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Corunna Officers awarded for saving woman from icy waters

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: November 16, 2016

— By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor with excerpts from The Argus-Press

Cousins Ryan and Garett Chapko have a lot in common growing up with identical twins as fathers and working for the same police department. Now they are being recognized for their efforts to save a woman’s life.

Corunna Police Officer Ryan Chapko and Corunna Reserve Officer Garett Chapko worked together to rescue a suicidal woman from icy waters in January, earning them recognition within their department and from the Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP). The two were chosen for the LEEP Outstanding Service Award (OSA) and received Lifesaving Awards from the City of Corunna earlier this year.

Corunna Police Officer Ryan Chapko and his cousin, Corunna Reserve Officer Garret Chapko (below) saved a woman from drowning.

Corunna Police Officer Ryan Chapko (above)  and his cousin, Corunna Reserve Officer Garett Chapko (below) saved a woman from drowning.

The dispatch call came in Jan. 9, 2016 for a welfare check of a suicidal woman. When they arrived on scene, the officers made contact with the woman’s sister who reported her location and said she had threatened to kill herself.

Garett found the woman walking near the Shiawassee River and signaled his partner. “I turned around and went in along the shore by the waterfall and I was coming up behind her,” Ryan said. She saw the officers, said some choice words, and that she was “going to end it” and then jumped into the frigid water.

“I remember her looking back at me and saying … ‘I’m done.’ After that I just watched her start to fade away in the water and I knew I had to do it,” Ryan Chapko said. He immediately jumped in after her and began searching. “I’m just thinking, ‘It’s dark, and I don’t know if there’s a current right now, but there might be. If she gets too far away from us she could be in real trouble.’”

What Ryan didn’t think twice about was his own safety. “I knew I had a job that had to be done,” he said. “Honestly I didn’t have any concern for myself. I just wanted to get her out of there. If something started happening to me, I knew my cousin would help me out.”

Garett followed Ryan along the shoreline and helped pull the woman from the water. “He was helping me locate her and supporting me in case I started going out,” Ryan said. “I grabbed her, wrapped my arm around her. I was trying to keep my footing on uneven rocks.”

“It all just happened so fast,” Garett said. “I was nervous, but I knew I wouldn’t let anything happen to him. He jumped in and I stood on the side so I had his back. When he got a hold of her, I made garett-chapkolrsure he didn’t slip and, when he got closer, I helped bring her out onto the land.”

Their teamwork and bravery earned them two sets of lifesaving awards. “I commend Officer Ryan Chapko and Reserve Officer Garett Chapko for their quick thinking and reactions, not fearing the frigid water and saving the life of the suicidal female subject,” said Corunna Police Chief Nick Chiros, when presenting Lifesaving Awards to the two. “I offer my deepest gratitude and heartfelt thanks. They do the job and do it well. At times they go above and beyond.”

“I’m very honored,” Garett said of the City and LEEP awards. “I just do it to help people really, I don’t do it for the awards.”

“It’s not something we’re expected to do, it’s just something we’re willing to do — to put our lives on the line to save someone’s life. It’s just part of the job,” Ryan said. “There are always risks in this job, and we’re all aware of it, but we don’t like to think about it. When it’s all done and over with start stuff starts to go through your head. How can I do it different or what if this would’ve happened?”

Ryan and Garett grew up playing cops and robbers together, but both men thought they would end up in military careers. Ryan did work as a Military Police Officer for the Army 58th MP Company in Hawaii. “I started to do the diesel program but my heart wasn’t in it,” Ryan said.

The 30-year-old was enlisted from 2005-2008 and was honorably discharged due to a herniated disc. “They didn’t want me to deploy and further injure myself and be liable,” he said.

“Every little kid has that dream,” Ryan said. “They’re always playing cops and robbers. My goal in school was going into the military,” however, after the injury, “I went back to Criminal Justice and got an associate’s degree.”

Ryan attended Kellogg Community College Law Enforcement/Police Academy part-time while working a full-time asphalt job. He graduated June 3, 2015. Wanting to work close to home, Ryan applied to Corunna Police Department. “The Chief there gave me the opportunity. I found out they had reserves and Garett did a ride along and liked it so he got the reserve spot,” Ryan said.

Garett, 24, joined Corunna as a Reserve Officer in late 2015. His position is unpaid volunteer, but it has moved him to pursue law enforcement as a career. “I really want to get into the State Police,” Garett said. “I’m trying to get into shape and applying to the academy soon. I’m just one of those people that always want to help others if I can.”

To view published articles on the 2016 LEEP Outstanding Service Award winners, click on the links below:


Police Cousins Recognized for Saving Woman’s Life