Jason Cullins got a gun for Christmas when he was 8 years old.
Since then, he has handled many firearms and currently owns five.
Cullins believes his knowledge of guns gave him the confidence to intervene between a man and a woman after shots were fired at the Holiday Inn Express in Janesville late last year.
“If I would not have been around firearms all my life and been scared of firearms like most people are today, I would have no doubt in my mind I would have ran the other way like everyone else did,” Cullins said.
Cullins, a truck driver from Lafayette, Louisiana, received a law enforcement service award from the Janesville Police Department on Thursday for taking the gun away from the fighting couple and potentially saving lives, police said.
The Louisiana native was in Janesville in November to deliver trucks to Morgan Corp.
Cullins said he was watching TV in his hotel room when he heard a loud noise and a woman screaming in the hallway.
He ran out of his room, still in his underwear, because he thought someone was hurt. Then he saw two people fighting.
Cullins was able to grab the gun and hold on to the slide to keep the live round from firing. He kept the gun away from Latoya Hill and the man she was fighting with, and told the two to get on the ground until police arrived.
The man stayed. Hill fled and was found by police days later.
“Thirty minutes after police came is when the gravity of the situation hit me,” Cullins said. “I could have easily died or been shot. That’s when it started to hit me. It was a very tragic moment that happened, but everything worked out for the best.”
Janesville police also honored other law enforcement professionals, citizens and businesses Thursday. They include:
Police officer of the year: Justin Stubbendick
Stubbendick has worked for the police department since 2011. He is a member of the street crimes unit and is a range coordinator and a SWAT team sniper.
Stubbendick started the Rock County subcommittee of the Drug Endangered Children program, police said. He also is developing new training methods in deadly and nondeadly force techniques for the department.
In his spare time, the officer maintains a relationship with 5-year old Isaac Johnson, who has cancer. Stubbendick routinely checks in with the boy and collected donations and Christmas presents for him during the holidays.
Civilian employee of the year: Lynn Godding
Godding has been a part-time records clerk for the police department since 2016.
Police said Godding often takes on extra hours or additional tasks to help the records division run smoothly.
Her patient, professional demeanor stand out in a workplace that regularly deals with unhappy or unruly customers, police said.
Award of excellence: Sgt. Brian Vaughn
Vaughn has worked for the police department since 1994, and his guidance helped the department earn accreditation through 2020, police said.
Vaughn is also a leader for the domestic violence intervention team, providing safety and guidance to victims.
Exemplary service citation: Sgt. Aaron Dammen and officers Joseph Sanovich and Jeremy Wiley
With help from a group of residents, Wiley used an iPhone to track the location of a woman who police were told had gotten into a vehicle against her will.
Dammen, Sanovich and another officer found the victim in an apartment, where she reported being sexually assaulted, police said. The suspect was subsequently arrested on third-degree sexual assault charges.
Problem-oriented policing award: Sgt. Jennifer Wehmas and officer Drew Severson
Wehmas and Severson formed a relationship with a group of kids who were creating trouble in the Fourth Ward last spring.
The officers arranged scholarships to help the five children attend a basketball camp at UW-Rock County and enrolled them in a youth football program for free. Rogan’s Shoes donated football cleats for the kids with help from Severson and Wehmas.
Calls for service involving those children have decreased significantly since then, police said.
Problem-oriented policing award: Christopher Terrell
Terrell began regularly patrolling a local motel where third-shift police were being called frequently.
Based on his patrols, Terrell developed an action plan that resulted in a 35 percent reduction in calls at that location.
Law enforcement service award: Terry Lemke
Lemke has volunteered at the police department for two years, comparing lists of stolen items against a database that tracks pawned or resold items.
In January, she found two rings valued at $2,500 that were stolen from an assisted living center, police said.
The rings were returned to their owner, a 99-year-old resident, and another person was held accountable for the theft.
Law enforcement service award: Blain’s Farm & Fleet
Janesville police partnered with Blain’s Farm & Fleet for the annual Shop With a Cop event, which paired 25 elementary school students with police officers for a shopping trip.
Students were allowed to spend $200 each on gifts for themselves and family members at the store. Farm & Fleet also donated food and drinks for the students, their families and the officers.
Law enforcement service award: Dollar General
Janesville police bought 37 Reach-a-Child bags for squad cars and ambulances thanks to a donation from Dollar General. The bags contain books and backpacks and help officers comfort children in crises, police said.
Law enforcement service award: Janesville School District
The school district and police worked on a number of projects to enhance safe learning environments and improve the standard of living in the city. The projects included the Stay Safe Workshop at Craig High School, the P-3 Tips program and drug-recognition training for educational professionals.
Law enforcement service award: Markley’s Mid-City Golf
Ken Markley donated use of his facility for the third consecutive officer wellness night. The event allowed officers to spend time with their families and co-workers.
Law enforcement service award: New Life Assembly of God
With help from police, the church hosts Freedom Fest, an annual family event that attracts thousands of people to its grounds.
Law enforcement service award: Prent Corp.
Prent Corp. donated money for a police dog vehicle, police said. The vehicle has both standard and specialized equipment for the safety and comfort of police dogs.
Law enforcement service award: Rotary Botanical Gardens
Rotary Gardens provides the department with a facility for conferences, training and special events.
Law enforcement service award: VIKTOS
The tactical clothing manufacturer donated 25 pairs of gloves, valued at $4,300, which will protect officers from injury and the elements while training.
Law enforcement service award: Wal-Mart
Janesville police partnered with Wal-Mart for the eighth annual Shop with a Cop event at that location, where 12 children selected by Rock County Human Services shopped with police officers.
Students were allowed to spend $225 each on gifts for themselves and family members.