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Six POLC officers honored for heroic efforts to save lives in house fire, icy waters, gunfire

Posted by: jgomori Posted date: September 24, 2020


Photo courtesy of Battle Creek Police Department
Battle Creek Officers (from left) Benjamin Downey, Jeffrey Johnson on crutches and Ben Shippell (right) were honored for their heroism by President Donald Trump.

By Jennifer Gomori, with excerpts from news media and Facebook

Three Battle Creek Police Officers and officers from Flushing Township, Mt. Morris and Wayne State University were honored with 2020 Outstanding Service Awards (OSA) by the Police Officers Labor Council (POLC). OSA recipients were recognized for their heroic efforts during awards ceremonies at each department. The officers were nominated by fellow POLC Officers for the annual awards.

“The POLC is extremely proud to represent these brave officers,” said POLC Director Rob Figurski. “Their quick response to potentially deadly situations is a testament to their extraordinary courage and commitment to protecting and serving.”

BATTLE CREEK POLICE OFFICERS JEFFREY JOHNSON, BENJAMIN DOWNEY & BEN SHIPPELL

What started as an arrest for outstanding warrants ended with Battle Creek Officer Jeffrey Johnson being shot several times and Officers Benjamin Downey and Ben Shippell rushing to save his life.

In the early morning hours of Nov. 30, 2019, the officers responded to a home on the 300 block of Cherry Street. “We had information that Andre Yarbrough was in the residence there, so we were gonna go there to attempt to pick him up,” Johnson testified, according to a Newschannel 3 article. “I’ve dealt with him several times as a police officer.”

The female homeowner, later identified as Yarbrough’s girlfriend Heather Arredondo, denied he was there. However, Officer Johnson thought he observed Yarbrough inside the home, so officers decided to keep surveillance of the house.

Photos courtesy of Battle Creek Police Officer Jeffrey Johnson
Battle Creek Officers Benjamin Downey (left) and Ben Shippell (right) visit injured Officer Jeffrey Johnson in the hospital.

Around 2:30 a.m. Johnson saw the woman and Yarbrough exit the back door. Johnson ordered the suspect to come to him. Yarbrough fled and Johnson radioed he was chasing the suspect. He caught up to him at a fence and the two began to fight.

Arredondo ran toward them and began hitting and pushing the officer. As Officer Johnson attempted to get the woman off him, Yarbrough shot Johnson in the leg. He fell to the ground and Yarbrough stood over him and shot the officer in the chest and wrist. Officer Johnson’s bullet resistant vest stopped the bullet to the chest.

“It was extremely painful,” he testified about his leg injury. “I could literally feel the bone grinding on itself.”

Despite his injuries, Johnson exchanged gunshots with Yarbrough as the suspect fled on foot and then called dispatch for help.

Officers Downey and Shippell found Johnson on the ground behind the garage and began giving him first aid. Shippell applied a tourniquet to Johnson’s serious leg injury while Downey kept him engaged. Due to the extent of his injuries, Downey decided not to wait for an ambulance, transporting Johnson directly to the hospital.

Downey and Shippell’s quick actions and decisions saved Johnson’s life. “Johnson’s courage under fire, survival mindset, and the efforts by Downey and Shippell to save a critically injured brother-in-blue demonstrate the finest qualities of the police profession and the POLC is proud to represent them,” said POLC Executive Board member Scott Eager, a Battle Creek Police Sergeant.

Johnson performed his duty despite being severely injured. He fought two people and was shot twice. The gunshot to his leg shattered his femur, yet he continued to engage the suspect.

Officers from several departments searched for Yarbrough until 4:30 p.m. and found him in an apartment. He was arraigned on charges of assault with intent to murder, resisting police causing serious impairment, and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Arredondo was arraigned on charges of resisting and obstructing police causing serious injury and harboring a felon.

Officer Johnson was awarded the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police 2020 Medal of Honor and Purple Heart.

FLUSHING TOWNSHIP POLICE OFFICER BRIAN FARLIN

Flushing Township Police Officer Brian Farlin rescued a 17-year-old girl trapped inside her burning home Oct. 19, 2019.

Officer Farlin, Flushing Fire Chief James Michaels and Flushing City Officers Eric Earns and Matthew Jensen were dispatched around 3:25 p.m. to a house fire on the 3000 block of Crooked Limb Court. Flushing Township and City Officers are both represented by the POLC.

Photo courtesy of Flushing Township Police
Flushing Township Police Officer Brian Farlin

The Flushing City Officers lifted Officer Farlin and the Flushing Fire Chief to the home’s first story roof where they had access to the second level, according to a Flushing Township Police Facebook post. Chief Michaels broke a second story bedroom window and Officer Farlin pulled the victim out of the smoke-filled room safely through the broken glass.

“I ripped the curtains down and draped the curtains over the window. We physically lifted her up and brought her out horizontally. She didn’t get cut,” said Farlin who suffered lacerations and abrasions to his hands and arms. “The Chief had protective gear on and obviously I didn’t.”

Farlin and Michaels lowered the victim down to city officers, who rushed her to a waiting ambulance. “We looked over the edge of the roof and everyone was gone,” Farlin said, laughing. “So, we just climbed down the antenna. It was no big deal.”

The victim, who was home alone, was treated and released from an area hospital for smoke inhalation. The fire was caused by one of the children leaving something burning on the stove. “She was in the bathroom giving the dog a bath and smoke came up through the vents,” Farlin said. “She called her dad and her brother called 911.”

Flushing Firefighters rescued the dog, which was hiding underneath a bed, Farlin said.

