BOWIE – Oct. 17, 2017, is a day Eric Cheshier will never forget. The marine gunnery sergeant was driving on Allentown Road during the early evening hours when he spotted a three-car accident. The automobile that caused the accident hit a car driven by a teenage driver who had just picked up her younger siblings […]
BOWIE – Oct. 17, 2017, is a day Eric Cheshier will never forget.
The marine gunnery sergeant was driving on Allentown Road during the early evening hours when he spotted a three-car accident.
The automobile that caused the accident hit a car driven by a teenage driver who had just picked up her younger siblings to take them home. With smoke starting to rise from the collision, Cheshier pulled over to check out the scene.
As he got closer to the accident, Cheshier noticed that one of the vehicles starting to “smolder” and went ablaze. Needing to act quickly, he quickly removed the driver who caused the accident, the teenager and her siblings without putting on protective gear. As the final person was pulled to safety, the cars exploded and filled with flames.
“I did not know what to expect when I approached the situation,” he said. “So as I was pulling people out of the vehicle, I noticed (the fire) and so I knew I had to work quickly to get them out and get them and myself out of harm’s way.”
Over eight months later on July 25, the son of a former Prince George’s County police officer stood in front of several current members of the unit in the Woodstream Church, including his family, as he received an Outstanding Citizen’s Award.
“It was just instinctive, and of course, I was not looking for any recognition,” Cheshier said. “I just saw people in need of help and rendered my assistance.”
Cheshier’s recognition was one of many that the Prince George’s County Police Department celebrated during their Chief’s Awards Ceremony. In total, 172 awards were passed out to 154 recipients, most to the day-to-day officers that rarely receive praise for their work.
“Nobody sees us in the middle of the night, in the snow storm, in the rainstorm, on the coldest night of the year and the hottest day of the year,” Chief of Police Hank Stawinski said addressing the officers. “And none of you seek any affirmation or accolades for your service which makes today that much more important.”
It has been a successful first half of a year for the county’s police force. On Jan. 8, Stawinski, together with County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, announced a 50 percent drop in crime in the county. Stawinski credits the behind-the-scenes work done by officers and their corresponding communities for the steady decline in crime.
“It’s clear to me this is a high performing organization,” Stawinski said. “People are dedicated, enthusiastic, and the reduction of crime and the confidence of community both support that assertion.”
In some cases, officers dealt with life-threatening situations. While at the scene of a car accident, police officer Brian Bell had his gun taken away from him by a “drug-induced” suspect. While trying to regain control of his weapon, Bell shot the six-foot-eight, 250-pound person two times.
However, the person continued to go after the officer until backup arrived. The suspect was distracted enough by the other officers to give Bell time to regain his gun and place him under arrest.
“Officer Bell was in the fight of his life,” Media Relations Division Director Jennifer Donelan said.
Police Officer Anthony Ferguson had a different ordeal as he needed to stop a suicidal person from jumping off the Annapolis Road-BWI overpass. As his partner, Daniel Parrish tried to claim the man down, Ferguson quickly jumped on him before pulling him to safety. It turned out that the man was recently released from the psychiatric unit from Prince George’s Hospital.
Officers that contributed outside their crime beats were also honored. For example, Corporal Jonathan Sanders organized a basketball tournament that was dedicated to Undercover Detective Jacai Colson, who was shot and killed by a fellow officer on March 13, 2016. Money raised from the tournament set up a scholarship program at Chichester High School in Boothwyn, Pennsylvania for a student interested in law enforcement.
Former Police Chief and current Deputy Chief Administrative Officer of Public Safety Mark Magaw and County Sheriff Melvin C. High were also on hand to pass out the awards. Magaw was formally the county’s police chief from 2010-2015.
“You’re this county’s guardian angels,” Magaw said. “That’s the way you are viewed, and that is the way you are. This is a calling you have all answered, and I just thank God I had a chance in this setting to say thank you for everything that you do.”
Four of the county’s newest high school cadets were in attendance for the ceremony. They were selected of a pool of 160 applicants and listened to all the stories of the award recipients. Stawinski said he expects them to understand that the profession is about “about life-saving and service” and if they do, he hopes to see them handing out awards to officers 25 years from now.
“I would tell them to watch, learn and observe and stay vigilant,” Cheshier said.