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Surrey’s hidden heroes honoured at RCMP awards ceremony

More than 170 people were honoured at the Surrey RCMP’s Officer in Charge Awards Thursday
Surrey RCMP Corporal David Chu (left) and bus driver Michael Keogh smile as they discuss being awarded for bravery by Surrey RCMP’s top cop. (Photo: Amy Reid)

A bus driver’s “outstanding courage and bravery” in helping a cop subdue a prolific offender is being recognized by Surrey’s top cop this week, but if you ask Michael Keogh, he was just “lending a hand.”

“I just think if more people got involved, the world would be a better place,” smiled Keogh, a Newton resident. “I think nowadays, in the job I do, I just see it all the time. People just look the other way.”

The incident happened on Jan. 23 as he was driving a bus along Scott Road when he noticed an RCMP cruiser attempting to pull a vehicle over.

“(The suspect) went through 84th (Avenue), and I thought hmm, this guy is not stopping,” he recalled.

At 82nd Avenue, the car had stopped. That’s when Keogh said he saw two passengers get out.

He noticed the Mountie trying to apprehend the driver, but said it “looked like a little bit of a scuffle had started.”

“I just put the brakes on the bus, opened the door,” Keogh recalled. “(The officer) had taken the guy to the ground already, off on the sidewalk, so I put the brakes on, got out and gave him assistance to get the cuffs on.”

The ordeal ended with an arrest in connection to the stolen vehicle, but as Keogh later learned, Surrey RCMP also seized a loaded semi-automatic pistol, as well as illicit drugs and thousands of dollars in cash.

Police say the man was reaching for something in his waist band during the struggle, and a gun was located on the ground near where the tussle happened.

John Schoch, 31, is facing several charges in connection to the incident including possession of a loaded firearm without registration of license, possession of stolen property and impaired operation of a vehicle. Surrey RCMP say the investigation is ongoing and further charges may be possible.

“To hear it, it’s scary but I don’t think I would’ve done anything different,” Keogh told the Now-Leader. “Knowing what I know now, I don’t take it back at all.

Keogh said he would’ve lost sleep if he just kept driving.

“I don’t expect an award, but for my kids (ages 12 and 15) to see me getting it, I just think that’s going to be totally awesome,” he laughed.

“It’ll be nice for them to see, you can make a difference. If you see people needing help, help out. They’re out there protecting us everyday. He was on his own. I’m not stealing his glory or anything, but I just saw he needed a hand.”

(Keogh and Chu smile as they discuss being awarded for bravery by Surrey RCMP’s top cop. Photo: Amy Reid)

Arresting officer Corporal David Chu said things “escalated beyond my wildest imagination,” given he initially pulled the vehicle over after running the plate and realizing it was stolen.

“Sometimes you think about the worst,” Chu said. “What if Michael wasn’t there? Then perhaps, without that deterrent, the other two passengers, who knows?”

“It could’ve been three-on-one,” Keogh chimed in.

“I can’t tell you how relieved I was,” Chu said. “When you’re struggling with someone, then all of a sudden you see an extra pair of hands, it’s like a godsend.”

On Thursday night, Keogh was recognized for his “outstanding courage and bravery” and Chu for his “outstanding service” at the annual Surrey RCMP Officer in Charge Awards at Bell Performing Arts Centre, where more than 170 others were honoured for their contribution to public safety in the city.

RCMP Assistant Commissioner and Officer in Charge Dwayne McDonald said the event is an “opportunity to reflect on the many outstanding, yet relatively unknown, contributions that get made each and every day to keep our city safe.”

Residents Qiming and Yun Qi were honoured for their “heroic actions” after intervening in a “vicious” Rottweiler attack on a four-year-old girl on June 3, 2017.

“The dog bit her on the leg and ankle repeatedly,” the Surrey RCMP commendation notes. “Mr. Yun Qi and his family, who happened to be driving by, heard the screams from the little girl and then saw her being dragged down the alley by the Rottweiler. Without hesitation, Yun Qi and his father Qiming, stopped their car and ran to the aid of the little girl.

“Yun Qi charged at the dog to free the little girl from the relentless attack,” it continues. “The dog then directed its aggression at Yun Qi, viciously biting him on his legs, arms and hand. The dog continued to attack Yun and eventually pinned him to the ground, mauling his arms and hands.”

That’s when Qiming intervened, using a bicycle he found nearby to shield himself and his son from the vicious attack, police say.

“Qiming Qi fought to protect the little girl and his son for several minutes,” notes the commendation. “The dog owner finally arrived and restrained the dog.” Police say the girl underwent many surgeries on her “severely injured leg,” and that the Qis were also hurt.

Construction worker Jordan Bird was also awarded for helping a child, after he performed first aid and revived a one-year-old girl who nearly drowned in her backyard last November.

“The mom came downstairs with the baby, who was unresponsive,” said the Clayton Heights resident, who was at the South Surrey home doing repairs at the time. The infant had fallen into a pond in the backyard, that Bird described as “not very deep.”

“I could tell she’d been in the water, soaking wet. Blue lips. I brought her back upstairs and my partner called 911 while I pumped the baby’s chest on its side to remove any water inside the mouth. Water started to come out,” Bird recalled. “Then the baby sat up, there was some vomit, then she started opening her eyes and started crying.”

Bird has first aid training eight years prior, but he noted it’s long been expired.“I think it might’ve helped for me to keep calm,” he mused.

Bird said it “feels pretty good” to be able to help but said he was “glad just to be able to help.”

Also honoured Thursday night were Constables Josh McKee and Michael Elliott after the officers saved an elderly man who was in distress, while responding to a missing persons file.

The officers went to the man’s home and heard “moaning” sounds from inside. They got into the residence through a window, and found the man trapped under a cabinet in his bathroom.

“He was in very bad shape, needing medical attention right away,” said McKee, noting doctors believe the man suffered from seizures.

“All indications pointed to the fact he was in that position for over a week, without food or water,” McKee added.

“We don’t do our job to get rewards but it’s definitely a good feeling knowing people are recognizing us and recognizing the hard work,” he said of being honoured.

Another officer honoured for his courage was Surrey RCMP Constable Michael Toll, who is credited with saving a man’s life on July 26, 2017 after fighting through thick bushes, deep ditches and dense forest for 45 minutes before finding a man who had fallen down an embankment. He’d been there for three days.

“It was pretty heavy, very dense,” Toll recalled. “I just kind of pushed through it to see where I could go. I found a bit of a creek, it was about waist deep and I was pushing through it. There were lots of bushes I had to cut away with my knife there. I slipped on a few logs, fell a couple of times there.”

He also fought through prickle bushes, leaving him with scratches and blood all over his arms. Eventually, he made it out of the woods to a bit of a green space but the grass was still high and he couldn’t see more than three feet in front of him. Using a sort-of “Marco Polo” technique, he located the man in very deep, thick grass.

“I walked right around him because he was so deep in the brush,” Toll recalled. “He was dehydrated, very pale, he was definitely struggling.”

Toll said he followed up with the man’s mother a few weeks later, and he had recovered. It turns out the man, described as around 25 years old, had “fallen on some hard times. He was going on kind of a walk, and got lost,” Toll explained.

Toll said he appreciates the award, but feels all the local residents who called police should be recognized as well. “I went to all the houses in the area that called in, and personally thanked them,” he said. “I personally feel like I was just doing my job.”

Toll encouraged residents to always let police know when they notice something suspicious. “It can make a life-saving difference.”

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