An Embarassing Situation: An Award for Valor

An Embarassing Situation: An Award for Valor May 6, 2011


How did a nice Chief of Police like Minneapolis’ Tim Dolan wind up shaking my hand?

A few months back, I was working with a young man who happens to be a really big guy and was having a really bad moment. When a police officer arrived for back up, the young man attacked him. Quite a bit larger than the officer, the young man overpowered him after noble but brief effort on the officer’s part.

The young man pinned the officer face down and put his neck in the crook of his elbow in a choking vice grip. I ran over and pulled at the choking arm but realized that he was much stronger than me and probably strong enough to continue the strangulation if he chose.

 In crisis, I’ve learned to keep it simple so I yelled his name and “Stop!”

Fortunately, the young man stopped. He apparently jumped up, as I must have too (although I have no memory of the transition). The next thing I do remember, the young man was a couple feet from me, looking down at me and pleading, “Port, don’t let him hurt me!”

I said, “Okay, I can do that” and we walked to the police car with only a little temptation on his part to take off.

The incident was reported up the food chain and Chief Dolan  gave me the highest civilian honor, the Citizen’s Award for Valor.

Although the appreciation is welcome and the Minneapolis Police Annual Awards Cermony, attended by several near and dear to me (including my 80-year old dad) was delightful and inspiring (hearing about suicides police officers prevented, drive-by shooters arrested due to incredible team work and detective work, etc.), I continue to have an uneasy sense that the award isn’t exactly fitting.

I did what I hope anyone would do in a such a situation. 

I continue to reflect on this incident and digest it. “Don’t let him hurt me” brings home the point that despite his extreme aggression, the young man was coming from fear.

When I consider that those who appear intent on doing harm – including in nonlife-threatening ways – might be coming from their own fear or misplaced anger, I relax. 

When I told one of my Zen priest friends about the incident she said, “You were coming from pure activity.” 

Honestly, as I moved toward the two people on the floor, my bodily sense was like I get when I jump into a very cold lake, like “shiiiitttttt…!”

Upon hearing about this incident, my 14.5 year old son, who inherited my flare for the facetious,  said, “Well, finally, after all these years, your parents have a reason to be proud.”

Enough said.

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