Police officers find themselves involved in some pretty sticky situations with some pretty unsavory characters, and they often need help. Whether that help comes in the form of backup from other officers or just a stranger who happens to be passing by is irrelevant to the fact that police don’t always have the upper hand in every situation, especially when the person they encounter is armed. Sometimes, officers find themselves in predicaments that don’t involve a perpetrator but still place them in grave danger, such as a car accident.
Nonetheless, countless well-intentioned people out there have answered the call to help the police in situations when they needed it most, taking up the opportunity to serve and protect those who’ve sworn to serve and protect. Here are ten times that Good Samaritans saved police officers.
When criminals attack, they often care little about who’s watching and where the confrontation with the police is taking place, as evidenced by an incident in March 2017 when a man attacked a police officer on the highway in broad daylight. Edward Strother, 53 attacked a Lee County deputy named Dean Barde. Barde had stopped to assist the Florida Highway Patrol with an accident which had taken place on the highway, and Strother’s vehicle barreled by at an alarming speed, prompting Barde to give pursuit and pull over the suspect. Once pulled over, Strother drew a firearm and somehow managed to end up on top of the officer, punching him repeatedly. Bad was about to turn to worse when Strother again reached for his firearm.
Then, a motorist named Ashad Russell stopped his vehicle and stepped out with his own firearm drawn. Russell had a permit to carry a concealed weapon. As Strother continued to attack the officer, Deputy Barde cried out to Russell to shoot the man as Strother then reached for his weapon. The whole incident was over in three shots, which left Edward Strother dead on the side of the road and saved the life of Deputy Dean Barde.
In January 2017, a call came in to 911 dispatchers at around 4:30 PM. A man claimed that someone had shot at his vehicle from the median of the road. A state trooper was dispatched to the scene, and while on his way, he came upon a severe accident near Tonopah, Arizona, that would end up claiming the life of one of the women involved. He immediately got out and began setting up flares to mark off the scene of the crash and save lives.
But that’s when an a waiting suspect with a firearm opened fire on the trooper, basically ambushing him out of nowhere and for seemingly no reason. The trooper was wounded and pinned down by the suspect, who continued to fire.
The trooper figured that his best chance at survival would be to charge the suspect and engage him in hand-to-hand combat, even after being shot, and a fight broke out between the two. That’s when a passerby saw the altercation taking place and drew his weapon. Arizona is a state where it’s legal to carry a firearm openly in public places, and the Good Samaritan fired and took down the attacker.
From there, the civilian ran to the trooper’s radio and called for help, to which emergency responders replied that they needed to know where the suspect was so that the police could pursue him. The civilian calmly replied, “He’s laying right next to the officer.” The trooper would end up surviving the attack but could have easily lost his life to a crazed gunman had it not been for the diligence of a Good Samaritan who came prepared.
On Friday, February 5, 2016, two police officers in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, were suddenly attacked by an angry mob after one of them broke up a fight between two teens. The mob was composed of 40 to 50 high school-age onlookers, and the first officer attacked was severely wounded from blows to the head. When the second officer came to assist, he suffered a “major injury” to his leg. The assault was on.
But a neighbor who happened to live in the area where the fight broke out was armed and ready and came out of his home with his weapon drawn. The gun owner had a concealed carry permit in accordance with Pennsylvania law and didn’t even need to point the firearm at any of the assaulting children; he simply strolled up and told them to back off. Not a single shot was fired. The attackers listened, and two police officers survived that day.
Not all Good Samaritan stories involve firearms, permits, and shoot-outs. Sometimes, it boils down to a little bit of initiative and some common sense. Such was the case after an accident on Interstate 45 in Houston, Texas, on February 7, 2019. An officer on a motorcycle was traveling down the freeway at about 5:35 AM when a motorist cut him off, and he lost control of the bike. The motorcycle began to shake, and the officer decided to take it down and bite the pavement to sustain minimal injuries. His bike slid around 150 meters (500 ft) down the road.
That’s when another driver pulled his truck over, effectively blocking traffic, and began to stop and flag down the oncoming cars so that they wouldn’t strike the officer lying in the road. Considering the small size of a motorcycle or person lying in the road, it would have been difficult for drivers to see the wounded officer until it was too late to slow down in time. This Samaritan held off the oncoming drivers until emergency services could arrive.
Another incident where an officer of the law would find himself in need of rescue took place in early February 2019, when a man named Paul Douglas Anderson took on a Springville, Utah, police officer in a physical fight. The event transpired at about 2:00 PM in broad daylight, when the officer saw two feet dangling out of a clothing donation bin. The policeman stopped and demanded that the man in the bin get out, presumably thinking he was stealing the clothing.
