Alex Oberfeld flew all the way from California to Ann Arbor just to say thanks Saturday.
“There was really no question whether we’d come or not,” said the University of Michigan sophomore who Ann Arbor fire crews rescued during a fraternity house last winter. ““I was lost in the smoke in one of the rooms. These guys saved my life.”
For their efforts, the four firefighters – Christopher Taylor, Jason Gravelle, Christopher McGlothin and Captain Ruppel – were awarded Medals of Valor at the Ann Arbor Safety Services Awards Ceremony Saturday morning in the atrium of the Justice Center before a crowd of about 80.
The medals were just a few honors handed out at the ceremony, which celebrated the bravery and heroics of not just police and fire personal, but quick-thinking citizens and a Boy Scout Troop.
In fact, Chief John Seto, who oversees both departments, said most police officers and firefighters view their acts of heroism as just another day on the job.
“All of them are very uncomfortable with special recognition and would consider all the extraordinary things they do as just part of the job,” he said.
Boy Scout Troop 27 was awarded the Fire Safety Life Award for helping the fire department contend with the brutal winter when 71 inches of snow fell in the city of Ann Arbor.
Armed with shovels, the troop helped dig out some of the 3,000 fire hydrants.
“These scouts helped to ensure that the water lines were available for firefighting in Ann Arbor,” Seto said. “We applaud the initiative and are grateful to these scouts and their families for stepping up to the plate when our city resources were greatly challenged by the continuous heavy snowfall.”
Citizens who helped catch crooks were also honored at the ceremony.
Floyd “Bill” Hammp helped nab a man who stuck up the Shell gas station at State and Eisenhower, which he happened to be walking past last summer right after the robbery. Deputy Chief Gregory Bazick said Hammp provided police with information that led to an arrest.
“The timing of this was crucial,” Bazick said.
Citizens Hillary Lowe and Brad McNett assisted in a purse snatching case and Ian Evans snapped a picture of a break-in suspect’s vehicle, both which helped lead to arrests.
Several people were honored for their role in the Rush Street shooting, including Canton police officer Jennifer Moss and Huron Valley Ambulance employees Timothy Skeeter, Sara Helmen, Anthony Jenkins and Harim El-Hady.
Moss and the HVA employees were all off-duty and just happened to be at Rush Street last fall when 25-year-old Zachery Finneren, of Romulus, opened fire on 25-year-old Marty LaBelle, of Chicago, striking him in the abdomen.
A sixth person, Andrew Parth, had acted quickly to restrain Finneren, police said.
“Mr. Parth witnessed the shooting and ran towards the subject as others tackled him,” Bazick said.
While Parth held Finneren down, Moss got the gun and ejected the magazine from it. Meanwhile, the off-duty medics attended to LaBelle’s gunshot wound.
Detective William Stanford was singled out for his exemplary work getting confessions in both cases and was also honored as the Ann Arbor police officer of the year.
Officers David Ried, Jeffrey Shafer and Roman Morrow were given a lifesaving award for pulling a 60-year-old woman to safety during a fire in an apartment house on Packard in January 2013.
Lt. Matthew Hughes was named Ann Arbor firefighter of the year. Fire commendations also went to Taylor and Christopher Nielson.
The ceremony was followed by an open house at the fire station where the public was treated to free hot dogs and got to check out various fire trucks, SWAT vehicles and police motorcycles. Murray, the newest Ann Arbor police dog, and Firefighter Fred were also on hand at the event