Officer Christopher Woolery has earned the Superior Police Department's second-highest honor, the Medal of Valor, for his heroism during an incident Aug. 27 on the Blatnik Bridge.
When a man jumped on top of the bridge rail and flung himself over the side, Woolery grabbed the back of his shirt. The man's shirt slipped out of the officer's hand, but the man grabbed the rail as he went over it. Woolery planted his knees against the side rail and reached over to grab the man's clothing.
Four other officers rushed in to help. It took 80 seconds of straining to pull the uncooperative man onto the bridge deck and take him safely into custody.
"It could have been anybody who was up there," Woolery said, noting he was in the right place at the right time.
And he showed no hesitation, as body camera footage revealed.
"When I went back and I watched the video, it kind of made me a little sick at how close everything was," said Woolery, a nine-year veteran of the department.
When it was over, he and the other officers involved, all of whom earned distinguished service awards for their roles in the incident, went back to work.
"I don't even remember what the next call was," Woolery said. "I still had half a day to finish out."
Woolery and the other officers were presented awards during a recognition ceremony Thursday, Feb. 28, at the Government Center.
The SPD responds to approximately 25,000 calls a year. The recognition ceremony, started in 2005, serves as a way to honor officers for heroic deeds, exceptional conduct and life-saving efforts.
For 2018 incidents, the department gave letters of commendation to 23 officers and handed out five fitness awards. Fourteen officers received lifesaving awards for eight incidents and seven officers were recognized with distinguished service awards for their work on two incidents: the bridge call and one in Superior's Central Park neighborhood during which a suspect was shot by officers. Three officers earned lifesaving awards for tending to the man's injuries during the same incident.
"We have to switch gears sometimes so quickly from a life or death decision to saving a life," Assistant Chief Matt Markon said.
Police Chief Nicholas Alexander pointed out that half of the incidents for which officers earned lifesaving awards involved heroin overdoses. Those calls bring with them the risk of possible exposure to heroin and fentanyl, which could cause death.
"Besides the lifesaving, I just want to recognize that on every one of those calls where a life is saved, there is some risk to the officer involved," Alexander said.
They are common calls, Woolery said.
"That's probably day to day one of my biggest fears, getting stuck by a needle," he said.
The department will also be designing a commemorative pin with the date 4-26-18 on it to be awarded to department members, officers, civilians and auxiliary members who responded to assist with evacuation efforts during the Husky Oil Refinery fire.
This is the second time the department has issued a Medal of Valor for an incident since the award recognition ceremony began in 2005. Sgt. Bill Lear, Investigator Jeff Harriman and Officer Todd Carlson were awarded Medals of Valor in conjunction with a 2012 officer-involved shooting incident.
Medal of Valor: Officer Christopher Woolery.
Distinguished service awards: Officer Brad Esler, Officer George Gothner, Officer Michael Kendall, Officer Mikayla LeRette, Officer Joel Markon, Sgt. Adam Poskozim and Officer Christopher Woolery.
Lifesaving awards: Officer Matthew Brown, Douglas County Dispatcher Kaitlyn Cadigan, Officer Griffith Coffman, Officer Ronald Custer, Officer Patrick Deignan, Officer Robert Eastman, Officer Brad Esler, Deputy Matt Izzard, Officer Bradley Jago, Officer Austin Johnson, Officer Marc Letendre, Officer Jonathan Marchiori, Sgt. Paul Winterscheidt.
Letters of commendation: Officer paul Bourque, Officer Matthew Brown, Officer Todd Carlson, Officer Lucas Ciciora, Officer Griffith Coffman, Officer Ronald Custer, Officer Patrick Deignan, Officer Nicholas Eastman, Officer Peter Erickson, Officer Brad Esler, Officer Jeffrey Harriman and K9 Lacka, Officer Bradley Jago, Officer Austin Johnson, Officer Mikayla LeRette, Officer Marc Letendre, Officer Charles Mahlen, Officer Jonathan Marchiori, Officer Justin McIntosh, Officer Russ Milrowy, Sgt. Adam Poskozim, Detective Greg Swanson, Sgt. Paul WInterscheidt.
Fitness award: Chief Nicholas Alexander, Officer Griffith Coffman, Officer Brian Davis, Officer Adam Johnson, Officer Taavi Mattson.
A full list of awards is posted on the Telegram website.