Officers who saved man from car fire are among those honored at Lexington police banquet

Officer Todd Johnson received the Police Officer of the Year award from Chief Ronnie Bastin.
Officer Todd Johnson received the Police Officer of the Year award from Chief Ronnie Bastin. Herald-Leader

A group of police officers credited with saving the life of a driver trapped in a vehicle fire were among those honored for their efforts at the Lexington Division of Police's annual awards banquet Tuesday night.

On Dec. 5, a man driving on Montavesta Road experienced a medical emergency, causing his car to crash into several other vehicles and catch fire.

When police arrived, the car was so full of smoke that they couldn't see the driver, who was trapped inside, said Officer Jerry McIntyre.

"We couldn't get him out," McIntyre said. "We were extremely worried that he was going to burn alive."

Bystanders ran to a nearby nursing home and brought back dozens of fire extinguishers as officers worked madly to contain the fire, McIntyre said.

"It seemed like it took forever," said Officer Allen Culver, who showed his the tip of his baton, which is melted from when he tried to raise the car's hood with it.

The fire was still burning when firefighters arrived 14 minutes later. McIntyre said a "brownout," or staff reduction at the nearest fire station resulted in the delay.

The man, who was conscious, suffered two broken legs, two broken arms and a broken pelvis, but the only burns he had were to the back of his head, the officers said.

Firefighters got the man out by removing the car's door and cutting off its roof, Culver said.

Culver and McIntyre, along with Sgt. Scott Perrine and officers Timothy Ball, David Collins, William Deeb, Thomas Howell and Vincent Matteini, were honored with a Life Saving Award at Tuesday's awards ceremony at the Lexington Convention Center.

Officer Todd Johnson, who oversees firearms training for the police department, was named Police Officer of the Year. He said teaching is the part of his job that is most rewarding to him.

Some of the other awards included: Sgt. Patrick Murray, Supervisor of the Year; Officer Brian Martin, Patrol Officer of the Year; Officer Donnell Gordon, Field Training Officer of the Year; Det. Michael Helsby, Detective of the Year; Phillina Wingate, Telecommunicator of the Year; Tonya Towery, Customer Service of the Year; and Sha' Alexander, Civilian Employee of the Year.

Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson gave special recognition to the police department's Robbery-Homicide Unit, saying Lexington should be proud of the unit's work in clearing 93 percent of the city's homicide cases last year.

He also gave special recognition to Officer Ray Terry, who responded to a call regarding gunshots at a strip club on Winchester Road in October 2001 and found a woman bleeding from her right eye because "some thug hit her in the eye with the butt of his gun."

"Her eye had to be removed," Larson said.

He said Terry interviewed dancers, bouncers and bartenders at the club, and his work helped result in the conviction of Lonnie Schooley.

"Lonnie Schooley is presently a resident of the state prison system. The woman who lost her eye thinks Ray Terry should be mayor — or at least the police chief."

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