Farlin received a Life-Saving Award from Flushing Township Police. “On October 21st, Chief Michaels came into my office and informed me of what had occurred,” said Flushing Township Police Chief Mark Bolin during the award presentation. “I asked him what would have happened had they not responded in such a timely fashion and he said the results would likely have been fatal.”

MT. MORRIS CITY POLICE DETECTIVE KEVIN MIHAILOFF

Mt. Morris Police Det. Kevin Mihailoff dove into frigid water and rescued a 50-year-old man trapped underwater in his vehicle Nov. 4, 2019.

POLC-represented units Mt. Morris City and Mt. Morris Township Police responded around 12:15 p.m. to a 911 call from a bystander. The vehicle went through a guardrail on Stanley Road near Clio Road, falling 15 to 20 feet and landing upside down in Brent Run Creek, police said.

Photo courtesy of Mt. Morris PD
Mt. Morris Police Det. Kevin Mihailoff dove underwater to rescue a man trapped in his vehicle.

“The inside of the car was completely filled with water. The water was at my waist level and I’m 6-feet tall,” said Mihailoff, the local Union President. “The roof was smashed in. When I jumped over the guardrail and slid down the steep embankment, (Mt. Morris Township) Officer (Cody) Volway was already in the water and broke out one window and was trying to get the door open. He could hear someone inside the car.”

Volway used a window punch to break the driver side rear window and made multiple attempts to try to grab the driver, later identified as Christopher Cady, according to a release issued by Mt. Morris Township Sgt. Bill VanBuskirk.

Mihailoff was also unsuccessful reaching the victim in the murky water. Officer Volway tried but failed to break another car window, so Det. Mihailoff removed his gun belt and dove in. “I went into the (broken) rear window … halfway. I couldn’t see anything,” Mihailoff said. “I felt the driver seat side headrest. Toward the backseat was the driver.”

“He wasn’t in a seatbelt when I grabbed onto him,” said Mihailoff, also a part-time Mt. Morris Township Officer. “I felt his arm and hand and grabbed onto him and pulled him toward me.”

“I don’t know the temperature of the water, but it took my breath away,” he said, adding he had to come up for air. “I almost lost grip, went back down again and pulled him more. I picked him up by the front part of his coat. He got his feet under him and he took a big huge gasp of air.”

After confirming no one else was in the vehicle, Mt. Morris Township Officer Mackenzie Dunklee helped medical personnel get the driver to an ambulance. He was transported to Hurley Hospital, where he was treated and released. Mihailoff was treated for exposure at the scene.

“The quick response time and actions that were demonstrated by Officer Volway, Officer Dunklee and Det. Mihailoff saved Mr. Cady’s life,” Sgt. VanBuskirk stated in the release. “All three demonstrated tremendous bravery and the will to not give up until Mr. Cady was freed from the vehicle. Awesome Job!!!”

WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY K9 POLICE OFFICER THOMAS BOX

Wayne State University (WSU) Police K9 Officer Thomas Box risked his life to stop a gunman shooting at three men June 5, 2019, after the man had shot at another victim earlier that day.

Officer Box responded to the Detroit Rescue Mission, located at 3535 Third Street, earlier that evening after shots were fired outside the building at the first victim around 10:55 p.m. The victim told police he ran inside the rescue mission after being threatened with the gun and heard a gunshot seconds later. He described the perpetrator as a white man with red hair wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and facemask. The victim said the gunman pedaling away on a bicycle with orange rims northbound on Third Street.

Photo courtesy of Wayne State University Police Department
Wayne State University K9 Officer Thomas Box

During the search with Officers Edward Viverette and Julian Gherasim, Officer Box found a shell casing at Third and Brainard. Officers were not able to locate the suspect initially so Officer Box returned to the scene seeking surveillance video or photos of the suspect. While talking to the victim, the victim saw the gunman pedaling southbound on Third Street. Officer Box called for backup and saw the gunman pull out a handgun from his waistband and point it at three men outside 3430 Third Street. The gunman fired several shots at the men.

Officer Box ran toward the gunman, confronting him at gunpoint, drawing his attention away from the victims who ran for cover. He ordered the suspect to drop his weapon several times, but the suspect turned toward Officer Box and pointed the handgun at him. Officer Box fired his service weapon, wounding the suspect, who then pedaled eastbound on Peterboro. Officer Box pursued while notifying dispatch of the chase. The suspect collapsed in the middle of the street and Officer Box and the other responding officers secured his weapon and handcuffed him.

Officers attempted to render medical aid and called an ambulance. Officer Box went to check on the victims, who did not sustain injuries. The suspect succumbed to his wounds at the scene.

Police video later showed the suspect had fired his weapon at Box before fleeing. Officer Box was cleared of any wrongdoing following an investigation by Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. “Officer Box was aware of the danger, yet conscientiously performed his duty that day,” wrote Chris Powell, President of POLC-represented Wayne State University Police Officers Association, in his OSA nomination letter.

Officer Box was awarded WSU Police Department’s highest honor, the Medal of Valor, for risking his own life to save the lives of others. Box was honored as WSU’s Police Officer of the Year for 2019 and was awarded the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police 2020 Medal of Honor.

“Before backup arrived, the suspect started shooting at a group of men nearby. You focused the shooter’s attention on you as you yelled for the suspect to stop,” said WSU Police Chief Anthony Holt, during the Medal of Valor presentation. “The suspect pointed his weapon at you and you stopped the threat. Officer Box you saved several lives that night, including your own. It is an honor and a privilege to present you with a Medal of Valor award for your heroic acts.”

To view published articles on the 2020 POLC Outstanding Service Award winners, click on the links below: