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Virginia Police Chiefs Recognize Eighteen Individuals with 2015 Lifesaving Awards

September 1, 2015 | VACP

Eighteen Virginia public safety officers are the recipients of the 2015 Lifesaving Awards presented by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police (VACP) and the Virginia Police Chiefs Foundation (VPCF.) The awards will be announced September 1 at the VACP/VPCF Annual Conference in Williamsburg, Virginia, and awarded at a later date at ceremonies at the officers’ agencies.

The Lifesaving Award recognizes an officer’s actions that put the officer in harm’s way in an attempt to save the live of another individual. The 2015 VACP/VPCF Lifesaving Award recipients are as follows:

Hanover County Sheriff’s Office
Deputy Barry Bland
Deputy Kenny Winston
Deputy Matt League
Sergeant Frank Dressler
Sergeant Tim Simpson
Fire EMS Officer Jacob Ryan Jordan

On March 10, 2015, a citizen reported to Deputy Barry Bland that a vehicle had run off the road and was in a large retention pond on the property of the Covenant Woods Retirement Community. Deputy Bland notified Emergency Communications and responded to the crash site to further investigate.

Arriving on scene, Deputy Bland quickly observed a vehicle was submerged with only the outline of the roof visible. As he arrived at the edge of the pond, he saw an arm extending out the driver's side window. Without hesitation, Deputy Bland entered the freezing cold water and swam to the vehicle. As he entered the water, Sergeant Frank Dressler, Deputy Kenny Winston and Sergeant Tim Simpson arrived on scene. Each entered the water to assist with the extrication of the victim, who now was completely submerged underwater as water filled the inside of the vehicle.

While trying to release the victim from his seatbelt, the window began to close, closing Deputy Bland's hand between the frame and glass. The other deputies were able to break the window glass to free Deputy Bland's hand, but still could not extricate the victim from the vehicle. Deputy Matt League and off-duty firefighter Jacob Jordan arrived on scene and also entered the water to assist with the rescue efforts, trying to gain access anyway possible. It was later determined that their rescue efforts were hindered by the handicapped accessible equipment in the vehicle and the wheelchair, in which the victim was secured. In addition, the murky water made visibility nonexistent and the officers were forced to feel their way around the interior of the vehicle.

Despite some of the responders beginning to lose their fine motor skill functions in the 40-degree water, and some having to be assisted out of water to avoid becoming victims themselves, eventually the victim was removed from the vehicle. The victim's blue appearance made it immediately apparent that the male was in distress from his time in the water. Deputy League initiated CPR, which was then taken over by EMS personnel who arrived and removed the victim from the scene.

Four of these five officers were treated at the local hospital for exposure and possible hypothermia and the victim was transported to MCV with life-threating injuries, from which he recovered and was released from the hospital. Tragically, he died later from undetermined causes.


Herndon Police Department
Senior Police Officer Mark Butler

On May 10, 2015 at 2052 hours, a 15-year-old juvenile called the police and was threatening suicide by drowning himself. While on the line, the subject stopped responding to questions leaving only an open 911 line. The communications operator determined that the subject was calling from the area of the Herndon Municipal golf course pump house and officers were dispatched. While they were en route to the golf course, the communications operator was able to obtain the name and address of the juvenile.

As police officers responded to the subject's residence, Senior Police Officer Mark Butler responded to check the area around the golf course pump house. SPO Butler checked the area and spotted a subject in the pond approximately 20-30 yards off shore. As SPO Butler approached the pond, the subject went under water. Despite having no backup with him at this location, Officer Butler immediately took off his duty vest and weapon and dived into the water where he last saw the subject go under. The subject's head came back above the water line and he was coughing up water. Officer Butler swam toward him and attempted to grab onto him, but the subject didn't respond or attempt to help himself by grabbing on to Officer Butler. At this point, with the water level over their heads, Butler realized that they were both in danger of drowning if the subject didn't try to stay above water. He then told the subject, "If you don't help me, we're both going to drown." The subject then grabbed onto Officer Butler who was able to get him back to shore safely.

K9 Officer Warrie Proffitt arrived at the location as SPO Butler was coming out of the water with the juvenile and directed responding officers to the location of the incident. Rescue was requested and responded to treat the subject. Another officer had made contact with the mother of the subject and brought her to the scene so she could be with her son. The subject was then transported to Fairfax Hospital for treatment and psychiatric observation.

