Amherst cops lauded for actions that ‘saved lives’

‘I’m proud to work with cops of that caliber’

Collegian File Photo

Collegian File Photo

By Michael Connors, Assistant News Editor

The Amherst Police Department announced that five police officers have each been awarded a letter of commendation for actions related to an April fire that displaced 21 students and a May drowning in Puffer’s Pond.

Amherst police officers Benton J. Carr, Daniel J. Welch, Justin H. Satkowski and Andrew C. Hulse are being lauded for rushing into a burning Main Street building in order to evacuate residents. Officer Kasey J. Nagle received his award for his attempt to rescue University of Massachusetts student Jacob Johnson last year.

The letter of commendation is the highest honor an officer can be awarded, said Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone. Livingstone added that this award was rare and could only be given out through a vote by an officer’s peers.

“The officers come up with the criteria and it’s pretty stringent; the officers themselves are pretty meticulous. I don’t participate in that process, I just screen and approve them,” Livingstone said. “I think this makes it much more special to the officers that receive them.”

But regardless of his participation in the selection process, Livingstone said he believed each officer receiving the award deserved the recognition.

“The actions of these officers certainly saved lives that day…though I don’t condone running into burning buildings,” Livingstone said about the April fire. “I am very proud of them, and equally impressive is Officer Nagle’s actions.”

According to MassLive, Nagle dove into Puffer’s Pond and swam around 75 yards to the area where Johnson was last seen — searching in 40 degree waters in a rescue attempt.

Andrew Hulse, one of the awarded officers who has been with APD since 2012, recounted the early morning when he responded to the April structure fire.

“The first officer saw smoke coming from the building, from the third floor. And by the time I arrived, I exited my cruiser and I saw flames coming from the third-floor windows,” Hulse said.

All four officers on scene split up into two groups of two and entered the building in two separate areas to begin securing the apartment complex, he said.

“We split up, two and two, and started systematically, we started on the first floor each side, and it wasn’t any discussion about it. It was almost unspoken,” Hulse said.

On the first two floors, Hulse found open and unlocked doors where residents were still awake. Doors on the third floor, however, were still locked.

“Officer Welch joined me on the third floor, where he smashed a window with his flashlight and opened the lock to the third-floor door where we were able to gain entrance,” Hulse said.

Of the other officers who are being awarded the letter, Hulse said that he was proud to share the honor with them.

“They’re incredibly brave and exceptional cops,” Hulse said. “I’m proud to work with cops of that caliber…I’m so blessed to work with such phenomenal co-workers.”

“To be nominated by my peers, and to have it issued out, I’m incredibly proud,” he said.

Michael Connors can be reached at [email protected] or followed on Twitter @mikepconnors.