent in their hour of need. Without expectation of thanks or favor, these officers — all of whom are truly Blue Knights in Black Armor — endangered themselves and in so doing became answers to the prayers of those they served. What follows here are just twelve among the many thousands of stories we could tell that emphasize the importance of what you do every day. In each of these stories there is someone alive because of our brothers and sisters in law enforcement. If you have a similar story from the past 12 months that you would like to tell, please email me (and my editor, Doug Wyllie) by clicking here.
January 2010 — Mount Orab, Ohio Officer Justin Conley of the Mount Orab Ohio Police Department arrested an impaired driver named George Ruby, and after completing the process, released him to his wife. Every officer that pursues the impaired the driver is saving lives. Instead of going home however, George Ruby returned to the station and set up an ambush. When Conley came out of the station to resume his patrol duties, Ruby shot Officer Conley, who was saved by his vest. Conley returned fire and after the gunfight ended, Ruby was pronounced dead at the scene. Because of Officer Conley’s courageous defense of his own life he will be spending Christmas with his family.
February 2010 — Arroyo Grande While on patrol, Officer Michael Smiley spotted a male slumped over the wheel of a Ford F-150 pick-up truck. The vehicle was in gear and pointed at an assisted living facility. The man’s foot was braced against the brake and Smiley recognized that the man was experiencing a medical emergency. Smiley realized that any action may cause the vehicle to lurch into motion, but inaction would lead to the same thing, plus the driver’s death. He smashed the truck’s rear window with his baton, crawled into the truck, put the vehicle in park and went about saving man’s life. This was not an unusual occurrence for Smiley — he’s crossed trained as a paramedic — who in 2006 saved the life of a three-year-old girl who was not breathing as a result of a seizure.
March 2010 — Lubbock, Texas Officer Garret Winters was travelling to another call when he spotted a 17-year-old female perched on an overpass. She was about to jump to her death. He did a little call triage and decided the pending call to which he had been responding could hold. He slowly approached on foot and began to communicate with the girl, who then warned him to stay back or she would jump. Winters continued talking with her while inching gradually closer. She appeared intent on ending her own life, but decided to listen a while to Officer Winters’ caring dialogue. When he noticed her look away from him for a moment, Winters moved. He quickly snatched her arm and dragged her away from the precipice of her own death. As a result of Winters’ caring response and decisive action, a confused 17-year-old will continue on this difficult path called life. Perhaps she too, thanks to this officer, will someday realize that life has its highs and lows and if you survive the lows you will enjoy the highs even more.
April 2010 — New York, New York Officers Sean Kelleher, Darryl Fontaine, and Tara Hayes were in Sunset Park investigating a string of robberies when they made contact with 32-year-old Michael Romero. As the subject approached the officers he tossed his hat as a diversion and produced a .357 Rossi Revolver and shoved it into the face of Officer Kelleher. Kelleher reacted and was able to shove his hand between the hammer and the weapon, causing a misfire. Now a violent struggle over the weapon ensued. Sean’s partner was able to run around the unmarked squad, draw, and end the struggle instantaneously. Romero was later found to have had another weapon, $2000 in cash, and marijuana in his backpack. He also had 34 arrests and two stints in prison on his record. With one well placed shot, Officer Hayes saved her partner, possibly herself, and ended Romero’s recidivistic tendencies.
May 2010 — Toledo, Ohio Sergeant Mark Fry explained his actions this way, “A life is a life. It doesn’t matter if it’s an animal or a human being.” What precipitated this remark was Mark’s extraordinary handling of a car/deer accident. He arrived to find a badly injured pregnant doe, which had to be put down for humanitarian reasons. This is when Sergeant Fry ventured into the realm of “above and beyond the call of duty.” Sergeant Fry performed an emergency caesarian section on the doe and pulled out a pair of unborn fawns. One officer attended to one fawn, which could not be saved and Mark gave mouth to mouth to the other. After several minutes Mark revived the fawn he was working on. He then did something that is most certainly not taught at any academy. He milked the deceased mother to give the fawn some nutrients. That fawn now is flourishing.
June 2010 — Sacramento, California The dogged investigation of a homicide, a bank robbery, and the attempted shooting of police officers led officers of the Concord Police Department as well as Sacramento Police and Sheriff’s Departments to Anthony Alvarez. Instead of submitting to a lawful arrest, Alvarez snatched an 18-month-old baby and held him for three days as a hostage. With baby in arms he holed up in an apartment and occasionally fired at officers on the perimeter. Negotiators investigated every avenue to convince Alvarez to come out, but after three days, when a team created a port in a wall of the apartment, Alvarez deliberately engaged them in a gunfight. An emergency entry was made and Baby Michael was rescued unharmed. Baby Michael will be celebrating his second Christmas this year in the arms of his mother, thanks to the team efforts of many courageous police officers.
