The call came over police radio around 12:30 p.m. just three December days after Newtown: Gun shots inside a church which also housed a daycare for children as young as three.
Mercifully, those initial reports were inaccurate, but the first two responding officers — Evelyn Reyes and Jerome Joseph — still encountered a chaotic scene at Deliverance Evangelistic Church on Dec. 17, 2012.
Though not a shooting, a minivan had crashed through the front doors of the church at 20th St. and Lehigh Ave. and continued into the Bright Beginnings Head Start daycare area.
Three children were struck; two of them were trapped under the 1999 Chevrolet Venture. By the time police arrived in short order, people at the scene had pulled one child out from underneath.
According to a Police Department’s Officers of the Month memorandum, Reyes and Joseph worked to free a 5-year-old girl from being “pinned under the front right passenger tire.”
They were able to lift the car off of her, by hand, with the help of Officers Kimberly Lyons, Antonio Soto, Gregory Giacomelli and Michael McCormick who arrived at the North Philadelphia scene “within seconds” and started rendering first aid to the injured.
The girl, taken to a hospital by medics that day, has since made a full recovery, according to 39th District Capt. Michael Craighead, who accompanied the six officers to City Council on Thursday where they were honored for “extraordinary acts of bravery and courage.” (PDF)
Honored by Council
“They have gone beyond the call of duty to perform in an exemplary manner, facing the stresses and dangers of their job with determination and dignity for the citizens of Philadelphia,” reads the resolution, which was sponsored by Eighth District City Councilwoman Cindy Bass. “They have brought pride to the Police Department and distinction to their badges.”
Craighead, who oversees the district which covers portions of Germantown and East Falls, spoke on behalf of the officers who were “excited about this moment” in Council Chambers.
“This is just another example of the dangerous, difficult work our officers do day in and day out,” he said.
The 83-year-old driver reportedly hit the gas instead of the brakes, prompting the need for police intervention.