“To serve and protect” is the police motto, but some live by it more than others. In this feature, we’ll spotlight 10 incredible police officers who went above and beyond the call of duty to save lives, arrest perps and generally uphold the law.
Sergeant Kirk Van Orsdel, 2005
A recipient of the coveted Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor, California highway patrolman Kirk Van Orsdel started the morning of July 25 like any other day. At 7:43 a.m., he got a call from a woman claiming that a man in a gray sedan was chasing and shooting at her. Upon arriving at the scene, Van Orsdel immediately spotted the cars and gave chase, only to have the perp pull out an AK-47 and start spraying his car with bullets while driving the wrong way on the freeway. Van Orsdel gave chase, driving his car in reverse down the shoulder while bullets riddled his car. He eventually cornered the man (who was trying to murder his ex-girlfriend) behind his car, but Van Orsdel was heavily outgunned. Amazingly, the heroic cop managed to pop the shooter twice with his rifle while dodging automatic weapon fire.
Sergeant Don Jerome, 2011
One of the scariest things for a police officer is investigating a crime-scene tip on their own. When Chicago cop Don Jerome responded to a call about an armed robbery in progress, the first thing he found in the house was six residents bound and gagged with duct tape. After Jerome confirmed their safety, he pursued of the criminals. Outnumbered three to one, Sgt. Jerome refused to give up, disarming one crook and seizing his weapon before being wrestled through a plate glass window and crashing to the sidewalk below. Amazingly, Jerome kept his wits about him and managed to secure the suspect, while his accomplices were busted by other responding officers.
Detective Constable Mark Scott, 2010
Bravery isn’t a police trait in just the United States. When Detective Constable Mark Scott walked into a gas station in Suffolk, England to buy a pint of milk, he instead found a terrifying situation in progress. A psychotic one-armed man had soaked the floor with gasoline and was threatening to light it and kill everyone in the vicinity. Scott kept his cool and managed to get close enough to the maniac to wrestle him to the ground and seize the lighter, preventing a horrific tragedy.
Deputy Jennifer Fulford-Salvano, 2004
In May of 2004, Orange County Sheriff’s Deputy Jennifer Fulford-Salvano responded to a 911 call from an 8-year-old boy who said that “strange men” were in his house. He and his sister hid in the garage, and when Fulford-Salvano arrived on the scene, she checked there to make sure the kids were still all right. Unfortunately for the officer, the crooks heard the deputies outside and opened fire on her in the garage. Fulford-Salvano took a total of 10 bullets, including hits to her shooting hand, but she was able to pick up her gun with her other hand and return fire, dropping both robbers. The children were unharmed.
Officer Kevin Howland, 2006
Sacramento Police Department officer Kevin Howland demonstrated exactly how far an officer needs to go to deliver a suspect. On a May morning in 2006, Howland, along with other Sacramento officers, was searching for a vehicle that belonged to an armed-robbery suspect. Seeing what he thought was the car, Howland pulled it over and questioned the men inside. Stepping away to call for backup gave the crooks the opportunity they needed to shift into drive and crush Officer Howland in between their car and his police cruiser. He pulled his gun and clung to the hood of their car as they sped off, firing into the vehicle. The perps made a sharp turn and threw him off, but the injured cop struggled to his feet and gave chase on foot, managing to catch up to the car and take in the surviving suspects.
Detective Brian Glacken, 2011
Not every tale of police heroism involves violent suspects. Sometimes the police are called into service simply to save us from ourselves. On a hot June morning in 2011, police responded to calls reporting a woman on a New York City rooftop threatening to jump, distraught over being dumped and losing her job on the same day. Police were unable to talk the woman down and she flung herself to the edge. Amazingly, Emergency Service Unit Detective Brian Glacken had maneuvered himself to a position just a few feet behind her, and he dove to catch her falling body, hanging off of the ledge in mid-air and jeopardizing his own life. A fellow cop pulled them both back in. The first thing the distraught woman did upon discovering she’d been saved was ask for a cigarette.
Officer Timothy Greene, 2005
On an ordinary March day in 2005, a pedestrian flagged down Rock Hill, S.C. police officer Timothy Greene to report a bank robbery in progress. Greene called it in and immediately headed to the crime scene, only to find the suspect already fleeing in his vehicle. An insane chase ensued, with the robber peppering Greene’s windshield with his Sig Sauer machine gun, jumping out of his car every few miles to blast more bullets at Greene, who returned fire at every opportunity. The officer’s dogged pursuit even under heavy fire enabled other cops to join the chase and eventually bring the suspect down. Amazingly enough, Greene was mostly unhurt, although a bullet had passed right through his necktie. His only injury was glass fragments to the face from his windshield.
Officer Rodney Lee Chambers, 2003
Coolness in the face of calamity is a key element of police heroism, and Amtrak officer Rodney Lee Chambers is a perfect illustration. In 2003, Chambers was on patrol in Union Station when he was given orders to investigate a man with a grenade on the West Porch. The man had just attempted to rob a store inside the station, threatening to detonate the grenade if he wasn’t given all the cash in the register. When Officer Chambers stepped in, the suspect picked up the grenade and pulled the pin. Chambers wrestled the man to the ground, grabbed the grenade and took it as far away as possible to minimize potential casualties. The brave officer held onto the explosive for 20 minutes until the bomb squad arrived and disarmed it.
Officer Paul Milone, 2010
Hostage situations are some of the hardest things for police officers to deal with, and they're even scarier if a hostage is a child. In Omaha, Neb., Officer Paul Milone responded to a 911 call from a woman who told officers her fiance was threatening to kill her and her 15-day-old baby. A tense standoff followed that ended with police breaching the apartment and confronting the man, who was standing over the infant’s crib with a samurai sword poised to cut the child in half. Officer Paul Milone, an 11-year veteran of the force, took the shot and killed the swordsman, saving the child’s life. He was later decorated for his marksmanship in the most stressful of situations.
Sergeant Marcus Young, 2003
When Ukiah, Calif. police officer Marcus Young took an unarmed high-school-student cadet out for a ride-along in 2003, it seemed like an ordinary night. Young, who was primarily a desk sergeant, often filled in for the overtime. His car responded to a call from the local Wal-Mart to arrest an 18-year-old female shoplifter. Upon taking the girl into custody, Young was accosted by her boyfriend, who pulled a knife. Young disarmed him and got him in an armlock, but the boyfriend then pulled a gun and shot Young five times in the face, arm and chest. He then tried to enter Young’s patrol car to get another gun. Bleeding profusely and paralyzed on his right side, Young ordered the cadet to grab his pistol and place it into his left hand. With his non-dominant hand, Young shot the criminal four times, stopping him before he could hurt others.