Officer Benjamin Henrich
City of Prescott (WI) Police Department
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Officer Benjamin Henrich of the City of Prescott (WI) Police Department as its Officer of the Month for January 2008.
Law enforcement officers are often portrayed in movies as car chasing, gun toting, tough guys and gals who care more about the safety of the innocent people than their own lives. The special effects only add to the grandeur of these scenes of high paced, breathtaking action. On occasion, however, these scenes are played out in real life by real police officers.
On February 17th, 2007, at approximately 8:51 pm, a pick-up truck driven by a 39 year old woman crashed into a house in Prescott, Wisconsin. As dispatchers began receiving calls about the accident Officer Benjamin Henrich, who was en route to a 911 hang-up call in the neighborhood, radioed in that he would respond, and arrived within minutes of the crash. As he approached the residence the strong odor of natural gas was unmistakable and he ordered the residents to move quickly to a safe distance away from the house. The pick-up had plowed more than six feet into the residence, severing a main natural gas line. Officer Henrich knew that it would not take much for the gas to ignite, which would certainly damage the structure and more importantly, threaten the lives of those close by.
Officer Henrich turned his attention to the female driver who was disoriented and unresponsive. He knew that he had little time to extricate her from the vehicle and began banging on the windows in an effort to get her attention. As he attempted to break the window, it seemed as if time stood still. The sudden explosion threw Officer Henrich through the air, approximately twenty feet away from the automobile and the house, which were now both fully engulfed in flames. He landed facing away from the firebolt and he believes he was unconscious for a few seconds before opening his eyes. "I knew I was alive and that everything behind me was on fire," said Officer Henrich.
Regaining consciousness, Officer Henrich cautioned bystanders, who were rushing to assist him, to remain back at a safe distance. When he reached his cruiser, he radioed in and uttered the words no dispatcher ever wants to hear, "Officer Down."
As other officers and emergency crews arrived, they ensured that Officer Henrich's condition was stabilized before he was rushed to the hospital. Firefighters began battling the blaze that continued to burn for more than three hours. Officer Henrich was treated and released from the hospital with minor burns, scrapes and bruises. Tragically the driver was killed in the explosion. It is believed that in her disoriented state, she turned the key in the ignition, the spark of which likely ignited the natural gas.
In the wake of the incident it was found that the explosion was powerful enough to crack windows and knock pictures off walls in buildings up to four blocks away. At a press conference Officer Henrich expressed to the woman's family and friends, his sorrow in not being able to free her from the pick-up. In response, a spokeswoman for the victim's family stated, "It was a heroic effort by Officer Henrich to save her life and we are grateful to him." Acting Chief of Police Mike Bondarenko commented that Officer Henrich placed himself at great personal risk and is absolutely very much a hero.
Officer Benjamin Henrich recovered from the incident and was back on duty less than two weeks later. The 2004 graduate of the University of Minnesota continues to serve and protect with the City of Prescott (WI) Police Department.
Located in the nation's capital, the NLEOMF is a nonprofit organization dedicated to honoring the service and sacrifice of America's law enforcement officers. The NLEOMF established the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in 1991 and is now working to build the first-ever National Law Enforcement Museum. The NLEOMF Officer of the Month Program, which began in 1997, recognizes federal, state and local officers who distinguish themselves through exemplary law enforcement service and devotion to duty. Officer Benjamin Henrich and all of the 2008 Officers of the Month will be recognized during a special ceremony in Washington, D.C., in May 2009 during National Police Week.