July 2010 — Troy, New York Ten year police veteran Jeff Combs was in the neighborhood investigating a criminal nuisance complaint, when a screaming and crying woman ran up to him begging him to save her child. Her 10 month old son Ethan was not breathing. The child was turning bluish purple. Combs’ initial reaction was to believe that the child was not going to make it. Upon checking he discovered that the child’s airway was obstructed by a staple that he had ingested. Combs tried putting the child on his shoulder and tapping its back, but it would not dislodge the obstruction. He then opened the airway as best he could and reached down. He could feel the staple, but could not dislodge it. Officer Combs was able to move it aside opening the airway and he tried tapping the back again and the child spontaneously began breathing and was able to swallow the staple. Combs took in the moment that he later described in this way, “They went from frantic and crying to utter joy in a second. Me, I just was doing my job.” The child’s mother had a different perspective, saying, “I don’t know how I can ever thank him for what he did.”
August 2010 — Kingsport, Tennessee As classes started in Sullivan Central High School, 62-year-old Thomas Richard Cowan entered the school armed with two pistols. He confronted the principal — Melanie Riden — and pointed a .380 pistol at her. Before he could open fire School Resource Officer from the Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department Carolyn Gudger arrived on the scene. She assessed the dangerous situation and immediately reacted. She drew her weapon and pulled Riden behind cover, beginning a tense gun-to-gun standoff. She negotiated with Cowan until fellow officers arrived at the scene. When Cowan swung his weapon toward other officers and then back toward Gudger three officers fired. Cowan was the only person that did not survive his deadly threat thanks, to the actions of all of these officers.
September 2010 — Providence, Rhode Island Officer Jerome Lynch spotted a homeless man, Brien Gallagher, hanging from a pine tree and rushed to cut him down with his duty knife. Lynch’s rapid response proved, as often is the case, to be timely, but unappreciated. When Lynch was able to revive Gallagher, he fought with his rescuer and other officers who arrived to assist. Gallagher was restrained, handcuffed, and hospitalized. PoliceOne extends a hearty “Thank you for your excellent response and a job well done,” since Mr. Gallagher was not so inclined to do so.
October 2010 — Indianapolis, Indiana IMPD Officer Larry Wilson was looking for a five-year-old missing autistic child. Wilson spotted him near a water retention pond, knowing that autistic children are drawn to water. The child jumped in and was flailing and sinking in ten feet of water. Wilson sprung into action. He stripped off his duty belt and jumped in and pulled the drowning five year old out. Rachel Phillips, the 27-year-old mother said of Officer Wilson’s actions, “He didn’t think twice about his own safety…He gave me my life back.”
November 2010 — Chicago, Illinois Veteran Chicago PD Officer Thomas Norberg was stopped at a street light, when a car pulled up next to him beeping its horn and a female rolled down the back window. Maribel Real frantically called, “My baby’s not breathing!” Noberg found the child slumped in his car seat. He had suddenly began coughing, vomited and stopped breathing. Norberg laid the child out, opened and cleaned his air way and began two-finger CPR on the two-year-old child. He directed the Father to assist and after several minutes they revived the child, who most certainly would not have survived without Officer Norberg’s actions.
December 2009 — Seattle, Washington Since this article goes to print before December 2010, our December story of courage comes from December 2009. As December 2009 opened you may recall every law enforcement officer in the nation was reeling from a hate crime perpetrated against four honorable police officers, who thought they could relax in a coffee shop of a retired police officer. A career criminal, whose freedom was the product of a series of fateful errors in the criminal justice system, walked into the shop with a smile on his face. This smile was but a mask. He would leave after ambushing and killing four officers. One of the officers bravely fought back and marked Maurice Clemmons with a serious gunshot wound.
As December 2009 opened, a nation-wide alert was out for Maurice Clemmons, who was the named suspect in the killings. Officer Benjamin Kelly of the Seattle Police Department was checking out a broken down stolen car, when he noticed a hooded man approaching from his blind side. Sensing an ambush he focused on the suspect, who had his hands in his pocket and a hood over his head. Kelly ordered the man to stop and show his hands and non compliance coupled by the sudden recognition that he was to be the next intended victim of none other than the Maurice Clemmons caused Kelly to react. It was a classic western gun fight, finding the law man and the bad man in the street going for their weapons. The good guy won and the bad guy lost. Kelly sent Clemmons to his ultimate reckoning.
These 12 stories are but a few of the many examples of how “ordinary” police officers in this country are called upon every day to do extraordinary things. This Christmas, give a gift to yourself by taking the time to remember how important you are to every life you touch. To all of you current officers, retired officers, and police trainers, thanks for what you have done and keep doing. There is much honor in what you do.
There is one more thing, “Merry Christmas to all, and God bless us, everyone!”
About the author
Lt. Dan Marcou retired as a highly decorated police lieutenant and SWAT Commander with 33 years of full time law enforcement experience. He is a nationally recognized police trainer in many police disciplines and is a Master Trainer in the State of Wisconsin. He has authored three novels The Calling: The Making of a Veteran Cop , S.W.A.T. Blue Knights in Black Armor, and Nobody's Heroes are all available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.com. Visit his website and contact Dan Marcou