Story from the Herald-Standard. Story by Christine Haines
Original Story HERE
ELIZABETH TWP. — Four police officers from three different departments were honored Monday evening for saving the life a gunshot victim last month.
Elizabeth Borough Police Chief Timothy Butler said it was an unfortunate incident that drew everyone in the room together, but it was also an opportunity to recognize and to share the training that saved a life.
“We also want to thank the family of Johnathan Minnie. He was the first real hero, pushing the two women out of the way and taking the bullets himself,” Butler said.
Minnie, Alyssa Madison and Amanda Smith, all 27 years old and of Monessen, were standing in the parking lot of Saloon 136 on Rainbow Run Road in Forward Township Aug. 6 around 1:50 a.m. when a car pulled up and a gunman opened fire.
“We were standing there talking about who was going to drive us home because he didn’t think he should drive,” Smith said.
Smith was grazed by several bullets and struck in the hip by another. Because of the damage, she will eventually need a hip replacement, she said, and she currently gets around by using a walker.
“He pulled Alyssa off her feet, so she got shot in her legs instead of her torso,” Smith said.
Madison said she was on the ground bleeding when two police officers arrived. The first officer, Master Patrolman Jason Shallenberger of Elizabeth Township, was first to offer assistance to Madison, using a T-shirt as a crude tourniquet until Officer Garrett Kimmell of the Elizabeth Borough Police Department showed up with an emergency medical tourniquet.
In addition to Shallenberger and Kimmell, officials also recognized Officers Arthur Brunazzi of Forward Township and Anna Jandric of Elizabeth Borough, who also responded to the scene that night and provided assistance to the victims.
“They saved my life,” Madison said of Shallenberger and Kimmell. She also credited Minnie. “If he hadn’t pushed me down, I probably would be dead.”
Minnie was also struck by gunfire and pronounced dead at Monongahela Valley Hospital.
The action of the officers, using a tourniquet many officers carry for self-rescue in the event they are shot, stemmed Madison’s bleeding and provided the time needed to get her to a trauma hospital.
Dr. Jason Kodat, an emergency medical physician with the Allegheny Health System, said the tourniquet is simple enough for a victim to apply to their own arm or leg and first responders are being retrained to use the device that 30 or 40 years ago was considered taboo for fear it would cause the loss of the limb from lack of blood flow.
“Wartime is when we have a lot of advances in trauma care. Unfortunately, we have a lot of experience in war zones right now and the Department of Homeland Security has a ‘Stop the Bleed’ campaign,” Kodat said. “It turns out you can actually have a limb remain in good condition for several hours, and with helicopter transport, you can be at a trauma center from most anywhere in the United States in that time.”
Kodat said the increase in accessibility to trauma hospitals has been invaluable to saving lives.
According to Minnie’s aunt, Justina Underwood, Minnie was the father of eight children.
“During the shooting he pushed the girls under a car and took the bullets,” Underwood said. Underwood and another of Minnie’s aunts, Jackie Washington, said the family was upset that little has been said about the role Minnie played in saving the women’s lives, while the police who responded were honored with commendations from area lawmakers and others.
The man accused of shooting Minnie and the two women was arrested over the weekend in Louisiana and is awaiting extradition to Pennsylvania. Arrested during a traffic stop Friday was Joshua Wardlaw, 21, of McKeesport.
He is charged with criminal homicide, recklessly endangering another person, and two counts each of attempted homicide and aggravated assault.
Underwood said that while she was glad her nephew’s assailant has been captured, it really doesn’t change anything.
“I miss Johnathan. Nothing that happens from here on is going to bring him back. My mother raised him. We were raised in the same home. He was like my brother,” Underwood said.