DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The Dayton Police Department held their annual awards ceremony Thursday, where they recognized officers for their heroic and quick-thinking efforts that helped save lives.
It’s been nearly 5 months since Officer Byron Branch was hit by a car and critically injured. Since then, he’s been recovering, determined to once again protect and serve. But that chance to wear the badge again wouldn’t have been possible without the heroic efforts of six other officers who helped save his life.
On December 16th, 2016, there was freezing rain and slick roads. Officer Byron Branch warned the driver he just pulled over to stay to shoulder. This, just seconds before a car, slammed into his police cruiser, critically injured Officer Branch. Within moments, six of his fellow officers rushed to save one of their own.
“This was performing under the most severe of circumstances,” Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl said. “And yet being able to do what was required and that effort saving a life, it doesn’t get more remarkable than that.”
An auditorium was on its feet Thursday, applauding Lt. Andrew Gillig, Officer Joseph Watson, Officer Gary Roesser, Officer Daniel O’Neill, Officer Dustin Daugherty, and Officer Byran Camden who all each received an award of merit. They each played a key role in saving Branch’s life.
“The fact that he was conscious and able to communicate was a miracle to me,” Chief Biehl said. “[He has] tremendous heart. Tremendous spirit. Enormous physical conditioning, which probably made all the difference in the world too.”
The day’s highest honor–Officer of the Year–came as a surprise to the recipient Sgt. William Gross, who saved the life of man jumping to his death. Dash cam video shows Sgt. Gross on the Keowee Street bridge moments before a mentally-ill man jumped off. But when he jumped, within a split second Sgt. Gross was able to grab his ankles and pull him to safety.
“It’s just a matter of treating people how you would want to be treated,” Sgt. Gross said. “Or how you would want family members to be treated with respect and when dealing with mentally ill people you just be patient and just try to get a rapport with them and try to help them.”
“It’s about being as relaxed and as compassionate as possible,” Chief Biehl said. “But being able to spring into action in a fraction of a second.”
Chief Biehl hopes stories like these give the public a clearer picture of what it means to protect and serve.
“Sharing these stories, really tells them the much larger picture of the heroism, the professionalism, the compassion of police officers,” Chief Biehl said. “Delivering service everyday it is by far the larger story.”
Chief Biehl says Officer Branch has been making considerable progress in his recovery — and could return to work next month. 2 NEWS Anchor Mark Allan served as emcee for the event.