KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Protect and serve. They’re two words we often use to describe the work of law enforcement officers.
Following the public release of a body camera video from Knox County Sheriff’s deputy Brian Rehg, we have a closer look at the scope of that work.
The bodycam video, from April 8, 2019, shows the moment Deputy Rehg and Knoxville Police Department Lieutenant Chris McCarter rushed to grab a man, believed to be in his early 20s, and pull him back to safety after he tried to jump off the side of a bridge on Pleasant Ridge Road.
KPD recognized both law enforcement officers at their April employee of the month ceremony, held in August.
A news release from the agency reads, in part: “because of the caution and vigilance exercised by both McCarter and Rehg, a young life was saved. For his efforts, McCarter was presented with the April Life-Saving Award.”
While it isn’t uncommon for the two agencies to work together, or for an officer to talk someone off a ledge, it is uncommon for them to be present the exact moment a person attempts to take their own life.
While the two had never met, they were in sync when the man in the video quickly jumped to his feet and off the railing of the bridge.
“Anytime we come in contact with KPD it’s as if coming in contact with another member of my shift. We work hand in hand, if need be,” Deputy Rehg said.
Knox County Sheriff Tom Spangler said in situations like this there are more than one victim – you have the family and friends impacted, and possible harm to the officer. “What if an officer grabbed him and got pulled over?” Spangler asked.
Spangler called both Deputy Rehg and Lt. McCarter local heroes, and said it’s part of the job. This part of the job, he said, required two things – common sense and caring.
“An officer’s first instinct is to grab them. The possibility of anything happening is still there,” he added. He summed up their actions as putting someone else before yourself. “What can you say to that, but thank you?”
Deputy Rehg said being able to stop a suicide from occurring and physically saving a person’s life does feel good, but it’s the first time he’s seen it in 18 years. A job, which ranges greatly, is now better understood with a wider scope.
“You have to prepare for anything because you really don’t know, you know…anything can happen,” Lt. McCarter said.
Neither law enforcement officers want recognition.
“I’m just doing my job. I’d do it tomorrow,” Dep. Rehg said.
“Anybody who would have been there when I was there, I would like to think they would have done exactly what I did. Any other officer, I know they would have, and I just happened to be the one that was there at that given time and that’s how things worked out,” Lt. McCarter said.
Another takeaway from the video is awareness.
Lt. McCarter said Tuesday if you see warning signs for someone in crisis, reach out and get them help as soon as you can.