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BPD officers honored at first awards banquet

Posted: Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

Lt. Derrick Powers (left), Officer Tony Sonnenburg and Sgt. Joel Perry (second from right) are shown with Brookings residents Gary and Debbie Thompson at a recent Brookings Police Department awards banquet. Each officer received the Medal of Commendation for helping save Gary Thompson?s life in August 2008.

Gary Thompson doesn't remember what happened to him the night of Aug. 20, 2008.

The Brookings man was lying on the floor at home watching television when he suffered cardiac arrest.

When his wife, Debbie, found him there at 9 p.m., his face was purple, and he was frothing at the mouth. Debbie called 911, and within minutes, three Brookings police officers were at the scene, performing CPR until paramedics arrived.

CPR kept oxygen flowing to Thompson's brain, and defibrillator paddles were used five times to get his heart going again. He was eventually airlifted to a Sioux Falls hospital and was put into a hypothermic coma for several days. Eight days after being admitted to the hospital, he was discharged, his quick recovery itself a miracle. While Thompson can't recall most of those events himself, there are some details of his near-death experience he says he'll never forget including the names of the three officers who helped save his life. Lt. Derrick Powers, Sgt. Joel Perry and Officer Tony Sonnenburg were among numerous Brookings police officers honored at the department's firstever awards banquet April 26. An emotional Thompson told them that night, "There is absolutely no way to repay them for giving me back my life. " No words can describe what it means to me." Police Chief Jeff Miller said last month's awards banquet served one main purpose: "We wanted to recognize officers who have acted in selflessness and bravery." Officers were recognized for their involvement in various activities within the depart- ment, such as SWAT, bike patrol and school resource officer. Additional recognition was given for meritorious service awards, commendation awards and even awards of valor. CPR saves lives

Miller said Awards of Commendation were given to several officers who performed CPR on local citizens over the past year or two. Those recognized included officers Shannon Machmiller and Tim Boomsma, as well as Powers, Perry and Sonnenburg.

Machmiller saved a life by performing CPR on an individual suffering heart failure. Miller said Boomsma was called to Interstate 29, where a woman was involved in a car crash. The exact location of the woman was not known, and Boomsma searched and found her and contacted EMS personnel right away.

"And I think through his efforts, he saved a life there as well," the chief said.

Miller said Medals of Valor were given to Lt. Dan Jungen and officers Arlo Jurrens and Brian Franklin.

Those officers responded to the fatal carbon monoxide poisoning in Brookings in November 2008. Miller said the men went into the home filled with carbon monoxide, pulled the victims out and tried to revive them.

"Those officers risked their own lives to try and save a life. In fact, they suffered some illeffects from the poisoning and were hospitalized themselves."

The police chief said he was very proud of all the officers honored last month. "Whether they risked their own lives or saved a life, they gave no thought of their own safety to help others."

Miller said he and Capt. Tod Wells plan to make the police department's awards banquet an annual event and have wanted to do so for a long time.

"We had to have a starting point. There are officers who are here and officers who are retired who have all performed acts of bravery and gave up selflessly to help other people in our community . "It was rewarding to us to recognize officers within the department. Obviously I'm very proud of them and the work that they do, and oftentimes we forget . We just consider it's part of their duties, which it is, but I think there are some cases when you have to recognize people for going above and beyond the job."

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