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Officers honoured for bravery


July 2, 2014
By Danette Dooley

When a call came of a man armed with a knife attempting to kick in the door of a home in Port Union, Newfoundland on March 25, RCMP constables Justin Lyall and Devin Pulsifer responded.

They were about a 10 minute drive away at the Bonavista detachment. Arriving at the home around 3:40 AM, they were told the man had left, Lyall said.

Thanks to the harsh Newfoundland winter weather (snow and strong wind) the officers were able to track the man’s footprints to the harbour.

The footprints ended at the end of the dock, indicating that he had jumped into the frigid water.
The officers knew time was of the essence if they were to rescue him.

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“At first we couldn’t see him but we kept shining our flashlights around and Cst. Pulsifer ended up spotting him floating out in the middle of the harbour,” Lyall recalled.

When Pulsifer called out the man told the officers they should leave and forget about him. That’s not something they were willing to do.

“We ended up grabbing a boat that was tied up to the dock… we used these poorly-made paddles to try to flight the current and the ice pans that were in the harbour. We finally managed to get out to him which seemed, to us, to take forever,” Lyall said.

They managed to pull the man aboard and paddled back to shore, again fighting ice pans and strong current. They got him out of the boat and out of his wet clothes, wrapped him in blankets, put him in the police cruiser, turned up the heat and waited for an ambulance to arrive.

“He couldn’t say a whole lot. He was pretty cold at that point. All he said was, ‘You should have left me,'” Lyall recalled.

While the story has a happy ending and the man recovered from the incident, Lyall realizes that the situation could have been deadly not only for the man but for he and his partner.

Both officers were wearing full uniforms and dressed for the blustery weather conditions. Neither had personal flotation devices.

“If we had to go over (the side of the boat) we would have sank like rocks, but that was the last thing from our minds at the time. We were only focused on getting out to him and getting him aboard the boat.”

The likelihood of anyone else spotting the man under the cover of darkness is remote.

Both officers are happy that the call turned out so well.

Lyall has been with the RCMP for nine years and policed in Gander before moving to the Bonavista detachment two years ago. He knew he wanted to become a police officer by the time he started Kindergarten.

“I grew up across the road from the detachment and that was a big motivator for me wanting to join.”

Lyall was recently named RCMP police officer of the year for Newfoundland and Labrador.

A native of Nova Scotia, Pulsifer has been with the RCMP for six years and was stationed in Ontario before coming to Bonavista almost a year ago. He agrees with Lyall that the outcome would have been different had police not been called to respond to the call.

“I fear that the man would not have survived,” he said.

Pulsifer said giving the man another chance at life left him feeling like he and his partner had done something meaningful.

“When something like that happens it gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment,” he said.

One thing is certain, Pulsifer said – other officers with the detachment would have responded to the call in the same way.

“It’s a phenomenal group of people that they have working here. It really is,” he said.

The RCMP recognized Lyall and Pulsifer for their courage and bravery during an awards ceremony in St. John’s in June by presenting them with Commanding Officer’s Commendations.

They accepted the award with mixed emotions, Pulsifer said.

“While we were there our minds were in Moncton,” he said, referring to the recent police shootings in New Brunswick.

Lyall said while he was excited about the recognition when he first heard about it, his feelings changed after the shootings.

“First I thought it was a pretty big deal to get an award like that, but after the incident in Moncton, it didn’t really feel as important. It felt that I was getting recognized for bravery when we had three members that were shot dead and another two that were shot and injured. So, what I did seemed to pale in comparison to what they went through.”

dooley@blueline.ca

photo cut: RCMP A/Comm. Tracy Hardy presents Cst. Justin Lyall with his award as Cst. Devin Pulsifer (left) awaits his turn.