1. Joseph 2. Clayton 3. Michael 1. Whitaker 2. Lyles 3. Montgomery
Please tell this officer’s story of how they saved a life or showed exemplary service in the field. Including why this officer should receive a RISE Award.
The purpose of this nomination is to recognize OFC Clayton Lyles, OFC Michael Montgomery, and CPL Joseph Whitaker for the AXON RISE Award, in reference to the rescue of Bellevue Citizens, Mr. John Surdi, his wife Barbara Surdi, and their family dog. I was on scene during this critical incident, in charge of Police Operations within the Command Post and was an eyewitness to the events described below.
On 01/17/2022 at approximately 0351 hours, multiple Police and Fire Units were dispatched to the 5000 Block of Place SE, in reference to a welfare check regarding the reporting of a large water main break within the neighborhood. OFCs arrived on scene, quickly observed that the water main break was substantial, and observed that it appeared to be coming from the hill NW of the area, in a tree line above the neighborhood.
OFCs observed that Bellevue Fire Units were staging near the area and had established a Command Post at the intersection of SE 51 PL and 139 PL SE. OFCs reported that the flow of water coming down the hill was so strong, that it had inundated the intersection with large rocks, thick mud, and other debris that made the intersection almost impassable with a vehicle. OFCs observed that Bellevue Firefighters were surveying the neighborhood and were starting evacuation operations within the cul-de-sac because of the dangers of the water current coursing through the neighborhood. The OFCs on scene were advised by BFD Units to stay out of the cul-de-sac for safety reasons.
While at the Command Post, OFCs Lyles, Montgomery, and CPL Whitaker, observed that the Police Radio was receiving multiple calls of distress from the residents of the neighborhood, however numerous calls were received from the home of Mr. John and Barbara Surdi. Taking into account the information broadcasted by Police Radio, the OFCs on scene made the decision to proceed into the cul-de-sac and assist the residents with evacuation to the best of their abilities. While walking back into the area, the OFCs were advised by other residents leaving their homes, that the occupants were most likely trapped on the second floor within their collapsed home.
OFCs Lyles, Montgomery, and CPL Whitaker quickly observed that the Surdi Residence had been displaced from its foundation, a large portion of the roof line had been sheared off and was resting within the street, and that the residence was on the brink of catastrophic collapse. In addition, OFCs observed that the utilities of the Surdi residence were openly exposed and could smell the strong odor of natural gas emanating from the exposed foundation. Taking into account the many dangers posed to the Surdi’s trapped within their home, and the urgency needed to get them out safely, the OFCs on scene made the decision to disregard their own safety and enter the residence to attempt to rescue the Surdi’s.
Utilizing teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills, the OFCs carefully and deliberately made their way into the Surdi’s collapsed home, and facilitated the rescue of Mr. John Surdi, his injured wife Barbara, and their family dog. OFCs rescued Barbara Surdi and the family dog from the second level of the home where they were trapped from staircase collapsing during the initial slide. Once clear of the damaged home and the many hazards within, the OFCs escorted the Surdis to the Command Post where they were provided first aid by the BFD Medics on scene and provided resources.
Upon checking into the Command Post after their rescue of the Surdi’s, I observed that OFC’s Lyles, Montgomery, and CPL Whitaker were uninjured, that they were covered in mud almost up to their chests, however observed that they were in good spirits.
The following week, I had a chance to observe the damage to the neighborhood during daylight hours both from the street level on 139th PL, and up above looking down on the Surdi Residence from the Sacred Heart’s Academy where the water main appeared to have ruptured (see attached photos). I observed that the Surdi residence is a 4000+ square foot home that appeared to be split in half. I observed that it was clearly displaced off of its foundation and appeared to be on the brink of collapsing into the street. I observed that while standing on the hill side looking SE and down toward the residence, I observed that a large portion of the hill side had slid down onto the Surdi property, filling the home and property line with thousands of pounds of mud, rock, and tree debris. While surveying the damage, I could not help but recognize the absolute courage and bravery that OFCs Lyles, Montgomery, and CPL Whitaker displayed during this rescue….and accomplishing this dangerous task at night! I have no doubt that the Surdi’s owe their lives to these strong Police OFCs.
Comments and emails from Bellevue Police Chain of Command;
Bellevue Police Chief W Shirley
“Gents, I was made aware of the incredible work and effort you guys made yesterday at the landslide incident. I just wanted to let you know, we the command staff and especially this awesome community, really appreciate the level of service you provide each and every day. Now yesterday was no ordinary day-but you guys were there-taking care of business and the people that live here. I know that Barb and Surdi are forever grateful. A BIG THANK YOU to each of you for your dedication to service. Great picture by the way????. Take care”
Assistant Bellevue Police Chief P Arpin
“I would like to echo the Chiefs comments. You guys and the rest of your squad rose to the challenge of an unusual and scary situation, potentially saving lives at your own risk. There is no greater honor than that for a police officer. Be proud – truly an outstanding job! Thank you!”
Bellevue Police Captain A McKinney
“Just wanted to send my commendations to your officers in rescuing the occupants of that house. I couldn’t imagine the sheer terror the homeowners felt.I am sure the officers were scared as well. But they are true heroes for going in and saving them! Please pass on my appreciation for them and their dedication to our citizens safety and saving lives!!! Keep up the good work!”
Bellevue Fire Chief J Hagen
“Wendell: Kudos to your guys – who made a legit rescue at 0400 hours Monday am at the slide on Somerset. Their fast action and decisiveness made all the difference.!”