Five UA Little Rock police officers honored for saving man’s life

UA Little Rock police officers receive a commendation during a Feb. 2 ceremony for their heroic efforts to save a man’s life during a Jan. 2 call. Back row (L to R) include Lt. Jerome Bailey, Officer John Claunch, Cpl. Gary McGee, Lt. Aaron Birmingham, Chief Regina Wade-Carter, and Assistant Chief Johnny Smith. Front row (L to R) include Det. Tonya Carter, Sgt. Marilyn Thompson, and Officer Deshalay Hubbard.

The University of Arkansas at Little Rock honored five police officers during a Feb. 2 ceremony for their part in saving the life of a man found unresponsive in his vehicle. 

“I am proud to say I belong to the UA Little Rock Police Department,” Police Chief Regina Wade-Carter said. “We have a great group of police officers.”

On Jan. 2, Cpl. Gary McGee and Officer John Claunch responded to a call that a man was found slumped over in his vehicle in East Hall Loop, just off Fair Park Boulevard.

“The man was unresponsive, and the vehicle was still in drive,” Claunch said. “We put the car in park, got the man out, and immediately started CPR until MEMS (Metropolitan Emergency Medical Services) arrived approximately 20 minutes later. I saw the man turn three different colors over the course of CPR. To hear that he survived was great.”

While Claunch was happy to do his role in saving the man’s life, he called his partner, McGee, the “real hero of the day” for performing CPR on the man for at least 15 minutes until Det. Tonya Carter took over.

“I just wanted him to breathe,” McGee said. “Even though there was no pulse, I never looked at him as being dead. I needed to help him come back to the living.”

McGee, who had been taken back to the UA Little Rock Department of Public Safety to rest after performing CPR, did not learn of the victim’s fate until he received a phone call from Assistant Chief John Smith.

“I watched the young man come back to life. I heard one of the MEMS people say that, ‘Whoever worked on him, that is why this young man is still alive,'” Smith said. “I called McGee and said, ‘He is not dead. You saved his life. I am so proud of you.'”

McGee recalls crying after receiving the happy news.

“I was very happy,” McGee said. “I thanked God. I am glad that the man was okay, and I am grateful for my shift and the other people I work with. I’ve got a good team.”

In addition to McGee and Claunch, Det. Tonya Carter, Sgt. Marilyn Thompson, and Officer Deshalay Hubbard also received commendations for helping save the man’s life. Thompson took command of the scene while Carter took over CPR for McGee, and Hubbard used a defibrillator on the man.

“Most people probably would have given up, but today we recognize the men and women who go beyond the call of duty, who put themselves at risk to save another’s life,” Smith said. “We honor you because you give us hope.”

In the upper right photo, UA Little Rock police officers receive a commendation during a Feb. 2 ceremony for their heroic efforts to save a man’s life during a Jan. 2 call. Back row (L to R) include Lt. Jerome Bailey, Officer John Claunch, Cpl. Gary McGee, Lt. Aaron Birmingham, Chief Regina Wade-Carter, and Assistant Chief Johnny Smith. Front row (L to R) include Det. Tonya Carter, Sgt. Marilyn Thompson, and Officer Deshalay Hubbard. Photo by Marisa Perry.

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