Virginia Police Chiefs Recognize Eight Officers with 2022 Awards for Lifesaving
Officers from Front Royal, Manassas City, and Virginia State Police honored for their extraordinary lifesaving efforts.
Eight Virginia public safety officers are the recipients of the 2022 Awards for Lifesaving presented by the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police & Foundation (VACP). The awards were announced September 13 at the VACP Annual Conference in Roanoke, Virginia, and will be awarded at a later date at ceremonies at the officers' agencies.
The Award for Lifesaving recognizes an officer's actions that put the officer in harm's way in the attempt to save the life of another individual. This year's honorees risked their own lives in an effort to save others from burning buildings and vehicles, attempted suicides, and other dangerous situations.
Front Royal Police Department
Sergeant Eric Suess
Police Officer Rachel Martin
On Wednesday, June 15, 2022, at approximately 0430 hours, Front Royal Police Officer Rachel Martin was the first responder to arrive on scene at a structure fire on 18th Street. The front of the house was engulfed in flames and there was an explosion on the front porch as she made her way to the residence. Neighbors advised that they thought there were people in the residence.
Officer Martin went to a side window and identified two elderly people in the residence. The house was filling with smoke and the people were not ambulatory and one was blind. Officer Martin cut the window screen and was climbing in the window when Sgt. Eric Suess arrived and assisted her in getting into the residence. Officer Martin observed that the house was full of clutter consistent with hoarding and ascertained that it would be impossible to facilitate the rescue through the window. She advised Sgt. Suess that they would have to use the back door to the residence to get the occupants out. The back porch was also found to be cluttered with debris and the officers cleared the porch and forced the door ajar. There was clutter blocking the back door and Sgt. Suess was able to force the door completely off at the hinge side and remove it. The officers cleared the clutter out of the way and made a path to the occupants. They were then able to drag them out of the residence. Fire and Rescue personnel arrived on the scene as the two officers pulled the occupants from the house and they began initiating care on the occupants.
These two officers exhibited courage and tenacity in executing the rescue of this elderly couple from an extremely hazardous situation. The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is proud to honor Front Royal Police Sergeant Eric Suess and Officer Rachel Martin with the 2022 Award for Lifesaving.
Manassas City Police Department
MPO Jonathan Agule
On December 24, 2021, Manassas City police officers were dispatched for a report of a subject attempting to commit suicide by hanging. As officers were responding to the scene, PSCC advised that the subject was sitting on the railing of the deck with a noose around his neck and family was trying to persuade him to come down.
MPO Jonathan Agule was the first officer to arrive at the residence. He rushed through the house with the frantic family and immediately attempted to make contact with the subject. MPO Agule assured the subject that he was there to help and asked him to come down onto the deck. The subject began to rock back as if to drop from the deck. MPO Agule closed the distance and was able to wrap his arms around the subject and pull him from the railing, all while convincing the subject to remove the noose from his neck. MPO Agule continued to hold the subject until the second and third units arrived and were able to securely restrain him from any additional acts of self-harm.
With MPO Agule's quick thinking and commitment to the safety of the citizens of Manassas, this individual was able to be brought to the ER so that he could receive the assistance that he required.
The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is proud to honor MPO Jonathan Agule with the 2022 Award for Lifesaving.
Virginia State Police
Sr. Trooper David J. Miller
Trooper Zachary Homlish
VDOT Safety Services Patroller Devon Bell
On January 30, 2022, Senior Trooper David Miller responded to a motor vehicle crash on Interstate 95 at the 98-mile marker in Hanover County. A vehicle traveling south on I-95 had run off the interstate and struck a tree. The impact with the tree resulted in the severely damaged vehicle to catch fire almost immediately.
Upon arriving at the scene, Sr. Trooper Miller was advised that there were people trapped inside the vehicle. One of those individuals was unresponsive. Moments later, Trooper Homlish arrived on scene to assist. The two troopers, with the help of VDOT Safety Services Patroller (SSP) Devon Bell, were able to open the driver's side door and pull the driver safely away from the burning vehicle.
Trooper Miller then ran to the passenger side and used his department-issued tool to break open the window. This allowed the troopers to forcefully wrench open the passenger side door. The passenger had a faint pulse but was unresponsive and her clothing was on fire. SSP Bell sprayed the passenger with his fire extinguisher to put out her burning clothes, which gave the troopers enough time to attempt to pull her from the vehicle. However, she was trapped by the seatbelt and her legs were pinned under the crumpled dashboard. Despite the flames consuming the vehicle, Trooper Miller reached in to cut the seatbelt and both troopers quickly worked to free the victim's legs. Their valiant and determined efforts were successful, and the unresponsive woman was pulled from the vehicle. Within seconds of her being rescued, the vehicle was engulfed in flames.
The driver and passenger were transported to VCU Medical Center for treatment. Tragically, the passenger succumbed to her injuries. Senior Trooper Miller received minor burns to his hands from his time inside the vehicle. Trooper Homlish escaped injury.
