Citizens get some respect

  • Article by: CHAO XIONG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 21, 2010 - 10:33 PM

Several are honored with St. Paul Police Chief's Medals of Valor.

Christopher Newman helped officer Jeffrey Stiff (right) apprehend a suspect who was resisting arrest last June.

Photo: Jim Gehrz, Star Tribune

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St. Paul police officer Jeffrey Stiff was flat on his belly in a parking lot, knee blown out by an injury just seconds earlier, arm wrapped around a suspect's neck when he saw a pair of feet coming at him.

Uh oh, he thought.

"I'm bracing myself for a kick in the head," Stiff said Wednesday as he recalled the June 29 incident.

But it wasn't a second suspect, as Stiff thought. The approaching feet belonged to Christopher Newman, a good Samaritan who stopped to help while on his way to buy diapers for his newborn twins.

Newman and other citizens received the St. Paul Police Chief's Medal of Valor on Wednesday.

"It felt good to help," said Newman, who served seven years in the Navy and now works in construction.

Newman was driving to a drugstore about 7 p.m. when he saw Stiff struggling with the suspect at Arcade Street and E. Geranium Avenue. His newborn twins, a 1-year-old daughter, 15-year-old son and girlfriend were also in the car. He turned his car around.

Stiff had tried to stop the suspect for running a red light, but the man drove through two parking lots before getting out of his car. The suspect turned to flee, and Stiff grabbed him and brought him to the ground.

In the process, Stiff's left knee hit a railroad tie. His quadricep tendon detached, and he was physically unable to stand. (He underwent surgery the next day.)

Stiff lay on his belly with the man in a headlock. The suspect was on his hands and knees, struggling to escape. That's when Newman ran up and jumped on the suspect, planting his knee between the suspect's shoulder blades and telling him to stop resisting. Stiff handed Newman the handcuffs, and he handcuffed the suspect as backup help arrived.

Said Stiff: "I've been on the streets 12 years, and as a cop, sometimes you go, 'Why am I doing this? These guys don't care about me.' But then someone like Chris steps up."

Other award recipients were:

• Danielle Assie, Barry Gustafson, Jim Portmann and Kyle Smisek, members of the University of St. Thomas and Minneapolis Rowing Clubs, who helped recover a man who was swept into the Mississippi River on April 26, 2009.

• Sarah Hedberg, an employee at Michael's Pizza, who called police with suspect information when an elderly customer was beaten and robbed on May 25, 2009.

• Col. Michael Huddleston, CW5 Curt Skoog, CW5 Steven Shoemaker, CW4 Darin Skopek and CW4 Paul Adamson of the Minnesota National Guard for a helicopter search when St. Paul Sgt. Gerald Vick was fatally shot on May 6, 2005.

Chao Xiong • 612-673-4391

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