Detroit cops, firefighters, medics to be honored for bravery

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit firefighters who risked their lives to save citizens from burning houses and a pair of cops who talked a man out of committing suicide are among Detroit's first responders who will be honored Thursday for their valor.

Detroit firefighters who risked their lives to save citizens from burning houses, and a pair of cops who talked a man out of committing suicide are among Detroit's first responders who will be honored for their valor Thursday.

The Detroit Public Safety Foundation is hosting the 6th annual “Above & Beyond” awards ceremony from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday at the Renaissance Center's Marriott Hotel.

Detroit Pistons public address announcer John Mason is scheduled to emcee the ceremony. Among the scheduled attendees are Mayor Mike Duggan and members of the Detroit City Council.

"We're recognizing the heroism of Detroit police, Detroit fire and EMS," Public Safety Foundation director Patti Kukula said. "Every day, members of these three branches are rushing into danger to keep us safe. People attack these folks when they're trying to be helpful; it seems a lot of people are angry these days.

"So we want to recognize and celebrate their bravery and service," she said. "I appreciate what they do. They have families like all of us, but while we drive to work and go to our safe offices, these guys put on heavy equipment and trudge through the worst of the worst."

Among those being honored: 

  •  Firefighter Robert Simmons and Sergeant Timothy Wilson. On March 19, 2018, Engine 39 responded to a house fire. Simmons saw a man in the second-story window, overcome by smoke. The two firefighters ran up a smoke-filled, flame-engorged stairwell and corridor and found the man still alive. They carried him outside to safety. Simmons and Wilson will receive the Medal of Valor.
  • Firefighter Justin Berrelez. On Dec. 31, 2017, Berrelez's Engine 53 responded to a fire in a two-family flat.  He entered the flat to see if anyone was possibly trapped inside. Forging through intense heat, smoke and flames, he found an unconscious woman in a second-floor back bedroom. Berrelez carried the woman while another firefighter used a hand line to provide a way for him to escape down the stairwell and out the front door. Berrelez, with help from Sgt. Jeffrey Urbas, immediately began CPR in an attempt to revive the victim, although she did not survive. "Despite the tragic outcome, Firefighter Berrelez was brave and heroic in his attempt to save the victim and is being recognized with the Medal of Valor," a Public Safety Foundation press release said.
  • Firefighter Michael Hall: Engine 58 was dispatched to a house fire on Riad Street on Nov. 12, 2017. When firefighters arrived on the scene, they learned from a citizen that a woman was trapped inside. Firefighter Michael Hall and Sgt. Eric Fett forced their way through the front door and began searching for the victim. "Through intense heat, thick black smoke and without the aid of a charged line, Firefighter Hall was able to locate the woman trapped inside the home," the Public Safety Foundation release said. "He guided her toward the door and out to safety. He then grabbed a charged hose line and made his way to the back of the structure to help put out the fire in the bedroom." The woman rescued was treated for severe smoke inhalation. "Without the quick actions of Firefighter Michael Hall, she would not have been able to escape from the fire," the release said. Hall is receiving the Medal of Valor. 
  •  Police Officers Sean Bell and Ryan O’Connell. On June 7, 2018, Bell and O’Connell responded to a call of a suicide in progress. When they arrived, the officers were informed that a man was in the attic, possibly armed with a handgun, threatening to kill himself. The officers entered the room and found the man sitting in the corner, holding a loaded gun between his legs. "Officer Bell calmly started a conversation, continually reassuring him that things would be okay and asking him for his weapon," the press release said. "After many tense minutes of calm conversation, Officer Bell convinced the man to set the weapon by his side where he was able to recover it, saving the man’s life and protecting himself and his partner." After Bell left the room, O’Connell continued to keep the man calm. Eventually both officers were able to talk him from the attic. He was sent to a nearby hospital for treatment. Both officers will receive the Medal of Valor.
  • Police Officer Samuel Anderson is to receive the Medal of Valor; while his partner, slain Officer Glenn Doss, will receive a Purple Heart posthumously. On Jan. 24, 2018, Doss and Anderson responded to a call of shots fired near McDougall and E. Palmer Street.  "As they approached the area in their vehicle, they heard a man yelling, then a gunshot being fired," the release said. Doss was shot in the head. "Realizing what had occurred, Officer Anderson quickly got out of the line of fire, (broadcast) the suspect’s description and location over the airways and transported Officer Doss to the hospital for emergency treatment," the release said. Doss died from the gunshot wound.

Other awards to be presented include the "City Change Maker Award," which will go to Tonya Allen, president & CEO of The Skillman Foundation, and the "Public Safety Partner Award," which will go to The Home Depot.
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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN