Law enforcement officers, EMS Director honored for Distinguished Service in the line of duty
Originally published in the Pope County Tribune, March 20, 2023, By Tim Douglass
Glenwood City Hall was filled with local law enforcement officers and their families as four “local heroes” from the city, county law enforcement as well as Glacial Ridge Ambulance Service were honored for their service “above and beyond” the call of duty.
“This is a great turnout, said Glenwood Police Chief Dale Danter as he took the podium Tuesday night at the regular city commissioner’s meeting. “I want to first describe what happened and why we are honoring (four public servants), and then I want to show body camera video to give you a better idea of what was done from the officer’s perspective,” he said. He warned that the body camera video would be graphic.
“When you see your fellow officers in distress, it affects you,” he added. Danter said officers were being recognized for “heroic actions and decisive response that saved the life of a Glenwood resident while endangering their own lives during the line of duty.” Those honored with “Distinguished Service” and “Life Saving” awards at the meeting were: Glenwood Police Officer Cody Rupert, Pope County Deputy Brody Merrill, Pope County Deputy Josh Owen, and Glacial Ridge Ambulance Service EMS Director Greg Meyers.
Summary of the Event
It was Nov. 22 of last year when Officer Cody Rupert, Deputy Brody Merrill, Deputy Josh Owen, and EMS Director Greg Meyers responded to a welfare check, which resulted in a residential house fire with one victim inside the house. Officer Rupert and Deputy Merrill, first on the scene, risked their own lives going above and beyond the call of duty by entering the residence to save the victim. Deputy Owen and Director Meyers remained calm and professional under tense circumstances and rendered medical assistance to the victim and to the officers. For the heroic actions Rupert, Merrill, Owen, and Meyers displayed on that night, the Glenwood Police Department, on behalf of the city of Glenwood, issued “Life Saving” awards to Officer Rupert and Deputy Merrill; and “Distinguished Service” awards to Deputy Owen and EMS Director Meyers.
On the evening of Nov. 25, 2022, while working for the Glenwood Police Department, Officer Cody Rupert was dispatched to perform a welfare check at a residence in Glenwood. Officer Rupert had been advised that the reporting party had lost contact with the homeowner during a phone conversation and had heard what was believed to be a smoke detector alarm in the background. Rupert, along with Pope County Deputy Brody Merrill, responded to the home.
“As the officers arrived on the scene and were approaching the residence, Rupert informed Merrill that he could hear an alarm sounding and had observed what he believed to be smoke coming from a second-story window,” Danter explained.
Merrill confirmed that observation, and Rupert quickly radioed Dispatch advising that they could hear an audible alarm and were also observing smoke from the home.
According to Danter, Officer Rupert, without hesitation, entered the residence that was filled with smoke and began searching for possible victims. As Rupert was searching, he was able to maintain a calm and professional demeanor and effectively communicated via radio that the house was indeed on fire and requested the assistance of the Glenwood Fire Department. He also called out to Merrill, advising him to “get low.”
Danter then pointed out that this was not the first time Rupert had been involved in rescuing someone from a burning building. (Rupert was honored a few years ago for getting a victim out of a house fire in 2019, where he risked his own life to save the residents in that house fire.)
Regardless of the dangerous condition, Rupert was able to locate a single victim lying unresponsive in the kitchen. At that point, Rupert was beginning to be overcome by the smoke and decided he would run back to the outside of the home to take a full breath of air before going back in to rescue the man, Danter explained,
He then summoned Merrill for assistance, informing him that the victim was down and unresponsive in the kitchen. Both Rupert and Merrill were able to then drag the victim out of the house and get him safely outside, all while actively experiencing the “harmful effects of smoke inhalation themselves,” Danter explained.
Out of fear of the victim being too close to the residence that was on fire, both Rupert and Merrill continued to physically assert themselves and move the unresponsive victim further away from the home. Once the victim was safely away, Rupert also displayed his awareness by returning to the front of the house and shutting the door to prevent further fueling the fire with oxygen, Danter explained.
As other officers, fire and EMS personnel arrived on the scene, it was apparent that both Rupert and Merrill were “visibly struggling to breathe. Both Deputy Josh Owen and EMS Director Greg Meyers observed that the officers needed immediate medical attention. Rupert was coughing uncontrollably, and “Owen and Meyers remained calm and acted quickly and professionally despite seeing their own colleagues in distress,” Danter said. “Meyers’ and Owen’s ability to perform under pressure resulted in establishing immediate patient care, bringing calm and control to a very stressful and rapidly evolving scene,” according to Danter. “Undoubtedly, the actions of all involved in this incident led to everyone surviving what could have easily been a tragic incident,” Danter added.
Both Rupert and Merrill had to be transported by ambulance to Glacial Ridge Hospital due to smoke inhalation. They were treated and later released. The victim, however, was stabilized and airlifted to another hospital, where he was treated for injuries sustained from the fire.
Danter told the crowd and the commissioners that both Rupert and Merrill went “above and beyond” the call of duty that night. He also stated that Owen and Meyers executed the scenario of treating their friends and colleagues quickly and effectively, something that causes additional stress.
Danter said that there is a current “divide” in this country when it comes to law enforcement and public servants. “But these officers and medical professionals showed that “…law enforcement, EMS and firefighters are, in fact, everyday heroes.”
Body Camera Video
After describing the response to a welfare check turned house fire, Danter showed video from Officer Rupert’s body camera. It showed how smoke filled the home, and viewers could hear Rupert yelling to the victim before he located him lying on the kitchen floor, flames climbing the wall near him. He was unresponsive. Rupert quickly moved back out of the house to get a breath of fresh air, and then he and Deputy Merrill made their way down a smoke-filled hallway back to the kitchen and began to drag the victim to the front door. Just minutes after entering, Rupert was coughing from the smoke but was still able to exert himself by pulling the victim down a hallway and out the front door. Once he was out, Merrill and Rupert began trying to resuscitate the victim, and once they determined he was breathing, firefighters and EMS personnel were arriving at the scene. That’s when the video picked up Rupert coughing uncontrollably and even gagging, trying to catch his breath. Another officer asked him about his condition, and Rupert replied: “I just can’t catch my breath.”
After the ordeal that was captured on the body camera was over, everyone in the city hall stood and gave the officers and EMS personnel in the room a standing ovation. Danter said the video doesn’t show the glamorous side of police work, “but it does show what life is really like and how unglamorous and scary it can be.”
“I have to tell you how lucky I am to be able to work with heroes like this, and I thank them for their unselfish act,” Danter said.
“We just want to say a huge thank you for what you all do,” said Mayor Sherri Kazda after the award presentation.