NEW ORLEANS — When police radios across the city broadcast reports of the shooting at Canal Street and Elks Place on Sunday night, an officer in Uptown began to race to the scene.
But at Napoleon and Danneel streets, he clipped a Jeep, slammed into a tree and flipped over.
“It was a very loud crash,” recalled Ryan Bird, who lives on Napoleon and heard it happen. He raced outside to find the car crushed almost beyond recognition.
“I didn’t know it was a police officer at the time,” he said.
But that didn’t matter. All he knew was someone needed help and that every second counted since the car was on fire. He also hoped whoever was inside would be OK, but he had his doubts.
“When I ran towards the car, and just seeing how mangled it was, my first thought was that if that person survived at all, they’re gonna be hurt pretty bad.”
The Touro Infirmary emergency room physician said the only choice he had was to do what he could to get the officer out.
“I’ve responded to a couple of accidents before but the fire kind of made you think, ‘OK, we need to get him out of the car soon.’ ’Cause you don’t know if it’s going to spread or it’s gonna get worse. You don’t know if the car’s going to explode,” Bird said.
He and another man grabbed the officers armed and pulled him out after they were able to free his foot that was stuck.
Then he put his medical training to work.
“Making sure he kept his head steady, because you don’t know if he’s got any neck injuries, feeling down the back of his neck, just kind of asking him questions deciding on if he has a head injury, checking pulses throughout,” Bird said.
Other neighbors with medical training also helped, he said. Miraculously, the officer was OK, if a little dazed at first.
“He actually asked about the other car, making sure everybody was OK there,” Bird said. “He seemed very concerned about everyone else, too, even though we just pulled him out of a car that looked the way it did.”
On Monday, parts of the police cruiser were in the trash today, including the front bumper. Bits and pieces of shattered glass littered the sidewalk. And the tree he hit was torn up near its trunk.
On Monday, Mayor LaToya Cantrell issued a statement updating the officer’s condition. It read in part: “He is in good spirits, and in fact his first comment to his commander was ‘Sorry about the car.’ He’s scratched up and shaken, but in good health— thanks in no small part to the efforts of a good Samaritan at the scene who immediately pulled the officer from the wreckage and got him to safety.”
But Bird said he didn’t act alone, and there are others to thank.
“There were a lot of us out here and … it’s kind of what you’re supposed to do. I think that’s where you set the bar,” he said. “The other gentleman who helped pull him out with me, I mean, he needs to be recognized as well.”