SPO Butler is recognized for putting himself in danger when he performed above and beyond expectations of a police officer by jumping into the pond to help save the life of a subject who had intended to drown himself. The risk to SPO Butler was significant, especially due to the fact that he had no backup to assist him in the water had his efforts been unsuccessful, nor did officers know his exact location when he went into the pond. SPO Butler was himself in great danger of drowning as he physically struggled to pull the subject to safety. SPO Butler's quick thinking and actions during this potentially deadly incident demonstrated bravery and courage that is truly deserving of recognition.


Leesburg Police Department
Sergeant Mark Davis
Officer Alex Hilton

On March 14, 2014 just before noon, Loudoun County Fire & Rescue medics were on scene at an apartment in Leesburg in response to a request for emergency medical care from the resident. While making contact with the patient, the medics noticed that he was holding a handgun. In accordance with their policy, the medics retreated and requested assistance from the Leesburg Police Department.

Sgt. Mark Davis, the on-duty supervisor, responded to the call for assistance and established a containment perimeter with responding day shift officers. He began speaking with the resident through the front door but had difficulty hearing the resident's faint voice. Knowing the resident was farther back in the apartment, Sgt. Davis and Officer Alex Hilton entered the apartment to maintain verbal contact. As they entered, Officer Hilton provided cover. Sgt. Davis observed the resident standing in the doorway of an adjoining room and he ordered the resident to show his hands. The resident turned to walk away into the room, exposing a pistol held in one hand by his side. Sgt. Davis decided to act — at the risk of personal danger to himself — rather than chance the resident being able to harm or barricade himself. Within the close quarters of the apartment, Sgt. Davis took a quick step to close the distance to the resident. He grabbed the man's wrist with one hand and the pistol with the other. While calmly ordering the resident to sit down, Sgt. Davis was able to pull the pistol from his hand and secure it. Officer Hilton remained with the resident as Sgt. Davis stepped out of the room and unloaded the six shot .38 pistol of its three bullets.

With the resident disarmed and the scene secured, medical personnel were able to enter, evaluate the resident, and determine that no medical care was needed. During the evaluation, the resident stated to Sgt. Davis that had the response been delayed they would have found him in the bathtub, deceased from a self-inflicted gunshot would. The resident was distraught over declining health and the recent death of a spouse. A hand-written note was found requesting that the rescue personnel facilitate the donation of his organs in anticipation of a successful suicide attempt. Officer Hilton subsequently took the resident into custody and transported him to a hospital for a mental health evaluation.

This past spring, Officer Hilton observed the man out for a walk in the downtown area of Leesburg. The man stopped to speak with Officer Hilton and personally thanked him for his and Sgt. Davis’ decisive and lifesaving action, which gave him a second chance.


Marion Police Department
Patrolman Daniel A. Hamm

On the afternoon of October 26, 2013, Marion officers responded to a structure fire where, the day before, a mattress fire had also been reported. Patrolman Daniel Hamm arrived first on scene and saw heavy black smoke coming from the building and could see fire in the apartment through the windows. Patrolman Hamm ran around to the back entrance where he met two females, one of whom was elderly. He asked if anyone else was in the apartment and all they stated was that they thought he was still in the bed.

Patrolman Hamm then made entry into the residence, crawling on his hands and knees down the hallway through thick, blinding smoke. He came to the first apartment on the right and began to open the door, meeting a young male and an elderly man on a walker trying to get out. Patrolman Hamm noticed that the elderly man’s jeans were burnt and his walker was melted and partially on fire. The apartment behind them was now completely engulfed in flames and Patrolman Hamm, with the assistance of the young male, struggled to get the elderly man out of the building before fresh air could feed the flames further and trap them inside. Due to the elderly man’s limited mobility and his compromised walker, Patrolman Hamm and the young male practically dragged the man down the hallway to the exit, all the while coughing from the smoke and suffering from burning eyes.

When they finally reached the exit, Patrolman Hamm and the young male set the elderly man down in a lawn chair that was sitting against the building while they caught their breath. Patrolman Hamm then once again grabbed the elderly man’s arm and told him they had to get away from the building and proceeded to drag him up a bank to safety. He then noticed the elderly female who exited earlier was sitting very close to the building as well and she had an oxygen tank and tubes with her. Patrolman Hamm and a recently arrived member of the rescue squad carried the elderly female up and her oxygen tank up the bank as well.