The officer requested that Anderson take his hands out of his pockets for fear that he was armed, and Anderson refused. Eventually, he did take his hands out of his pockets, punched the officer, and then proceeded to continue to punching him, until a bystander named Derek Meyer, who was driving by, saw the altercation taking place. He immediately stopped his vehicle and drew his firearm, demanding that Anderson stop the attack. Fortunately, seeing the gun was enough to scare Anderson off. He ran from both men but would ultimately be later captured by police and arrested for the assault.
In a twisted and crazy turn of events, another officer’s life would be saved by a bystander in an incident that would result in some unintended, unjust consequences. It was February 2017, and a 25-year-old Indiana man named Justin Holland was high on methamphetamite, dextromethrophan (a powerful hallucinogen found in cough medicine), marijuana, and benzodiazapines (Xanax, Valium) and attacked a police officer, who’d pulled him over off-duty after receiving a call that a driver was acting erratically.
An altercation broke out, and Holland pinned the police officer to the ground, attacking him violently. A passerby named Kystie Jaehnen saw the incident going down and wasn’t about to just pass and let the man get the best of the officer, so she drew her permitted firearm and shot, striking Justin Holland in the shoulder, a wound which ultimately killed him.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. Justin’s family would later retain an attorney and sue Kystie Jaehnen for killing their son, even though it was done to save the life of the officer whose gun Justin Holland was reaching for to end the altercation in a deadly way. A GoFundMe page was set up for Jaehnen’s defense.
In an entertaining moment captured on video, an incident took place in Provo, Utah, in July 2018, when a man was approaching strangers in a Sam’s Club parking lot and asking for water. Officer Austin Williams was dispatched to check out the scene. He asked the man if he was okay, but the man suddenly attacked him and reached for Officer Williams’s gun while punching him.
Then, out of nowhere, a bystander came along and attacked the perpetrator, who then began to run before the passerby body-slammed the man who was attacking the officer. Body and dash cams captured the magic moment when the man rushed in to grab the offender and throw him to the ground. Had he not done so, the attacker may have gotten the officer’s gun and ended his life.
A similar incident to the one in Utah happened in February 2017, when an officer was attacked, and a passerby intervened to save the day. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a 56-year-old woman named Vickie Williams-Tillman was driving when she observed Officer Billie Amie in a heated argument with another man. She slowed down and was about to ask Amie if he needed help when the perpetrator grabbed the officer’s baton and started beating him with it.
Williams-Tillman got out of her car and rescued the assaulted policeman by jumping on the offender’s back, helping Amie to subdue him. The 56-year-old was, of course, hailed as a hero for her actions in fighting off an attacker who had decided to take on a police officer. She said, “He was in a struggle. He needed help. I said ‘I can’t leave him.’ ”
On Christmas Eve 2018, a Good Samaritan saved a Houston police officer without a single shot being fired or gun being drawn. Juan Carlos Salgado witnessed a police vehicle being struck by a drunk driver. The vehicle burst into flames, with Officer Alonzo Reid still inside. Salgado decided not to just call the police but to go above and beyond and ran toward the fiery scene.
He pulled the trapped Officer Reid from the burning car, which had flipped onto its top. Juan Carlos Salgado, an undocumented immigrant, put his own fears of arrest aside and saved the officer’s life. Afterward, he disappeared into the shadows so that he wouldn’t be deported from the United States. Another man who assisted him took the credit. Tragically, Juan Carlos Salgado would end up dying at the exact same intersection where he’d rescued the officer three weeks later, when he was hit by a car while he was crossing the street. His identity as the man who helped the officer that night became known after his death.
On December 11, 2018, Wyoming County, New York, sheriff Greg Rudolph was on his way to work in an unmarked vehicle when a driver came upon him and followed extremely closely, flashing his lights. Alarmed by the unusual behavior, the sheriff pulled over, and the driver pulled in front of his car, blocking him. Then he exited his own vehicle and attacked Sheriff Rudolph with a knife while the officer fought back and screamed for help. Then a newspaper deliveryman, Jack Harzynski, came passing by.
Harzynski saw the policeman in need of help, and though he was unarmed, he charged at both men and pulled the attacker off Sheriff Rudolph with his bare hands. The two men struggled with the perpetrator, named Lynn Hall, until a state trooper and another person also arrived to assist in the altercation, eventually subduing the attacker and taking him to jail.