Recognizing Kansas heroes: They saved babies, survived shootouts and stopped a bison

Eleven Wichita officers have been honored for their bravery or response in 2022, including incidents where they resuscitated an infant, saved children from a burning home, rescued people who planned to jump off a bridge and a parking garage, and stopped an armed man during a domestic violence call.

More than 65 officers — including ones in Andover, Butler County, Belle Plaine, Park City and Valley Center — received awards during the annual Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police conference in May at the Kansas Star Casino.

A chief’s award for officers who died in the line of duty honored Sidnee Taylor Carter, a Sedgwick County Sheriff’s Office deputy who died in a car crash less than one week after she went on patrol.

Here are the stories of Wichita-area officers who were recognized:

Gold Award: Facing down armed men

This award recognizes uncommon valor in the line of duty.

Wichita officers Alex Gregerson, Roberto Martinez and Sgt. Jason Bryant were recognized for stopping an armed suspect during a Jan. 3, 2022, domestic violence call.

The victim, who had injuries to her face and throat, told police she had been beaten by her boyfriend. She told police where they could find him.

Police were told he might be armed and would not cooperate.

Police circled the home.

Gregerson was at the front when the suspect came out, holding a gun to his head. The officers yelled for the man to put down the gun, but he wouldn’t.

Martinez, at Bryant’s order, put away his gun and pulled out his Taser. He fired both cartridges from the Taser. Bryant then shot both of his Taser cartridges, with the second sending the suspect to the ground.

He fell against a fence with his gun pointed to the sky.

Martinez grabbed the gun, which fired one shot “in a safe direction” that didn’t hit anyone, the association’s award narrative says. The suspect was taken into custody.

Butler County Sheriff’s Office deputies Wesley Stewart, Thomas Maloney, Nicholas Treantafeles and the department’s SWAT team were awarded for stopping an armed man trying to enter a bank on March 17, 2022.

The person had two guns — one in his hands — when he tried to enter Vintage Bank in Leon. The deputies, and an officer identified in the association notes only as Sergeant White, told the man to stop. When he didn’t, they opened fire, hitting the man.

“The subject was partially inside the front door of the bank,” the notes say.

The suspect still would not drop his weapons. Officers, including Maloney, went through the back of the bank and disarmed the man, who was treated by EMS and then taken to the hospital.

Silver Award: Braving dangers, saving babies

This award is for extraordinary action that contributes to the saving of a life.

Andover police officer Robert Garland II was awarded for helping get a boy and woman away from a burning home on Oct. 2.

Garland was the first person to arrive to the 911 call.

He found the two on the roof above the porch. The fire was on the back side of the house on the second story.

Garland told a neighbor to get a ladder. As flames made it to the awning, he told them they needed to jump.

The boy did. The woman would not.

Garland then got on the hood of his car in the driveway and tried to help. When the neighbor returned with the ladder, Garland set it up and the woman climbed down.

Moments later, flames engulfed the awning.

The boy and woman spent several days in the hospital for smoke inhalation, but they survived.

Belle Plaine officer Prida Poulima was awarded for pulling a person from a burning vehicle on Nov. 6.

Police were on the lookout for a reckless driver when the vehicle passed him, ran a stop sign and hit a Pizza Hut.

“The vehicle went airborne and landed upright against the southeast corner of the business,” the association notes say. “The front of the vehicle was on the Pizza Hut roof area, and the engine area of the vehicle caught fire rather quickly.”

Poulima tried to use his fire extinguisher, but couldn’t reach the engine or roof where it was on fire. He thought the driver was unconscious.

“Officer Poulima called out to the male driver but the driver’s injuries made it impossible for him to assist himself in getting to safety,” the awards notes say. “Officer Poulima grabbed the driver under his arms and pulled him to safety.”

Wichita officer Hector Gonzalez was awarded for saving an infant on June 26.

Gonzalez was finishing up a call and heading back to his patrol vehicle when a woman ran out of a home holding her infant. She said her baby hadn’t been breathing for about a minute.

The officer took the baby, but couldn’t find anything blocking his airway. He turned the baby over and started to do the Heimlich maneuver. After several tries, Gonzalez was able to force mucus from the infant’s airway, allowing the baby to breathe again.

Wichita office Jason Lane was awarded for pulling an unconscious woman from her vehicle running in her garage on Sept. 27.

Police were contacted by a Kansas City woman who said her mother had called to say she was going to kill herself. The caller said officers had pulled her mother from her running vehicle in the garage just two weeks earlier.

