Backing The Blue
Youngsville Borough recognized a local hero on Monday.
As a firefighter and EMT for both Youngsville and Garland volunteer fire departments, Jody Rowland would qualify as a hero every day, but that’s not why he was recognized.
Borough Council singled him out for an act of valor and presented him with a Good Samaritan Award for providing assistance to a police officer.
On July 18, Rowland left the Youngsville fire hall and headed across Railroad Street to Tops.
“Right at the corner of the building I saw (Youngsville Borough Police) Officer (Tyler) Wagner” and another man, Rowland said. “They were struggling. They were going at it.”
There had been multiple reports of a “suspicious person engaging in criminal acts,” Wagner said.
He found the suspect in the Tops parking lot. “He was not cooperative and had a large knife on his side in plain view. You could tell he was under the influence,” Wagner said. “I needed to detain him – not arrest him – to investigate further what was going on.”
The situation escalated.
“While I was attempting to detain him, he reached for the knife,” Wagner said. “At that time, I was trying to put handcuffs on him. He turned around, faced me… he was non-compliant. We ended up going to the ground.”
The struggle on the ground went on for more than a minute, he said. “During that struggle I was able to disarm him.”
He was also able to reach his radio to let dispatch know that he was going ‘hands-on’ with the suspect. That call summoned reinforcements, but he knew help was a least a couple minutes away.
Wagner had the upper hand, but “it can be hard to get somebody handcuffed,” Youngsville Borough Police Chief Todd Mineweaser said.
“I could see he was struggling,” Rowland said of Wagner. “I didn’t want to see either one of them get hurt.”
He could hear sirens in the distance but recognized Wagner needed help right away and no one else was helping. His was the only help Wagner was likely to get immediately.
“People were just walking by,” he said. “It bothered me.”
“Several people walked by,” Mineweaser said. “Jody jumped into action.”
“He had got him on the ground,” Rowland said. “I went over, and said, ‘Tyler, do you need help?’ He said yes.”
Wagner remembers it exactly the same way.
“Jody ran up and said, ‘do you need help?'” Wagner said. “Yes, I do.”
So, Rowland jumped into the fray.
“It startled the suspect,” he said. “He was on the ground. Officer Wagner was trying to get him on his stomach. It startled him. He rolled over and put his hands behind his head.”
It was over quickly after that.
“I got a hold of his hands,” Rowland said. “Officer Wagner cuffed him and picked him up.”
“Jody came in and helped me at the right time,” Wagner said. “It could’ve probably gone on for another 45 seconds if Jody didn’t help.”
“Who knows what could’ve happened in that time frame,” he said. The suspect could have gotten away or hurt Wagner or the officer might have had to use some additional force.
Rowland knew there was some danger – he knows how situations can turn. “I’m an EMT and I’ve taken several courses,” he said. “We can get somebody that can get violent really quick.”
Rowland believed the man was under the influence. “I could see he was on something, drugs or drunk, I don’t know,” he said.
And the man was armed.
“I saw he had a knife sheath,” he said.
When he saw a knife on the ground, “I did kick it out of the way.”
Rowland was also in some danger of being interpreted as a suspect when reinforcements arrived.
Mineweaser and Wagner said it is important for a citizen to ask police before assisting.
Wagner knew Rowland was on his side, but other responding officers might only have seen a confused struggle.
“When he comes on scene, he’s thinking the worst,” Wagner said. “They come in… Jody’s in the mix. It looks like Jody’s causing harm.”
If police had not been aware Rowland had intervened on Wagner’s behalf “he could get tased or tackled or pepper sprayed or whatever force they deem necessary to neutralize the threat,” Wagner said.
A Conewango Township Police officer was the first to arrive at the scene to assist, followed by two Pennsylvania State Police troopers, Wagner said.
“Just as we slapped the cuffs on him, Conewango Township was the first to arrive,” he said. “We were very fortunate. PSP was running speed enforcement in that area. It worked out in my best interest.”
Rowland stepped out of the way to let the professionals handle the situation, but he had been on the spot at the right time.
“I’m glad he was there at that time,” Wagner said. “I’ve never been so relieved to have somebody in handcuffs.”
“It was a very good deed and we very much appreciate it,” Mineweaser said. “I said we need to recognize this guy.”
At Monday’s Borough Council meeting, Mayor Scott Nelson and Mineweaser presented a Community Service Award to Rowland. Wagner was working and unable to attend.
“It was nice to have somebody from the community see an officer struggling to get somebody in handcuffs just step in,” Wagner said. “He’s a good dude.”
“In today’s age, for a good Samaritan to jump in and help an officer out is cool to see,” Mineweaser said. “We appreciate it. Jody is one of our local heroes.”
“Helping a police officer… helping somebody that was in a car accident,” Rowland said. “I consider it the same. Community service.”
“I was just helping out.”