6 Mich. officers honored for heroic efforts to save lives

"Their quick response to potentially deadly situations is a testament to their extraordinary courage and commitment to protecting and serving."


By Jennifer Gomori
Police Officers Labor Council Journal Editor

TROY, Mich. — 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). The OSA recipients, who were nominated by fellow POLC officers,  were recognized for their heroic efforts during an awards ceremony.

“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 November 30, 2019, the officers responded to a home to pick up Andre Yarbrough. 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.

Around 2:30 a.m., Johnson saw Arrendondo and Yarbrough exit the back door. Johnson ordered the suspect to come to him and Yarbrough fled. 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, and he exchanged gunshots with Yarbrough who fled on foot.

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

“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.

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.

Battle Creek officers Jeffrey Johnson, Benjamin Downey and Ben Shippell
Battle Creek officers Jeffrey Johnson, Benjamin Downey and Ben Shippell

Flushing Township Police Officer Brian Farlin

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

Officer Farlin, Flushing Fire Chief James Michaels and Flushing City Officers Eric Earns and Matthew Jensen responded to a house fire around 3:25 p.m. Flushing Township and City Officers are both represented by the POLC.

Flushing Township Police Officer Brian Farlin
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. 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.”

They 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 the 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, who was hiding underneath a bed, Farlin said.

Farlin received a Life-Saving Award from Flushing Township. “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 Police Det. Kevin Mihailoff
Mt. Morris Police Det. Kevin Mihailoff

MT. MORRIS CITY POLICE DETECTIVE KEVIN MIHAILOFF

Mt. Morris Police Det. Kevin Mihailoff dove into frigid water to rescue a 50-year-old man trapped underwater in his vehicle on November 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, falling 15 to 20 feet and landing upside down in Brent Run Creek, police said.

“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 made multiple attempts to grab the driver, Christopher Cady, according to a release issued by Mt. Morris Township Sgt. Bill VanBuskirk. Mihailoff also could not locate the victim in the murky water. Volway was unable 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,” said Mihailoff.  “I felt the driver’s side seat headrest. Toward the backseat was the driver. He wasn’t in a seatbelt when I grabbed onto him. 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. He got his feet under him and he took a big huge gasp of air.”

Officer Mackenzie Dunklee helped get the driver to an ambulance. He was treated and released at Hurley Hospital. 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 (WSU) Police K9 Officer Thomas Box
Wayne State University (WSU) Police K9 Officer Thomas Box

WAYNE STATE UNIVERSITY POLICE OFFICER THOMAS BOX

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

Officer Box responded to the Detroit Rescue Mission, at 3535 Third Street, 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.

Officer Box found a shell casing at Third and Brainard. POLC-represented officers were not able to locate the suspect initially and 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.

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 suspect fired several shots at the men. Officer Box confronted him at gunpoint, drawing his attention away from the victims who ran for cover. He ordered the suspect to drop his weapon, but the gunman turned and pointed the handgun at Officer Box. Box shot the suspect, who then pedaled eastbound on Peterboro. Box pursued the suspect until he collapsed in the street. Officer Box and the other responding officers secured his weapon and handcuffed him.

Officers attempted to render medical aid and called an ambulance while Officer Box went to check on the victims. No victims sustained injuries, however, the suspect succumbed to his wounds at the scene.

Police video showed the suspect had fired his weapon at Officer Box before fleeing. Officer Box was cleared of any wrongdoing following an investigation by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office.

“Officer Box was aware of the danger, yet conscientiously performed his duty that day,” wrote Chris Powell, Wayne State University Police Officers Association President, in his OSA nomination letter.

Officer Box was awarded the WSU Police Department’s Medal of Valor and was 2019 WSU Police Officer of the Year. He was also awarded the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police 2020 Medal of Honor.

“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.”

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