Eureka officials have recognized three police officers and one resident for their courageous actions.
Eureka Police officer Tim Shipp, Sgt. William Knittel and Lt. Michael Werges each received a medal of valor for their actions to help people in January and February, and resident Justin Flynn received a citizens’ service citation because he helped save a woman from a burning home.
Shipp and Flynn rescued Jean Anderson, 67, from a house fire Jan. 26. Flynn directed Shipp to Anderson, who was trapped inside, and the officer pulled her from the burning house.
Knittel and Werges teamed up to get children out of a home and deescalate a hostage situation when responding to a domestic violence call on Feb. 18.
The men were honored during the April 20 Board of Aldermen meeting, and the officers also received commendations from St. Louis County.
“It’s a great honor,” St. Louis County Councilman Mark Harder said while presenting the awards. “Besides your heroism, you were able to get seven of our council members to agree on one thing. There are two miracles happening here tonight.”
All three police officers graduated from Eureka High School.
Anderson said she woke up in a recliner early in the morning of Jan. 26 when she heard her husband, Larry, yell, “Fire!”
She then saw that her son, Scott, was on fire. She helped her son and then called 911, but then was trapped in the home because of the smoke.
“I was crawling. I was trying to find my way around the couch,” she said. “We had a big couch, and I couldn’t find my way out.”
Shipp responded at about 3:17 a.m. Jan. 26 to the home in the 18500 block of South Fox Creek Lane, about two minutes after the call was received.
Eureka Police Lt. Tom Wille said Shipp was about a mile away from the home in the western part of the city.
What happened next saved Anderson’s life, Eureka Fire Protection District Public Information Officer Scott Barthelmass said.
Flynn directed Shipp to the back of the house and told the officer that Anderson was trapped inside. Flynn said he had attempted to rescue Anderson three times before Shipp arrived but was unable to locate the woman, the police report said.
Flynn and Shipp called out for Anderson, and she answered, allowing Shipp to locate her in the house, which was filled with dense smoke, according to the report.
Shipp said Flynn told him the woman did not have use of one of her legs and would not be able to walk out of the house.
“I determined at that point, due to the rapidly progressing fire and since I was first on scene, it was necessary for me to enter and to attempt to extricate her as soon as possible,” Shipp said.
He said in that moment, he was acting on instinct.
“I just kind of acted. I wasn’t really thinking of anything,” said Shipp, who has spent six of his 10-year law enforcement career with Eureka.
Anderson said she was struggling to breathe as she held her pajamas over her face to protect herself from inhaling smoke.
“I was coughing,” Anderson said. “I think if they hadn’t come and found me in about 10 or 15 minutes, I wouldn’t have been breathing at all. That’s how close it was.”
Shipp located Anderson by having her call out to him. He said he grabbed Anderson by the arm and pulled her out of the home the same way he came in.
Once Shipp got Anderson out of the house, Eureka Police Officer Michael Brudek and Flynn helped them move away from the house.
“This was the most scary thing I’ve ever gone through,” said Anderson, who lost one of her legs six years ago after developing an infection following knee surgery. “I’ve been through some pretty hairy things with my amputation and everything, but this was the scariest thing I have ever been through.”
She said her son suffered burns on his hands and face, but he is doing well now. She also said she is thankful for everyone’s actions.
“Everything is replaceable, but our lives aren’t,” Anderson said. “I’m just so happy that they responded quickly.”
Flynn said he was just helping a neighbor.
Wille said Shipp’s actions did not surprise him.
“We are very proud of Officer Shipp. He did an absolutely outstanding job,” Wille said.
Anderson said her family is renting a house while they rebuild their home. She cried as Flynn and Shipp were honored during the board meeting.
“I was very happy and glad that they had received recognition for going in and risking their lives. Because, well, neither one of them had any protection,” she said.
Barthelmass said a cigarette dropped in a chair in a first-floor living room caused the fire at the two-story home.
Eureka Fire was dispatched to the home at 3:18 a.m. and arrived at 3:25 a.m., Barthelmass said. He said the fire was under control by 3:48 a.m., and firefighters left at 9:08 a.m.
The Metro West, High Ridge, Fenton, Pacific and Boles fire protection districts helped with the call. Meramec Ambulance also responded to the scene.
Knittel and Werges received their awards for getting two children and a woman out of a home after responding to a domestic dispute on Feb. 18 at a home on Currier and Ives Drive off Forby Road.
Officers were called to the home at about 3:20 p.m. When police arrived, they heard a gunshot, and several adults ran out of the home. Officers were told two children were still inside the house, Eureka Police reported.
Knittel and Werges went into the house and soon heard another gunshot. They found Glenn Hillam, 52, of Eureka and a woman in a back bedroom, the report said.
Knittel carried the two children out of the home while Werges went to the bedroom.
The woman came out of the room and left the home, but Hillam refused to come out. A St. Louis County Police Tactical Operations Unit was called to assist because he barricaded himself inside the home, Eureka Police reported.
After several hours of negotiations, Hillam surrendered at about 10 p.m. and was arrested, the report said. No one was injured during the incident.
The department said in its post that police had been called to the home in the past for reports of domestic violence.
Werges said he was honored to receive his second medal of valor. His first medal was awarded in 2002 after putting out a tractor-trailer fire when the driver was trapped inside.
“I think any time we can respond to an incident that is that violent and everyone, the victims, the police officers and the suspect, all are able to come out unharmed, it was a win,” he said.
Hillam was charged Feb. 19 with first-degree domestic assault, a class B felony; second-degree kidnapping, a class D felony; first-degree endangering the welfare of a child creating a substantial risk, a class D felony; resisting arrest, a class E felony; and armed criminal action, an unclassified felony, according to court documents.
A class B felony carries a penalty of five to 15 years in prison. A class D felony is punishable by up to seven years in prison, and a class E felony carries a penalty of up to four years in prison. An armed criminal action charge is punishable by three to 15 years in prison.