When Lane arrived, he had to jump the chained and padlocked fence. The back door was barricaded. He looked into the garage and saw the vehicle running with the woman inside, unconscious.

Lane kicked in the door to get to the garage. Power had been disconnected to the garage door opener. Lane turned the car off and then opened the garage door with the “emergency cord or by physically unlatching the lock on the door itself,” the notes say.

He had been exposed to the exhaust for over five minutes before he was able to open the garage door.

The unconscious woman was removed from the vehicle and taken to the hospital.

Wichita officers Travis Cox and Jerrad Daniels were awarded for rescuing children from a house fire on Dec. 21.

The officers were responding to a domestic violence call when they noticed a 4-year-old boy out in the cold, crying for help. Officers knocked on the door, but opened it after no one answered. Smoke poured out when they did.

The officers found a 2-year-old boy sitting on the couch and a 3-month-old girl crying from a back room.

“The minor children were left unattended and would have succumbed to the smoke had officers not found and removed them,” the notes say.

The children’s mother, who left to go Christmas shopping, was later arrested.

Outside of the Wichita area, an unusual case involved Rice County deputy Cameron Beakley, who saved an Ellsworth County deputy who had been gored by a bison on Aug. 7.

Beakley was responding to a call of a loose bison that had already killed its owner.

He saw the bison gore and throw deputy Jerry Slaight in the air and removed his patrol rifle from his vehicle.

He told the injured deputy to move toward him while he provided cover.

The bison started to charge the injured deputy.

Beakley fired several rounds before the bison fell. Beakley saw a four-inch hole in Slaight’s leg and applied a tourniquet. He also put a “battlefield dressing” on the wound, radioed for help and calmed the deputy while they waited on EMS.

“Hospital staff later advised the first aid measures provided by Deputy Beakley added to the saving of the injured deputy’s life as the bison horn had penetrated further into the Ellsworth deputy’s leg than what Deputy Beakley could see,” the notes said.

Bronze Award: Pulling people from bridges, buildings

This award recognizes outstanding achievement above and beyond normal law enforcement duties.

Wichita officer Erik Landon and Valley Center officers Rasheed Berry and Liliana Garcia were awarded for pulling a man from a bridge near Meridian Avenue just north of Rio Vista Drive on May 4, 2022.

It’s about a 40-foot fall down to the river or bank of the river, the notes say.

Berry and Garcia noticed the man standing on the outer part of the railing, squatting down, and apparently getting ready to jump. They grabbed onto him and held on until Landon arrived, then the three pulled him over the railing.

Wichita officers Lacey Ezell, Cody McCall and Travis Kilpatric were awarded for pulling a person off the top floor ledge of a city parking garage on Sept. 4.

The officers found the person with one foot on the outside of the metal railing. He was yelling that he wouldn’t be in that situation if they “listened an hour ago.” The officers tried talking him down and reaching out to help him back over into safety, but he wouldn’t, the notes say.

McCall and Kilpatric then grabbed him and pulled him to safety. All three officers worked to restrain him and calm him. He was then taken to a hospital for a mental health evaluation.

Valley Center Sgt. J.C. Kirk and Park City officer Jordan Whitfield were awarded for pulling a suicidal man from a bridge on Feb. 28, 2022.

Officers were originally called to a QuikTrip about a man with cuts on his forearm saying he wanted to kill himself.

Kirk found the man walking on 1-135 north of 61st Street. Whitfield arrived soon after. When the officers caught up to the man, he was sitting on the railing of the bridge over Chisholm Creek. He was rocking back and forth and slapping his hands against his head.

Kirk talked to the man while Whitfield moved into position. They grabbed the man and pulled him to safety. The officers also stopped the man from banging his head against the ground while they restrained him.

He was taken to a Wichita hospital for mental health and medical treatment.

Awards around Kansas

Here are highlights of some of the awardees outside of the Wichita area:

  • Officers and a firefighter in Leawood rescued a partially conscious female from a burning vehicle that was on its side after an accident. An officer and firefighter tilted the vehicle while other officers pulled her out.

  • An off-duty Kansas City officer went out on the ice to help a family escape after they drove into a pond, leaving the SUV partially submerged.

  • A Kansas City captain saved an officer overdosing from fentanyl exposure by giving him Narcan.

  • A police pursuit with Lawrence police and a trooper where the murder suspect fired from their vehicle and disabled a officer’s vehicle

  • An Olathe school resource officer was shot multiple times by a high school student but was able to return fire, stopping the suspect.

  • Officers giving CPR and first aid to people who had been shot or stabbed