Sgt. Anthony Shea
Please tell this officer’s story of how they saved a life or showed exemplary service in the field.
On a rainy November day in Central Florida, a 9-1-1 call came into the Orange County Sheriff's Office. There was a man standing on a bridge who looked like he was going to jump.
When deputies arrived on the scene, they approached the suicidal man and noticed him holding a razor blade to his throat and a belt tied around his neck. Soon, Sgt. Anthony Shea arrived.
Sgt. Shea is a longtime deputy with OCSO who has a background in hostage negotiation. He quickly build a rapport with the man on the bridge, leaning that the man had recently lost his job and his family had abandoned him.
As they were talking, Sgt. Shea noticed the man was wearing a jiu-jitsu gi, the traditional uniform worn by those who practice the martial art. Sgt. Shea, who also practices jiu-jitsu, and the man bonded over their respect for jiu-jitsu. Despite that connection, the man didn't want to step away from the bridge.
For the the next 30 minutes, as seen in the body-cam footage, Sgt. Shea continued to talk to the man. During that time, Sgt. Shea talked about his sister, who committed suicide several years ago. She suffered from mental illness and jumped from a building in South Florida.
Knowing the mental toll suicide can take on families, Sgt. Shea was determined to keep this man from hurting himself. Also, Sgt. Shea didn't want his fellow officers to see this man die in front of them.
As the man crept closer and closer to the edge, Sgt. Shea continued to talk to him, even getting down on his knees at one point so the two could be eye-to-eye.
At one point, the man set the razor blade down and the wind blew it off the bridge. He eventually removed the noose around his neck, stepped onto the other side of the railing and embraced Shea.
“It’s going to be alright. It’s alright. It’s OK,” Sgt. Shea whispered to the man as they held each other.
The man wasn't arrested and taken to a nearby hospital to get the help he needed.
Why should this officer receive the RISE Officer award?
Like so many officers and deputies across the United States, Sgt. Anthony Shea would never call himself a “hero." But he is a walking example of what it means to be a true public servant.
Anyone who has seen the bodycam footage of Sgt. Shea interacting with the man on the bridge would agree that he truly cares about the people he serves. The calmness in Sgt. Shea’s voice and the endless empathy he showed for the man’s situation is on full display in the video. And while some would have grown frustrated after talking to the suicidal man for more than 30 minutes, Sgt. Shea trusted his training and his knowledge of how to connect with those in crisis.
Sgt. Shea knew that the longer he spoke to the man, the greater chance he had to create that connection and keep the man from harming himself. And by talking about his sister, Sgt. Shea showed - on a human level - that we all go through difficult times, and suicide is not going to solve anything. It’s a long-term solution to a short-term problem.
But most of all, Sgt. Shea’s true heroic power is his ability to listen. This man needed someone to listen, and Sgt. Shea was the best man for it.
Not only does Sgt. Shea care about his community, he cares about the brave men and women that work alongside him at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. As Sgt. Shea was talking to the man on the bridge, he was also thinking about the deputies on the scene. He didn’t want them to see a man die right in front of them, because he knows how that can affect a person going forward.
Most of all, Sgt. Shea is a humble man. He does his job each and every day without fanfare. It sounds cliche, but Sgt. Shea wants to help those around him and make a difference. Even when his story was seen by 12 million people on YouTube, as well as millions on Facebook and Twitter, Shea simply felt it was just another day serving the people of Orange County.
We are so proud of Sgt. Shea and his dedication to this community. And we are so proud he wears the star of the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.