Law enforcement officers are often at the scene of medical emergencies before EMTs or paramedics arrive. These days, they’re saving a lot of lives by rendering aid to victims of overdoses by heroin and other opiates.
The Rock County Sheriff’s Office’s annual awards are full of such instances. Eleven lifesaving awards were given out at a recent ceremony, 10 of them for saving people from overdose, including several at the Rock County Jail.
Some of the awards went to staff members who worked together to save a life. Such was the case for correctional officers Jeremy Hoff and Timberly Wulf, nurse Justin Baker and Sgt. Pete Falk on the Fourth of July last year.
Hoff heard yelling and banging in a secure unit at the jail. He requested additional officers and entered the section to find a female inmate who appeared not to be breathing. Her skin was blue and purple, according to information submitted by the sheriff’s office.
Hoff radioed for help and entered the cell. Wulf and Baker responded. Hoff placed the inmate on the floor and conducted a medical assessment, noting she was unresponsive, not breathing and had a faint pulse.
Hoff started to perform ventilations with a bag valve while Wulf helped maintain the airway.
Baker continually checked the inmate’s vital signs and confirmed that the inmate still had a pulse.
Falk administered naloxone, which can stop an overdose of opiate drugs.
Within minutes, the woman started to breathe on her own and was transported for medical treatment. She recovered.
The other 2017 lifesaving awards:
- Deputy Monica Fuentes, who responded to a call for a possible overdose victim who had stopped breathing June 18. Fuentes took over chest compressions from a family member and rendered other aid until emergency medical services arrived and administered naloxone. The woman recovered.
- Correctional officers Brent Larkins, Brandon Davis, Douglas Dodd and Tim Halvorsen and Deputy Cody St. Michael: Larkins found a jail inmate not breathing June 30, checked for a pulse and started CPR. Davis and Dodd took turns doing compressions with Larkin while Halvorsen fetched an automated external defibrillator. The AED advised “no shock,” so the officers continued compressions. St. Michael arrived and gave the man two doses of Narcan. The man recovered.
- Deputy Charlie Cowan, who responded to a complaint of a man in a vehicle experiencing a possible heroin overdose Aug. 12. He administered naloxone, removed the man from the vehicle and started CPR. The man recovered.
- Correctional officer Jacob Cde Baca, who was conducting a security check at the jail Aug. 20 when he saw an inmate gasping for air. Cde Baca administered sternum rubs, trying to get a response and asked another officer to summon an ambulance. Cde Baca administered two doses of naloxone. The inmate recovered.
- Deputy Cody St. Michael, who responded to a complaint of a possible overdose in Milton on Sept. 14. St. Michael and Milton EMTs lowered the man to the floor so St. Michael could administer naloxone. The man recovered. St. Michael also responded to a crash Oct. 3 and found an unresponsive man and drug paraphernalia in the vehicle. He administered Narcan. The man recovered and was arrested on criminal charges.
- Deputy Maria Amador, who responded to a call for an unresponsive female in a cornfield Oct. 20. She administered naloxone and performed chest compressions. The victim recovered.
- Deputy Christopher Scott, who responded Nov. 5 for a man with difficulty breathing. The man’s wife had started chest compressions. Scott took over the compressions until relieved by emergency medical personnel. The man recovered.
- Correctional officer Brandon Davis, who responded to a possible suicide attempt at the jail Nov. 25. The nurse and Davis found the inmate with no pulse and blood coming from his mouth. Davis started CPR. Jail staff responded with an AED, and Davis attached the AED to the inmate and determined that the inmate still needed CPR. Davis continued CPR until the inmate became responsive. The inmate recovered.
- Deputy Ryan Bittorf, who responded Nov. 27 for a male lying on the ground with a medical problem. Bittorf recognized that the male was experiencing an overdose and administered naloxone. The male recovered.
- Deputies Chris Krahn and Shawn Nolan: Krahn responded to Footville business Feb. 20 for a man who had locked himself in the bathroom. Krahn found the man face down on the floor, turning blue, with blood coming from his mouth. Krahn administered two doses of Narcan. Nolan arrived. They checked the man with an AED. Nolan started CPR. The man opened his eyes and began to breathe on his own. He recovered.
The rest of this year’s awards, with information submitted by the sheriff’s office:
- Deputy of the Year, Neil Bennett, for excellence in his commitment to patrol functions. Bennett has been recognized nine times in the past two years for outstanding performance for incidents involving domestic concerns, burglaries, drug investigations, SWAT duties, thefts and assisting the police dog program.
“He has gained the trust of the community and strives to deter illegal activity by maintaining a focus on police-community relations. Pursuing criminals and drug offenders in high crime areas, Deputy Bennett is a leader amongst his peers,” the release reads.
- Correctional Officer of the Year, Richard Jeannette, who “excels in quality of work, shows strong initiative and displays the ability to safely supervise inmates. ... He adheres to enforcing the jail rules fairly and firmly.”
- Civilian Employee of the Year, administrative secretary Grace Becker. During the high-profile Joseph Jakubowski investigation, her “attention to detail and multi-tasking related to handling the multitude of national media inquiries ... allowed Sheriff Robert Spoden to keep in contact with the media to solicit the public’s help in locating Mr. Jakubowski.”
Over the past seven years, Becker “has been instrumental in helping to facilitate the recruitment and hiring of personnel across all levels of the sheriff’s office.”
- F. Joseph Black Leadership Award, Sgt. Mark Thompson, for leadership and dedication to the sheriff’s office. Under his leadership, the special investigations unit seized over $2.8 million in drugs in 2017. He was involved in seven SWAT deployments, which all ended successfully because of his leadership skills.
- Citizen Award, Pastor Iris Guelker. About 45 years ago, Guelker worked with a group to establish the jail chaplaincy program. Guelker has been an active member and has served as the group leader for many years. Her position requires diplomacy and coordination as she helps inmates of a variety of faiths receive pastoring and counseling.
- Citizen Award, Jeffrey Gorn. The Vernon County landowner encountered a man camping on his land on April 13, 2017, and contacted authorities, leading to the capture of fugitive Joseph Jakubowski.
- Citizen Award, William J. Truman, who helped a deputy who was struggling to arrest a woman on a traffic stop in Beloit on June 7. Truman stayed with the deputy throughout the incident, calling 911 because the deputy’s radio was not working and ordering another person to stay in the car. He even bought the deputy a bottle of water.
- Citizen Award, Nick Lambert, owner of the Off the Hook Grub and Pub, which held its second annual golf outing at the Glen Erin Golf Club in August. Proceeds of over $3,000 were donated to the Rock County Sheriff’s Office K9 Program, helping with the purchase of the program’s third dog.
- Citizen Award, Steve Burtness, Al Long, Rich Woods, Randy Reilly and John Grogan: A car caught fire in a dry soybean field Sept. 25. The four county Department of Public Works employees and Grogan, a combat medic and Army reservist, helped a woman from the vehicle, put out the fire and rendered aid. The woman had suffered significant injuries and would not have been able to escape without help. Grogan attended to a second victim with a neck injury.
- Citizen Award, Frank and Erin Simpson: Frank, an off-duty Dane County sheriff’s deputy, and his wife, Erin, came across a crash Nov. 8 at Highway 14 and Holt Road, where a vehicle was pinned under a semitrailer truck with a female trapped inside as the semi leaked fuel. Frank tended to the victim and called 911, asking for a helicopter and tow truck. Erin got the names and phone numbers of witnesses who saw the crash, helping in the investigation.