Two officers in Red Oak, 20 miles south of Dallas, will receive city awards for helping save the life of a suicidal man who was threatening to jump from a freeway overpass last weekend. And one of the officers in the Sunday rescue might also have a hand in saving the man’s soul.
Because when reserve Red Oak Officer Greg Dansby arrived at the Ovilla Rd. bridge over I-35 where another officer and passersby had stopped traffic to approach the man standing outside the retaining wall 20-feet above the northbound lanes, Dansby had just left church, the International Revival Center, where he serves as the pastor.
In a tense 3-minute encounter captured on police body cam and dash cam videos, Dansby approaches the man as both an off-duty officer and as a pastor.
"I had to do something. Something had to be done right then," Dansby said of a brief conversation that he sensed was not making an impact. When another officer asked for the man's name, the man on the bridge railing merely grabbed his wallet and threw it at the officer.
"You know, I was talking to the guy about life itself and how valuable it is. And he kept ignoring everything I was saying. He just kept saying I'm gonna do it, I'm gonna do it," Dansby said. "And then eventually he turned kind of slightly toward me and looked at me and said 'you can't say anything to help me.' And it was at that moment in my heart I felt that this isn't going to end well."
But it did end well when Dansby decided words were not enough. He lunged at the man grabbing his shirt in both hands, bracing his feet at the side of the cement railing and holding on for the man's dear life as the other officer and passersby jumped in to help pull the man away from the railing.
"And I knew once I grabbed him, in my mind, I knew there was no way I could let go," he said.
Officer Dansby will receive a Life Saving Award and Red Oak Officer Whittenberg will receive a Meritorious Conduct Award and "for their exemplary performance during this incident" the Red Oak Police Department said in a news release. But Dansby's best reward already came in a phone call from the man's thankful wife who says he's recovering in a hospital.
"She says he's doing better. He's got a new focus and new vision in life now he says, according to his wife," he said.
So a man who serves Red Oak as a police officer, and as a pastor, believes he was put on that bridge on Sunday on purpose. "I believe it was ordered of God," Dansby said. "It was a great feeling to be able to just reach out and touch somebody and save their life that day."
And a great feeling to learn that sometimes saving a wayward soul includes reaching out with everything you've got and simply refusing to let go.