Once it was determined everyone was outside of the residence, Patrolman Hamm and other officers who had now arrived on scene began getting oxygen tanks out the hallway for when the fire department arrived. Afterwards, Marion officers and rescue personnel moved the elderly occupants farther away from the building towards the ambulance. At that time, it was discovered that the elderly man had a severe burn to his left leg, possibly 3rd or 4th degree. He was loaded on to the ambulance and transported to a landing zone where he was then flown by winged air rescue to the Winston-Salem, NC Burn Center. Rescue personnel also transported Patrolman Hamm, the elderly female and the young male to the nearest ER where they were treated for smoke inhalation and released.


Prince William County Police Department
Officer Robert Minnick
Officer Michael Szalach

On March 9, 2014, at approximately 0130 hours, Officer Michael Szalach arrived on the scene of a serious vehicle crash at the intersection of Dumfries Road and Minnieville Road. Upon arrival, he encountered three unconscious victims in one of the vehicles. As he began to assess their injuries, the engine compartment caught fire. Officer Szalach acted quickly and removed the deceased rear passenger and the critically injured driver and pulled them to a safe distance from the vehicle. When Officer Szalach returned to the vehicle, he observed the fire beginning to burn through the floorboard into the passenger compartment. Fire and Rescue had not yet arrived, so Officer Szalach attempted to pull the unconscious front passenger from the vehicle; however, her leg was pinned in the wreckage.

Officer Robert Minnick arrived on the scene at about this time and retrieved two fire extinguishers from the cruisers. He used both extinguishers, but they had little effect. Officer Minnick then began an attempt to assist Officer Szalach in extricating the victim, but to no avail. Heavy smoke filled the vehicle and fire began burning within inches of the officers. Officers Szalach and Minnick were able to pull the passenger’s upper torso across the driver’s seat so she could breath and in an attempt to prevent serious burns. Before the passenger compartment could become fully involved, the fire department arrived and extinguished the blaze. The front passenger was then extricated from the vehicle and airlifted to Fairfax Hospital. Sadly, she later died as a result of the injuries she sustained in the crash.

Prince William County Police Officers place themselves in harm’s way every day, but Officers Szalach and Minnick went above and beyond in this incident. Officer Szalach never hesitated to act when the vehicle caught fire. Even after pulling a lifeless body from the vehicle, which would have been too much for most, he persevered and returned to the vehicle to save more lives. Officer Minnick used quick thinking by deploying the fire extinguishers, which undoubtedly slowed the fire and enabled the fire department to extinguish the fire with only moments to spare. The two officers then worked together by holding the victim in a position so she could breathe and avoid serious burns, all the while breathing in smoke and standing inches from an uncontrolled fire.


Richmond Police Department
Sgt. Christopher Jernigan

On the evening of September 5, 2014, a radio call was dispatched for a single-vehicle accident with injuries on northbound Interstate 195. Sergeant Jernigan, who was working an off-duty assignment in the area, responded to the location to assist, so he thought.

Sergeant Jernigan was the first and only one on scene. When he arrived, he found an S-U-V fully engulfed in flames. Risking his life, he pried open the passenger door and leaned into the fire and smoke. He was unable to clearly see inside, but managed to find the driver still behind the wheel of the car. He struggled to free her as the tires of the S-U-V exploded. It was a tense situation, but he didn’t give up.

Sergeant Jernigan managed to rescue the driver from the wreckage just in time. Many said he showed great courage, but he humbly chalked it up to part of the job. Thanks to him, the driver survived this accident and he was none to worse for the wear with some smoke inhalation.


Richmond Police Department
Officer Joseph Dillon
Officer Jonathan Wade

Officer Jonathan Wade and Officer Joseph Dillon were called to the scene of a vicious animal attacking a cat – eventually killing and consuming it. Shortly after they arrived, the pit bull ran off, out of sight. The officers heard screaming as they attempted to keep up with the dog. They then observed the pit bull biting a 9-year-old boy. They ran to assist the boy and his mother but were unable to get a clear shot at the dog. They deployed their asps and struck the dog repeatedly, to no effect. The dog still maintained a grip on the child’s leg. Eventually, Officer Wade did get a get a clear line of fire and shot the dog three times, fatally wounding it.

Considering the viciousness of the attack by the dog, the life of the child was saved by the actions of the officers, who maintained their poise during the dramatic situation.


