Baltimore County police officers Phillip Sears and Walter Mueller were working an afternoon shift out of the White Marsh precinct when they got the fairly ordinary call.
It was for a man who had apparently overdosed in his apartment and was passed out on the couch. The officers were familiar with the man.
The unconcious man's wife had called police and soon, Sears, Mueller and several firefighters and paramedics were in the apartment. That's when the situation took a dangerous turn.
"He started asking if there were police in the room after medics woke him up," Sears said. "He started to get a little unhappy once he knew we were there."
"A little unhappy" turned out to be an understatement because soon, the revived man pulled a .22-caliber handgun from behind his back and began waving it and pointing it at the officers.
"It was definitely a surprise," Sears said. "We've always had problems with him, but we weren't expecting him to have a weapon. He'd never had a weapon before."
That's when police training kicked in for Sears and Mueller. Sears said there was no time to process the situation, they just reacted charging the man and getting the gun from him.
"It was really surreal, you're not really doing anything — you just kind of go for it," Sears said.
In his five years of service with the Baltimore County Police Department, Sears, 30, said he had never had a gun pointed at him until that day. Sears and Mueller were recently awarded the Silver Star, the second highest award in the police department.
"I’m honored that I got it of course," Sears said.
"You kind of question whether or not you deserve it based on what everyone else is doing on a day-to-day basis," he said. "There are so many things that go unnoticed, usually [supervisors] don’t hear about [them] so they don’t put us in for the award."
Into the Fire
White Marsh precinct Officer Aaron Galloway wasn't expecting to be directly responsible for saving two lives when he arrived on the scene of a condominium fire in Rosedale.
"One of the corner units was fully engulfed," Galloway said. "There were people inside, a guy and a girl—I kicked the door in, went inside and woke them up."
Galloway, a 10-year veteran of the police force, said he didn't think about what he had to do--he just did it.
"Honestly, those people were still in there and we had to get them out. They wouldn’t have made it if I didn’t go in there and get them, they probably would have never woken up," he said.
Galloway received the Emergency Services Award at a ceremony earlier this month.
"I was pretty surprised, I didn’t think I was actually going to get nominated, much less win an award," he said.
Above and Beyond
Sears, Mueller and Galloway weren't the only officers to be honored for outstanding service to their communities at the early November ceremony — County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Police Chief James Johnson recognized 60 members of the Baltimore County Police Department.
Other officers from Parkville Precinct 8 and White Marsh Precinct 9 who recieved awards include:
- Sgt. John T. Matthews of the Parkville Preinct, who received a Commendation Award.
- Lt. Kevin Flaherty, who was injured while pursuing a burglar earlier this year, received a Purple Heart.
- Officer Michael Vlach received an Emergency Services Award
- Officer Bruce Kurtz received an Emergency Services Award