Detroit cops honored for pulling men from burning car

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Detroit — Detroit Police Officer Sheron Johnson and five colleagues from the 11th precinct who helped pull two men from a burning vehicle don't consider themselves heroes.

Police Chief James Craig thinks otherwise.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig presented six officers from the 11th precinct with a lifesaving citation Tuesday afternoon. From left, Captain Timothy Leach, Officer Sheron Johnson, Officer Serina Kelley, Officer Harry Taylor, Police Chief James Craig, Officer Adam Verbeke, Officer Sarah Monti and Officer Darnell Smith.

On Tuesday, Craig honored Johnson and officers Darnell Smith, Sarah Monti, Serina Kelley, Adam Verbeke and Harry Taylor with a lifesaving citation for the rescue.

"When you look at what's going on across the nation with all the criticism for what police officers do each and everyday, here we're talking about Detroit's finest," Craig said Tuesday afternoon. "We're talking about heroes. Personally, to the officers, I want to say thank you. Job well done."

Johnson was modest about the award.

"This is what we do everyday," she said. The 17-year police veteran was recovering Tuesday from injuries she suffered during the rescue.

"It feels worse than it looks ... I would to it all over again. If we had another situation today, I wouldn't think twice. Two lives were saved."

Smith and Monti were patrolling the area of Mound and McNichols shortly before 8 p.m. Monday when they saw a Chevy Impala speeding at 70-80 miles per hour. The officers attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver ignored the signal, according to police, lost control of the vehicle after hitting a median and then struck a tree.

The vehicle immediately "burst into flames," police said.

"It happened so fast the only thing we were worried about was getting victims out of that car at that moment," said Smith, a six-year veteran. "The first thing I seen was the tree tip over ... As we approached the vehicle, the car just engulfed in flames almost as if someone lit a match. It was pretty bad."

Officers are shown on a dash cam video pulling one of two men from a burning car Monday evening in the area of Mound and McNichols. The driver had failed to stop for police, lost control of his vehicle and struck a tree. The vehicle then caught on fire, police said.

The officers worked quickly to remove the unconscious men, both 27 years old, from the vehicle. Johnson said the task wasn't easy — the driver weighed more than 400 pounds and his feet were wedged under the floorboard.

"Because of the size ... it made it difficult for us to cut the seat belt, which delayed us in extracting him from the vehicle," she said.

Both men were hospitalized following the incident.

It is not known why the driver were speeding, Smith said. Police recovered two gun ammunition magazines at the scene.

The driver is charged with fleeing and eluding, Smith said. He also had warrants for misdemeanor traffic violations.

As for the recognition the officers received Tuesday afternoon, "it's a little bit much," Smith said, smiling. "It is what it is."

(313) 222-2311