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Holland, Jackson Officers honored for saving victims from gunmen

Posted by: Jennifer Gomori Posted date: January 3, 2019

Photos courtesy of Dave Millar, Photographic Impressions North Holland Public Safety Officer Joseph Slenk (from left), Jackson Police Sgt. Timothy Hibbard and Jackson Officers Rachel Kuhn and Thomas Tinklepaugh (right) were awarded 2018n Outstanding Service Awards for their lifesaving efforts.

By Jennifer Gomori, POJ Editor

Three Jackson Police Officers and one Holland Public Safety Officer were honored for bravery and dedication to their profession for putting their lives at risk while stopping gunmen from killing others. The four officers were presented Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP) Outstanding Service Awards Sept. 21, 2018 during the Police Officers Labor Council/General Employees Labor Council (POLC/GELC) Conference at Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City. They were among a group of POLC Officers nominated for the annual awards by their peers.

On April 22, 2018, Holland Public Safety Officer Joseph Slenk’s quick action saved the life of Olive Township resident Mary Hartman. Officer Slenk fatally shot Matthew James Hartman, 27, after he exited the couple’s home holding a gun to his estranged wife’s head and refused orders by police to drop it.

Mr. Hartman had shot two other people, killing one of them, after taking his wife hostage and driving her to Muskegon earlier that morning. Mary Hartman texted her mother after witnessing the shooting of Jordan Carey, 29, an acquaintance of Mary’s, and a 25-year-old woman inside a Muskegon home. Carey died of his injuries.

Mary’s mother called police around 7:30 a.m. while Hartman drove his wife back to their Olive Estates mobile home. Ottawa County Sheriff’s Deputies were dispatched to 8987 Brickersville Dr. as Mary texted updates to police begging for help and saying her husband was going to kill her next. She texted there was a bullet in the chamber, the safety was off, and her husband intended “suicide by cop.” Mr. Hartman exited and re-entered the home twice, ignoring officers’ commands to drop the weapon.

Holland Public Safety Department, a POLC-represented unit, dispatched an armored vehicle occupied by Officers Slenk and Jon Osborn to assist. Around 9 a.m., Matthew Hartman exited the home, holding a 9mm loaded handgun to Mary’s head. Officers yelled for him to drop his weapon while Mary frantically screamed for him to do the same. Officer Slenk emerged from the hatch of the armored vehicle and fired a single rifle shot, striking Matthew Hartman and eliminated the threat. Mary was not injured.

“My conclusion is that Officer Joseph Slenk, who had been made aware of the desperate circumstances of the hostage, acted with legal justification. From the perspective of Officer Slenk, the life of Mary Hartman was in eminent danger, negotiations with Matthew Hartman had failed, and immediate action was necessary to prevent another homicide,” wrote Ottawa County Prosecutor Ronald J. Frantz.

Slenk, a Special Enforcement Team (SET) member and K-9 handler, was an Evidence Technician, West Michigan Enforcement Team Detective, Field Training Officer and 2015 Officer of the Year. “As a member of SET, I have had a lot of shooting and tactical experience including training and shooting out of the hatch of our armored vehicle at targets,” Slenk said. “We train monthly together as a team and one area of our training areas would be hostage rescue. Without any doubt, having done this type of training helped this outcome in saving Mary Hartman’s life.”

On Easter Day, April 1, 2018, Jackson Police responded to a domestic call around 1:30 p.m. between a potentially armed suspect and his 35-year-old girlfriend, Heather Jurasek, who both lived in an upstairs apartment in a residence on the 900 block of Chittock Ave. “He had been beating her and pistol whipping her all night. She escaped to a downstairs apartment to get help and he followed her down,” said Jackson Police Sgt. Tim Hibbard.

Several people were standing outside the house when Officer Thomas Tinklepaugh arrived, “because (the suspect) was trying to kill her,” Hibbard said. As the badly beaten woman stepped off the porch, Christopher Lamarr Hall followed her with a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol. Hall began firing at Officer Tinklepaugh, who was walking toward the residence.

“She ended up escaping out the front door and he was chasing her out the front door when they made contact,” Hibbard said.

One round struck Officer Tinklepaugh in the left leg, causing him to fall. Hall, 34, continued firing as Officer Tinklepaugh crawled behind a telephone pole and returned fire.

Officer Rachel Kuhn, who arrived when Officer Tinklepaugh was approaching the house, heard gunshots when she opened her patrol car door. A round fired by Hall went through her open driver’s door, breaking the window. Officer Kuhn was able to take cover behind her patrol car and return fire.

“I heard the dispatch for the gun call so I responded to assist the two officers,” Sgt. Hibbard said. “I observed the officers approaching from the front on Chittock, so I responded through an alley in the rear of the residence. I didn’t want to come into the location where I’d be seen. I try to give up as few opportunities as possible to the suspect.”

Sgt. Hibbard bravely ran toward the gunfire in the front yard. He saw Hall firing at Officer Tinklepaugh and began shooting at Hall. “He didn’t notice me until I shot him,” Hibbard said. “He went down and was trying to use (Jurasek’s) body as a shield while he was shooting at us. He was back behind her crouched so that she was intentionally in the line of fire, so we had to shoot around her to get to him.”

The suspect turned toward Sgt. Hibbard and collapsed under fire. “Within 30 seconds, the threat was neutralized,” said Jackson Officer Marc W. Smith, who recommended the Jackson Officers for OSA Awards.

Sgt. Hibbard continued to cover Hall while kicking the gun out of his reach. He reassured Jurasek while checking Hall for a pulse several times, but there was none. “The officers then tended Officer Tinklepaugh and the female victim,” Smith said.

Sgt. Hibbard radioed an ambulance for Jurasek, who had been struck in the buttocks by gunfire, and County Deputies took Officer Tinklepaugh to the hospital. The suspect was declared dead at the scene. Officer Kuhn comforted Jurasek until an ambulance transported her to the hospital.

“These officers acted in a concerted effort to handle a deadly situation,” Smith said. “Because of their quick thinking and heroic actions, they limited injuries and saved the lives of fellow officers. They are a credit to themselves, their chosen career and their department.”

Officer Tinklepaugh spent seven months recovering, returning to full-duty Nov. 9. Doctors were unable to remove the bullet lodged in Jurasek’s hip, Hibbard said. All three officers were cleared of any wrongdoing since Hall fired on officers first, according to Jackson County Prosecutor Jerry Jarzynka.

POLC/GELC Executive Director Rob Figurski (right) honors Jackson Police Officer Thomas Tinklepaugh with an Outstanding Service Award for his bravery during a domestic violence call involving an armed man. Tinklepaugh was shot in the leg by the suspect.

To view published articles on the 2018 LEEP Outstanding Service Award winners, click on the links below: