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By Carmen Ensinger
Two Rivers Crime Stoppers do more than just take tips to catch criminals – they also honor police officers, and other first responders, who put their lives on the line every day to catch those criminals or perform other special heroic acts either on or off the job.
Crime Stoppers presented plaques to two officers at their monthly meeting at the Oasis in Carrollton on Aug. 19 – Calhoun County Sheriff’s Deputy Zach Hardin and Jersey County Sheriff’s Deputy Brett Vetter.
Crime Stoppers President Terry Woelfel said they began honoring officers in the last two years.
“We started this program of honoring officers back in 2019, but the pandemic kind of put a halt to it last year,” he said. “The first officer we honored was Officer Justin Decker with his K-9 Unit. Last year, however, we didn’t get to honor any because of the pandemic.”
Now, however, Woelfel said officers need the recognition more than ever.
“Since law enforcement is being treated the way they are being treated, we thought it was time to get it going again and promote them more and try to get these officers the recognition that they deserve,” he said. “And it’s not just officers that we want to recognize, either. We intend to recognize the North Calhoun Volunteer Fire Department at one of our upcoming meetings for the many lives we are sure that they saved recently by their heroic efforts.”
Woelfel is referring to the multi-county pursuit that began in Pere Marquette on the weekend of the Kampsville celebration and ended in Calhoun County when the North Calhoun Volunteer Fire Department used their fire trucks to block the road forcing the speeding vehicle off the road causing it to crash into a shed. The police vehicle, which had been in pursuit of the vehicle then blocked the driver in the vehicle and arrested him. Had the speeding vehicle reached Kampsville where the celebration was still taking place, there could have been multiple fatalities.
The first officer recognized Thursday night was Deputy Vetter. His award was for saving the life of a former officer. Woelfel asked Vetter to describe the event that led to his being given the award.
“I was eating lunch at Broscio’s with my retired sergeant and he was sitting across from me and he looked at me and was grabbing at his throat and I thought he was just messing around,” Vetter said. “He couldn’t talk and I realized he was choking when his face started turning colors and he stood up. I went over and performed the Heimlich maneuver on him and saved his life.”
Zach Hardin’s plaque was for a much different act of heroism – one that could have very well ended up with a not-so-happy ending. Hardin explained what led to his receiving the award.
“We had a string of burglaries in Calhoun with some firearms and car keys being stolen out of vehicles,” he said. “Over the next week, we developed an MO on the suspects who did the crimes and found that they were doing this in a lot of other jurisdictions.”
The suspects would take the keys out of the vehicles, then come back for the vehicles a week or so later.
“I figured they would be coming back for the vehicles so I stayed out late throughout the next week,” Hardin said. “One week to the day, they came back. I saw a suspicious vehicle that came through town at an hour of night so I ran the plates and the plates didn’t match the vehicle, which was out of Missouri, so I stopped it.”
After making the stop, Hardin found the mother load.
“Inside the car, I found key fobs with keys that opened cars, firearms and meth,” Hardin said. “They were on their way to pick up one of the cars. I called for backup and Greenfield Police Chief John Goode did about 120 mph to get up here to back me up. I swear I smelled his car before I saw it.”
Hardin went on to say that he was lucky in that the suspects did not choose to make a run for it like they did in Jersey County.
Woelfel said Hardin was indeed a very lucky young man as the suspects were part of major burglary ring out of the metro St. Louis area.
“I know there are cases on this particular ring in Greene, Jersey and Calhoun and also Madison County,” Woelfel said. “Zach was very fortunate because there was a lot of firearms in the car and he was all alone on the stop.”
Both officers were presented with a very nice plaque called the “Police Officer’s Prayer”.
“These plaques, in addition to having the prayer on it, also has a badge with the officer’s name and badge number on it along with their department name,” Woelfel said. “We think it is very fitting for what it is representing.”