Police watch video of rescues from burning apartment

Local

Police officers and leaders on Oct. 9, 2019, watch a dash cam video of their rescue efforts during an apartment fire a day earlier in Cumberland, Indiana. (WISH Photo)

CUMBERLAND, Ind. (WISH) — Several police officers sworn to protect and serve are being hailed as heroes for rescuing five people from a burning apartment building on Tuesday morning.

On Wednesday, body camera video was played. It showed Cumberland Police Lt. Roger Wagoner crawling on his hands and knees to the door of an apartment on fire. In the video, he desperately calls out to a mother and her daughter afraid inside.

“I think we made the right call in doing that,” Waggoner said Wednesday.

In the video, across the hall, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department Officer Ryan Russell instinctively grabs a 7-year-old boy asleep on the couch as the apartment fills with smoke.

“I kind of stopped caring about the smoke,” Russell said Wednesday. “Grabbed the kid, put his face into my shoulder over here. Put one arm around him at that point he obviously woke up.”

Russell got the boy outside safely, but the danger wasn’t done.

In the video, people gasp as they try to breathe clean air in the background. The smoke and flames also trapped Waggoner and a 31-year-old man in a back room.

“A wall of smoke and heat. I must admit, there for that few seconds there, I thought I might be in trouble.” Waggoner said. “I was really concerned with how I was going to get that window open. We got it open somehow.”

In the video, the man next to Waggoner climbs though a 16-inch space in the open window and jumps from the second floor.

Waggoner said he thought he’d be next to make the plunge.

“I thought maybe I may have to try to slide out there. Maybe go out head first as well. But, I was able to kind of calm myself a little bit,” Waggoner said.

Waggoner got out safely via a ladder.

The four officers were treated for smoke inhalation Tuesday. A 40-year-old woman was taken to the hospital Tuesday, where she remained in critical condition Wednesday. Police said Wednesday the other two adults and two children were OK.

The officers wound up saving five people, including two young children

“Courageous. Brave. Overall good people,” said neighbor Javonna Townsend, who took her family to safety during the fire in the building next door.

Neighbor Marcus Duke said the actions of the officers Tuesday was “heroic.”

The officers were back at work Wednesday, when the officers viewed the body cam video for the first time.

“Hero” is a title officers Officer Michael Cheh, Officer Megan Clonce, Russell and Waggoner were too humble to accept Wednesday.

“It’s just what you do. It wasn’t just about us being police officers,” Clonce said. “Firefighters being firefighters. It’s people coming together as people.”

News 8 asked all of the officers, if they had to, would they do it again? The answer was simple.

“Yeah,” Cheh said.

Waggoner followed that with “Of course. Yeah, we would.”

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