Officer Michael A. Riley
United States Capitol Police
Washington, DC – The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund has announced the selection of Officer Michael A. Riley of the United States Capitol Police as its Officer of the Month for February 2011.
In the midst of a paralyzing snowstorm that blanketed Washington, DC in February 2010, United States Capitol Police Officer Michael Riley volunteered for an extra Saturday shift. Shortly after reporting for duty, he responded to an “officer down” radio medical alert. According to the officer who radioed for medical assistance, Officer Bryan Nickelson had slipped on the ice, slammed his head on the pavement and fallen unconscious, blood dripping from his head and nose, while en route to his post. As a trained EMT, Officer Riley responded to the call immediately, expecting to find his colleague with a minor head injury.
When Officer Riley arrived at the scene, he realized Officer Nickelson’s injuries were far more serious than he had anticipated. While waiting for DC Emergency Services to arrive, Officer Nickelson stopped breathing, despite Officer Riley’s desperate attempts to open his airways. Soon, Officer Nickelson’s pupils became fixed and his pulse stopped, at which time Officer Riley performed vigorous CPR, causing Officer Nickelson to take a few deep gasps of air, before ceasing breath once again. Officer Riley knew he had to fight to keep Officer Nickelson alive, and he refused to give up.
Additional officers and the emergency crew members were devastated when they saw Officer Nickelson, one of their own, fighting for his life. Officer Nickelson, a well-respected 20-year-veteran of the United States Capitol Police Department, was rushed to the hospital, followed closely behind by Officer Riley in a patrol car. Knowing she would be too upset to drive herself, Officer Riley radioed the dispatcher and arranged for a local sheriff’s office to bring Officer Nickelson’s wife, also a public servant working for the District of Columbia Fire Department, to the hospital to be with her husband.
Once at the hospital, doctors performed emergency quadruple bypass surgery on Officer Nickelson, who remained heavily sedated for several weeks following the procedure. Medical officials considered Officer Riley’s quick response and continuous CPR efforts imperative in keeping Officer Nickelson alive and credited his efforts for ensuring that he suffered no brain damage, a common consequence of massive cardiac trauma.
For his efforts that day, Officer Riley received the 2010 Officer of the Year award from the Capitol Hill Executive Service Club/National Exchange Club, as well as a Lifesaving award from the United States Capitol Police. Officer Riley, a 14-year law enforcement veteran, continues to serve with the United States Capitol Police.
Located in the nation’s capital, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America’s law enforcement officers. The Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Program began in September 1996 and recognizes federal, state and local officers who distinguish themselves through exemplary law enforcement service and devotion to duty.
Officer Riley, along with the other Officers of the Month for 2011, will be honored at a special awards luncheon in Washington, DC, in May 2012 during National Police Week. In addition, their stories of heroism and service will be featured in the Memorial Fund’s 2013 calendar.