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Detroit police, firefighters honored for life-saving efforts

November 28, 2018

Detroit Police Officer Ryan O'Connell poses for a photo Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2018, in Detroit. O'Connell will be one of more than 30 first responders to receive Medals of Valor Thursday, Nov. 29 at the Detroit Public Safety Foundation's annual Above and Beyond ceremony. In June, O'Connell and Sean Bell talked a distraught man out of taking his own life in the attic of a Detroit home. (AP Photo/Corey R. Williams)

DETROIT (AP) — Officer Ryan O’Connell remembers how hot it was in the cramped attic of a Detroit home as he and his partner confronted an armed man intent on taking his own life.

The 15 minutes it took to coax the man out seemed much longer, but O’Connell and Officer Sean Bell convinced the man to leave — peacefully. They are among 23 officers, eight firefighters and one paramedic who will receive the Medal of Valor at the Detroit Public Safety Foundation’s annual Above and Beyond ceremony on Thursday.

“I was more thinking about him. Our main goal was to keep him alive,” O’Connell said about the man they found sitting in the corner of the attic last June. “We convinced him that a lot of people cared about him.”

Detroit Police Chief James Craig lauded O’Connell and Bell for the patience they showed in such a tense situation.

“He wasn’t injured. They weren’t injured,” Craig told The Associated Press. “The men and women who serve today across this great nation are America’s heroes. They run to gunfire, engage suspects who are armed with weapons.”

Fifteen officers who responded to a February 2018 shooting will also be awarded the Medal of Valor. Officers Jovaraka Tyus and Eric Smith were wounded and pulled to safety by other officers. Sgt. Rocco Corsetti crawled across street to tell people in a nearby home to take shelter. The gunman killed his girlfriend and two other women before killing himself.

Seven officers also will be honored with Purple Heart medals after being wounded or injured in the line of duty. Four will be awarded posthumously, including a former officer who died about a year ago from complications from a gunshot wound received during a 1972 robbery call.

“We don’t talk about what these Detroit police officers are dealing with,” Craig said. “Whenever you don that uniform, and you’re in the field, everyone knows you’re a police officer. The suspect knows that’s a police officer. If suspects decide to cause the police officer harm, they have the drop on you.”

Of the firefighters receiving the Medal of Valor, five risked their lives to pull people from burning buildings or help them escape some other way. The other three firefighters and the paramedic are being honored for trying to save people from drowning.

“There is not enough time to thank these heroes for the sacrifices they make or the sacrifices their families make,” Executive Fire Commissioner Eric Jones said. “We cannot underestimate the danger they encounter daily, and although they are fully aware of these dangers, they forge ahead, saving lives and property.”

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