Virginia State Police
Trooper Sanders T. “Lee” Schoolar, IV

On August 18, 2014, Trooper Schoolar was on patrol with his City of Richmond counterparts when the call came in to dispatch concerning a man armed with a firearm walking across the Martin Luther King Bridge in the city.

Trooper Schoolar was first to arrive on scene and encountered the man walking along the bridge with a 12-gauge shotgun in his possession. As Trooper Schoolar and the responding Richmond Officers engaged with the man, the suspect began taunting the officers and demanding them to kill him.

Despite their repeated attempts to calm the man and get him to comply with their commands to put down his weapon, the male subject refused and grew even more agitated. As the officers began facing the very real possibility that they may have to use deadly force with this troubled individual, Trooper Schoolar saw a moment of opportunity to render the situation safe.

It was a fleeting moment and the trooper knew he had only seconds to act. Without hesitation, he leapt over the cement barrier and tackled the armed suspect from behind. Trooper Schoolar swiftly and skillfully disarmed the man and took the subject into custody, without injury to himself, the other officers, or the suspect.

By putting his own safety and life in harm’s way, Trooper Schoolar potentially saved not only the other officers’ lives but prevented the need for the use of deadly force and ultimately saved the suspect’s life, as well.


Virginia State Police
Sergeant-Pilot Shawn T. Rivard
Sr. Trooper-Pilot Jeffrey W. Bush


On April 7, 2015, a Dominion Virginia Power employee and two contract employees were conducting routine checks on the high-voltage power lines along a dense, marshy area of the Pamunkey River. At around 2 p.m., the crew’s vehicle became stuck and began sinking in the marshy undergrowth. The three men were forced to seek refuge by crawling on top of the work vehicle. After more than 11 hours of trying various rescue options, a call was placed at 11:32 p.m., to the Virginia State Police Aviation Base to request assistance with rescuing the exhausted men from the river.

When Sr. Trooper-Pilot Bush and Sgt. Rivard arrived on scene, they located the stranded workers and conducted a thorough assessment of the area. Through the use of night vision goggles, the flight crew located the three men directly under the high-voltage power lines they had been checking earlier in the day. Because of their proximity to the power lines, using the hoist equipment for the rescue would place those on the ground and the flight crew in serious danger. Sr. Trooper-Pilot Bush and Sgt. Rivard made the swift decision to fly to the West Point Airport, a few miles away, unload the rescue gear from the back of the aircraft, and return to the scene to attempt a “skid pickup” rescue.

Sr. Trooper-Pilot Bush and Sgt. Rivard returned to the stranded men and reassessed the scene. Working together they determined the power lines were high enough for Sr. Trooper-Pilot Bush to hover the aircraft underneath and still have a wide safety margin for operating the helicopter. Using nothing but the “gunner’s belt” and a seatbelt, Sgt. Rivard secured himself to the inside of the aircraft and then stepped out onto the skid. Sr. Trooper-Pilot Bush expertly maneuvered the aircraft as close as he could to the stranded workers, while watching the distance to the power lines and the metal stanchions. As the helicopter edged closer to the workers, they began to wade through the marsh, sometimes waist deep, to accept the outreached hand of Sgt. Rivard. The sergeant swiftly and safely assisted each of the three workers into the back of the helicopter and secured them for the flight. Once stabilized with the workers aboard, Sr. Trooper-Pilot Bush carefully maneuvered the helicopter away from the power line environment to the West Point Airport where an ambulance was waiting to provide medical assistance.

It goes without saying that this was not a normal Aviation Unit mission. Flying the aircraft under these conditions and making sure the helicopter posed no threat or injury to the individuals in need of rescue required exceptional proficiency on behalf of Sr. Trooper-Pilot Bush. For Sgt. Rivard to put his life at risk by hanging off the side of a hovering helicopter to save three individuals proves his dedication as a law enforcement professional to go above and beyond the call of duty.

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The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police (www.vachiefs.org) is a statewide organization of federal, state and local police chiefs and law enforcement executives dedicated to improving the professionalism of police agencies in Virginia. The Association was founded in 1926 and has more than 600 members. The Virginia Police Chiefs Foundation (www.vapolicefoundation.org) is a charitable educational foundation created by the VACP to provide training and education programs for law enforcement leaders.

Contact: Ms. Dana Schrad, Executive Director
Mobile: (804) 338-9512