The quick thinking of a police officer is being credited with saving the life of a Columbus man, and giving a community the opportunity to discuss a nation-wide problem.
“It was clearly someone who was distressed, someone who needed help, and so my primary goal was to get him that help,” says Officer Christopher Gurney.
Just after midnight Monday morning, Columbus police officer Christopher Gurney says he was on a routine patrol of the city when the first call for help came in. Police chief Jason Daniels says what happened next should send a strong message to the entire community.
When Gurney arrived on scene, he says all he knew was that someone needed help. Around 12:30 Monday morning, dispatch called for an officer to respond to reports of someone preparing to commit suicide. Officer Gurney has only been with the Columbus Police Department for five months, but credits the knowledge passed on to him by his fellow officers for giving him the tools he needed to think fast and save a man’s life.
“I knocked on the door, he answered, he said, who is it? I said, Columbus Police Department. He said, who? I said Columbus Police Department sir, I need you to open the door, I need to talk to you. And then everything went silent,” says Gurney.
Officer Christopher Gurney says the silence only underscored how serious the situation had become.
“That was the moment where I was pretty sure whatever was happening was happening then,” says Gurney.
Gurney says he continued to look for a way into the home, when it became apparent what he would have to do.
“Once we entered, he was in the act, so there was no conversation between me and the victim,” says Christopher Gurney.
Gurney says with the help of another person, he was able to save the man’s life. In such an intense moment, it would only be natural to fear for your own safety. And while Gurney says that thought did cross his mind, he says he, just like all other first responders, knew he had a job to do.
“There was no time to think. The door opened, I saw him in trouble, I reacted,” says Christopher Gurney.
Officer Gurney says training he received in the Marine Corps, and during his time with the Columbus Police Department is what turned tragedy into a chance to get someone in need help. But Columbus Police Chief Jason Daniels says who officer Gurney is played just as big a role in how things turned out.
“You can’t teach that, you can’t- no amount of training can train an individual to do that. That is his makeup, and I’m extremely proud,” says Daniels.
Daniels says while many people may think an officer’s primary job is to write tickets or arrest a bad guy, he says it’s really about keeping the community safe, and helping them in times of crisis. And with officers like Gurney on staff, he hopes that message is clear to everyone, in every community, about what they’re prepared to do for you.
“It just further strengthens that bond between the community and the police department,” says Daniels.
I asked officer Gurney if he was a hero, and he said no, he was just a man with a job to do.
“It’s my job. It’s what I signed up for. If this is what I have to do for the rest of my life, then I’ll do it for the rest of my life. I don’t mind taking calls every single night if that’s what it’s going to take to keep this town safe,” says Gurney.
Chief Daniels says he hopes this incident will also give the community a chance to talk about a growing problem nationwide. Daniels says police officers across the nation are ready and willing to help if you or someone you know is thinking about suicide. He says another great resource is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Gurney says he hasn’t had a chance to speak with him, but has been told he’s make a full recovery.