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SBPD Salute

An “awards corner for exemplary service” on the behalf of the South Bend Police Department and the City of South Bend.

The stories vary. The incidents are diverse. From daily business to deadly encounters, South Bend Police Department officers and civilians answer their call to serve and protect the citizens and neighborhoods of South Bend. Unsung heroes under the radar—more often than not—public safety professionals are sworn to fulfill their duties without expectations. No “hearts and flowers,” and many times a thankless job— most say that at the end of the day, their pride in “doing the right thing” is enough.

Nonetheless, this feature is an opportunity to share the inspiring stories of those who dedicate themselves to going “above and beyond the call of duty” in many ways…from small acts of kindness to saving lives. It’s also a way to say thanks…Pass it on. Want to share an upbeat story of how our police department people helped you?

Please email Public Information Officer Phil Trent at with your story idea!

We will present this as a monthly feature as awards are noted and commended.

Past Archived Stories:
“The corporal and sergeant saved my life”
by Teri Lanning

On Saturday, August 25, 2007, and nearing the end of his afternoon detail at 10 p.m., Cpl. Chris Slager responded to a “welfare check” dispatch, regarding a man at the Pilot Travel Center on Brick Road. The employee seemed concerned for the man who was on his way from another regional Veteran’s Administration (VA) hospital and appeared to be stranded.

Cpl. Slager located Ron Thompson, 62, and listened to his story. In short, Thompson, a Vietnam veteran, of Pontiac and most recently, Marquette, Michigan-- was indeed “in a spot” in South Bend—and surrounded by strangers.

“Being a veteran myself, Army 101st Airborne, I have a spot in my heart for those who have served their country…and certainly any soldier sustaining injuries. Seems Ron was on his travels to the next VA hospital and his check was held up so his friend couldn’t get it wired to him in time. He had a dollar in his pocket, it was getting late and he had no resources in the area,” explained Slager, saying Thompson was very cooperative, not looking to imposition anyone and hesitant to ask for help.

He also noted that Thompson did not meet any of the medical/ situational criteria for existing area shelters or lodgings and because of the late hours, he felt if “Ron was left alone out there, he literally could be a “victim just waiting for a suspect.” Cpl. Slager continued, “I realize I could’ve told him to hit the bricks into Michigan but really, why do that when I felt I could come up with something to help tide him over? I contacted Sgt. Eric Downey to see if he had any other ideas or advice…I had my conscience, a city car, and Sgt. Downey came up with a creative solution.”

Both Thomspon and Cpl. Slager smiled and said Sgt. Downey was “the man with the plan,” making arrangements for Thompson to sleep on the floor in a secluded public area at the station—and the South Bend Fire Department pitched in with bedding. “They saved my life…I never felt so safe and was able to get a little sleep—they went above and beyond any duty. In all my travels and making it to all 50 states, I have never been treated with such respect and decency…this community is fortunate to have such good police officers. I can’t thank them enough. They did such a kind thing for me, a stranger,” shared Thompson.

In South Bend, not strangers for long. When both officers returned the next afternoon for their scheduled detail at 2 p.m., they were glad to see Ron took their advice to stay and try to make contact with some area veteran’s organizations.

But first, they offered him lunch—since they were due for some sustenance themselves. Thompson said he was initially reluctant to impose more on their charity, even as he had not had a hot meal in quite a long time. But he grinned and said “the guys were convincing” and he opted for the famed burger platter at Oaken Bucket, while Sgt. Downey worked on phoning veteran contacts.

As luck would have it, at American Legion Post 303, a retired military couple stepped up and offered Thompson a place to stay until he had his money wired…and could go through with his plans to go to the VA Hospital in Fort Wayne or down south to Tennessee. Sgt. Downey stated when the couple took him to their home, and he saw that they had a dog, he was “misting over” because he loved dogs so much.

Yet as Thompson might momentarily long for a home again, he explained life on the road was more of a comfort to him at this stage in his life.

“You see, I don’t have anyone anymore and I guess I’m happy wandering. If you knew what it might be like to be in a VA Hospital for so many years, you’d understand why I had to leave—I felt like an old man, trapped in my own body, and in a hospital bed. And being on the road, well, I like feeling alive again. And I’m telling you again, the corporal and sergeant saved my life,” he smiled.

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