Sometimes, saving a life takes quick thinking. Other times, it takes patience, or courage, or a willingness to make the extra effort.
The opportunity presents itself frequently to police officers and sometimes, unexpectedly, to the rest of us. Thursday night, the Lawrence Police Department presented awards to four citizens and 13 police offers who helped save a life or prevent a tragedy from unfolding this year. The awards presentation preceded a graduation ceremony for 13 new police officers and two new deputies of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, together representing the police department's 33rd academy class.
Chief of Police Tarik Khatib said the examples set by the citizens and officers receiving awards was the best possible lesson for the graduating class.
"It's a story of commitment, involvement and looking out for your fellow human being," Khatib said. "It's a snapshot, a day in the life, of the citizen and the police officer."
Linda Baranski, of Lawrence, wasn't expecting to be part of that story when she arrived at a Lawrence Walmart on a Wednesday morning, June 13. But when she saw two young children sitting outside a van blindfolded, their hands and feet bound with industrial tape, in the parking lot at 550 Congressional Drive, she called police. Police removed those children and three older ones from the van, and arrested the parents on suspicion of child endangerment. Baranski, who preferred not to comment Thursday as the case remains in the courts, received the police department's Citizen Meritorious Service Award.
Other stories Thursday night told of lives saved, with some of the rescued present to enjoy the celebration.
Bri Reynolds, Callie Borszich, and Erin Eifler each received a Citizen Lifesaving Award for saving 4-year-old Jonah Domnick from drowning in a swimming pool in June. Domnick, though unresponsive when rescued from the water, made a full recovery and attended Thursday night's event.
Many of the police officers recognized Thursday had put their own lives in danger in the course of rescuing others.
Lawrence police Sgt. Anthony Brixius and Officers Shawn Gross and Stephen Ramsdell received Life Saving awards for retrieving a man contemplating suicide at the Kansas River Bridge. Gross also received a Commendation Award for his special efforts in saving the man.
Police Officers Charles Stewart, Tina Shambaugh, Tracy Russell and Leo Souders each received Life Saving Awards for applying CPR and other emergency procedures to people in medical emergencies such as car accidents and heart attacks.
Commendation Awards went to Sgt. Susan Hadl, retired, and Officers Stephen Ramsdell, Steve Verbanic, Sutagee Anglin and Adam Welch for their roles in disarming a man threatening crowds of downtown pedestrians with a gun and a knife at 2 a.m. on May 21. The officers warned passersby away from danger and arrested the man, recovering a handgun loaded with 14 bullets.
Police Officer Samuel Hiatt and Sgt. Trent McKinley received Commendation Awards for their parts in resolving a domestic violence call that escalated when a man locked himself into his trailer with his wife and threatened police with a gun. McKinley warned officers preparing to break down the door that the man inside was pointing a gun at the entrance, and Hiatt eventually persuaded the man to give himself up.
McKinley said the awards were paired with the graduation ceremony to make sure that the honorees received as much recognition as possible.
"We can't function as police officers without the support of our community," McKinley said. "That's essential."