“I saw a cry for help; I had to take action,” the Anoka County deputy said. “I couldn’t possibly watch someone die in front of me.”

Seeing only the hand of someone whose car had plunged through the ice on an Andover pond, Deputy Chris Pierro jumped in to rescue a man who was struggling to stay above water.

For his lifesaving effort last April, Pierro was recently awarded the Medal of Valor by the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association.

Pierro was finishing his 12-hour patrol shift around 6 a.m. on April 11 when he heard the emergency call. The driver, having lost control on icy roads, plowed through a fence and into a pond near the intersection of Bunker Lake and Crosstown Boulevards NW.

The driver could not swim to safety.

Pierro arrived to find the vehicle submerged and the driver struggling.

He removed some of his gear, jumped in and swam to the victim. By the time he got there, all that remained above water was the man’s hand. Pierro pulled him to shore. The man was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he was eventually released.

“Every day, members of the sheriff’s office are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to protect our citizens. It is nice of the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association to formally acknowledge our appreciation for the actions they take on our behalf,” Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart said in a written statement.

Pierro started with the Anoka County Sheriff’s Department in March 2008. Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association President Kent Wilkening, the Nobles County sheriff, presented Pierro with the award on Dec. 9.