It took less than two minutes for Sunny Isles Beach police officers Tracey Cabal and John Childress to rescue an intoxicated man from jumping off the Northeast 163rd Street Bridge.
“Neither of us hesitated,” said Cabal, a 16-year law enforcement officer who has spent the last four years with the Sunny Isles Beach Police Department. “We just did what we had to do.”
The duo’s quick-to-action effort that saved a man’s life won them the 2014 Officer of the Year award at this year’s 15th annual Miami-Dade Law Enforcement Officer (L.E.O.) Awards Gala. More than 700 people attended the ceremony at Jungle Island on March 7.
“We were absolutely shocked,” said Childress, 23. “We never thought what we did was a big deal. It was just another day at work.”
In June 2014, the pair received an emergency call about a suicidal person. Childress was in his last week of field training and Cabal was his overseeing officer.
They took the call and were first on scene. A woman stood outside her car screaming at her then-boyfriend, who was teetering on the causeway’s edge. She had just broken up with him, and he threatened to jump if she didn’t take him back.
As Cabal and Childress approached the man, they tried to talk him out of jumping. Within seconds, they simultaneously grabbed his arms, latched on to his pants and pulled him over the barricade.
“You could see the thought process was turning to, ‘He’s going to jump very soon,’” Childress said. “Once we grabbed him, it was just a matter of how to get him back on our side. Because we were both there, we were able to get the guy back over.”
Before any other units showed up, the man was in custody.
“It was a really a coordinated effort to save a life,” Sunny Isles Beach Police Chief Fred Maas said. “They started talking and established a rapport at the right time.”
Childress and Cabal were also awarded Medals of Valor for Life Saving, an honor given to officers who perform outstanding acts of bravery in the line of duty.
The gala, modeled after the Emmy Awards, was hosted by the L.E.O Foundation and the Miami-Dade County Association of Chiefs of Police. Each year, more than 30 individual agencies nominate officers for excellence in police work. Only a few win.
Other winners include:
▪ Uniform Patrol Services Winner: Officer Ivan Osores, Pinecrest Police Department.
▪ Investigative Services Winner: Detectives Rolando Garcia, Fernando Bosch and Freddy Ponce, Homicide Bureau at Miami Police Department.
▪ Crime Prevention/Community Policing Winner: Officers Daniel Mocombe and Earnest Lawrence, Miami Police Department.
▪ Specialized Services Winner: Marine Patrol Officers James Hayton, Aventura Police Department; and Sgt. Bobby Randazzo, Sunny Isles Beach Police Department.
▪ Safety Award Winner: Patrick McNally, North Miami Police Department.
▪ Support Services Winner: Ana Guerra, Key Biscayne Police Department; Hector Gonzalez, Bal Harbour Police Department.
▪ Support Services Winner: Samantha Steinberg, Miami-Dade Police Department.
▪ State Agents of the Year: Leslie D’Ambrosia and Michael Stein, Federal Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE).
▪ Federal Agent of the Year: James Klatt, FBI.
▪ State Prosecutor of the Year: Chet Zerlin, Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office.
▪ Federal Prosecutor of the Year: Seth Schlessinger, U.S. Attorney’s Office.