Senior Trooper Miller, Trooper Homlish and SSP Bell all risked their lives in order to save these individuals from perishing in the fire. The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is proud to honor Senior Trooper David Miller, Trooper Zachary Homlish and VDOT Safety Services Patroller Devon Bell with the 2022 Award for Lifesaving.
Virginia State Police
Trooper Bruce C. Damian
On January 20, 2022, Trooper Bruce C. Damian was dispatched to an occupied vehicle stopped on the right shoulder of eastbound I-495 at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Alexandria. A VDOT Safety Service Patrol (SSP) unit that previously stopped to check on the vehicle was called back to the scene and requested a trooper as the vehicle's driver was behaving strangely. Trooper Damian arrived on scene, activated his emergency lights, and planned to pull in behind the vehicle. However, the driver exited his vehicle and began recording Trooper Damian with his cell phone, which the trooper observed was unusual behavior for a disabled motorist. The driver appeared highly agitated and somewhat disheveled, leading Trooper Damian to suspect he was possibly an individual in crisis. Wisely, Trooper Damian elected to block the right lane until the nature of the incident could be clarified.
The driver appeared to be similar in age to the vehicle's registered owner, which led Trooper Damian to request that dispatch check the owner's history for prior law enforcement contacts and mental health commitments. He also requested additional state or local officers respond given the driver's unusual behavior. When Trooper Damian exited his cruiser and began to approach the driver, the man then ran away, towards the railing, and attempted to leap from the bridge in an apparent suicide attempt. However, between the height of the railing and the driver's heavier build, he was unable to hoist himself over the railing on his initial attempt. Trooper Damian immediately ran towards the subject, grabbed him, and took him to the ground.
As Trooper Damian attempted to gain control of the driver, the man resisted and sought to hide his hands beneath his body. Trooper Damian trapped both his wrists against the ground while in a side-control position and the driver calmed slightly. Trooper Damian then attempted to maneuver him into a handcuffing position. While maintaining the hold, Trooper Damian verbally engaged the driver with the goal of de-escalating the situation. Although initially responsive, the driver then claimed to be the victim of a far-reaching government conspiracy and returned to an aggravated state. As Trooper Damian maintained control of the man, an FBI Special Agent and a Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority Officer stopped to assist him with gaining full physical control and safely placing him in handcuffs. The driver was finally detained under an emergency custody order and transported to a nearby hospital.
At the hospital, Trooper Damian further assisted the subject by contacting, at his request, a known mental health professional who would further assist in his recovery. Trooper Damian took it upon himself to help arrange an emergency appointment via FaceTime, which proved very effective as this psychiatrist was someone the subject trusted. In addition, Trooper Damian also located the subject's adult son so he could respond to the hospital. Finally, Trooper Damian contacted the local Community Services Board to begin obtaining a temporary detention order.
Trooper Damian's extraordinary effort and selfless actions were instrumental in preventing the subject from causing further harm to himself, and his compassionate actions at the hospital were critical for the subject to receive prompt mental health care. The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is proud to honor Trooper Bruce C. Damian with the 2022 Award for Lifesaving.
Virginia State Police
Trooper James C. Tanner
On March 14, 2022 at approximately 7:40 p.m., the Virginia State Police Culpeper Division Emergency Communications Center had a male individual arrive at the Culpeper Division Headquarters demanding to speak to Trooper James Tanner. The man had encountered Trooper Tanner on a previous call for service and was insisting that he speak to Trooper Tanner immediately.
Trooper Tanner responded to the headquarters building and met the man in the parking lot. The man peppered Trooper Tanner with questions concerning the man's vehicle. After answering the man's numerous questions, the man's behavior turned very erratic and the man then began running around the parking lot yelling about the voices in his head. When the man ran to the back of the VSP property, Trooper Tanner met up with him to verbally engage with him and attempt to calm the man down. Instead, the man got down on the ground and began shaking violently. At this stage, Trooper Tanner radioed the Emergency Communications Center to request for backup and for EMS to respond to the headquarters.
It was at this point that the man took off running away from Trooper Tanner and towards Brandy Road. Ignoring the trooper's verbal commands to stop and come back, the man kept running towards the roadway despite an oncoming tractor-trailer. Recognizing the life-threatening situation, Trooper Tanner sprinted towards Brandy Road, ran into the travel lane, grabbed the man, and pulled him off the roadway. Both the man and trooper narrowly missed being struck by the tractor-trailer.
The male subject continued to resist and fight Trooper Tanner, at which point the trooper took him into custody.
Had it not been for Trooper Tanner's quick and deliberate actions, the man would not have survived this ordeal, as the tractor-trailer would not have been able to brake in time to avoid striking him. Trooper Tanner selflessly put his own life at risk in order to save another. The Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police is proud to honor Trooper James Tanner with the 2022 Award for Lifesaving.