Assisting a person in need was the first thoughts of Waxahachie Police officers Derek Behringer and Kevin Wright when they answered a welfare call in June on Ennis Street.
For their actions in helping aid a resident in a time of distress, they were each awarded a commendation by the department on Nov. 1.
“Basically that day was as normal as a patrol shift could get. When we got the call, I knew that address kind of sounded familiar. We got the notes from dispatch on the computer, which were pretty brief,” Wright said. “We arrived on scene and immediately the mother was frantic. She didn't speak much English I just heard her screaming at us, ‘rapido, rapido,’ which means hurry up. When I went up to the door I heard something like water running in the house. She then started screaming ‘gas, gas.’”
As the officers approached the front door there was a strong odor of gasoline in the air. The decision to enter the home was made and Wright kicked open the door to the residence. While walking through the home the officers noticed that there was gasoline scattered throughout the residence on the floor. This lead to officers finding the person they were called to help in the back bedroom of the house.
“We rounded the corner and he was sitting in his bedroom with an open flame and Molotov cocktail,” Behringer said. “He was holding the rag up to the light.”
Wright added that in addition to the Molotov cocktail there were two gas cans and several containers filled with gasoline in the room. The concern at that point not only shifted from the safety of the individual but the safety of the entire neighborhood.
“We had dealt with him a couple of times (before) but nothing that serious. It wasn't until we saw the open flame and what he had in his hands that it kind of hit of what situation we were in,” Behringer recalled. “He was in a fragile state of mind at that point. Our main goal was to get him the help that he needed through the medical system. Jail was not the place for him that night. He needed to go somewhere to get treatment for the psychological issues that he was having.”
Wright shared that, as they approached the man, his face had a blank look. Then in a matter of seconds, it changes to one of concern realizing who the officers were and why they were here.
“I was just worried that his dad may have been somewhere in that vicinity because his dad is always there with him,” Wright stated. “Normally the confrontation is between him and his dad. His mom is normally the calmer mediator between the two.”
As the two talked with the resident, Behringer was able to convince him to blow the candle out and let the officers help. He was then taken into custody without any other issues and then transported by ambulance to a medical facility for help.
Behringer stated that the gravity of the situation hit home after the call was over and everyone was safe.
"Once adrenaline kind of wears off you get to think about what could have happened. How lucky we are and he is,” Behringer noted. “With all the gas that he had in that house, it would have been bad if that flame would have ignited something. Not only bad for him and us but for the houses that were right next to him.”
Wright shared Behringer’s thoughts about the realization of how things happened on the call and how fortunate everyone was. He shared that you have to take every call no matter how they come.
“It is different every time. You can take an in-progress call where tensions are really high. Then go check an area for somebody prowling around a house. It may be a minor per say call with a storm coming in and a tree batting against the house, but you have to treat it the same,” Wright explained. “You have to have the mindset that it could be the worst, so you have to prepare for the worst in that situation.”
Wright added during the difficult calls that can challenge an officer it becomes critical to lean on others for support and provide that same support back when they need it.
A few weeks later, Behringer’s path crossed again with the man’s mother.
“I actually conducted a traffic stop on his mother a few weeks later. She thanked us what we did for him,” Behringer said. “It means a lot. She recognized what we were dealing with and cared enough to communicate her thanks to us. It was nice.”
Wright and Behringer are humbled to be recognized by the department for the actions they took on the call.
“This not something that we go out and expect something. It is awesome to hear ‘hey you did a good job,” Wright stated. “I fully didn’t expect to get that award that night. It is awesome to be recognized and get that pat on the back.”
Behringer stated that it was an honor to be recognized by the department.
“It means a lot. It is nice that the department and the chief recognize these types of things,” he noted. “They have all done it in years past, and they know what it takes and what we deal with on a daily basis.”
Waxahachie Police Chief Wade Goolsby said he is proud of all of his officers that work hard each day in their service to the community.
“We truly have some outstanding employees here, and most of it goes totally unnoticed by the public. Most of the people here in Waxahachie are unaware that these calls happen and different event occur,” Goolsby said. “ Yet, every day, these officers are out there doing their job. These guys really performed in an outstanding way on a couple of different calls and they were awarded by their peers to recognize that performance. These guys did what was needed and did an outstanding job."
*Editor’s note: A full story detailing the actions of Waxahachie Police Officers Brent Dunn and Brandon Gilbert will be in an upcoming edition of the Daily Light.