Police officers are heroes every day

Dave Gossett A QUIET MAN — Steubenville Patrolman Sean Exterovich stands in front of his police cruiser in the department parking lot. Exterovich responded to an accident scene on Sunset Boulevard where three juveniles had jumped out of a moving vehicle that already had struck two cars and was drifting into oncoming traffic.

STEUBENVILLE — It was a quiet Sunday morning for city Police Patrolman Sean Exterovich.

“I was sitting at the red light at the Estelle Avenue and Sunset Boulevard intersection when I heard a loud crash. I immediately looked to my left and saw a silver SUV rolling onto its roof,” Exterovich would later explain.

“As I approached the scene, I saw a Dodge Dart slowly coasting into traffic traveling west on Sunset Boulevard. Three juveniles jumped out of the car and took off running toward Estelle Avenue behind the Jefferson County Education Service Center,” continued Exterovich.

“I radioed the situation to the other officers who were on duty that morning and then ran to the Dodge Dart that was still coasting. I hit the brakes and put the car in park. The juveniles had apparently left it in drive when they jumped out of the car and it was still moving,” related Exterovich.

“I then went to the overturned SUV and saw the woman driver hanging upside down by her seatbelt. Our dispatcher had notified the city fire department, ASI and a tow service. The emergency crews were able to cut the woman loose from her seatbelt and carefully lower her out of the vehicle and then transport her to Weirton Medical Center,” said Exterovich.

“I want to give a lot of credit to the firefighters and the paramedics with ASI. It was an accident scene with several issues at the same moment. There were also several witnesses to the accident who stopped and came forward to help calm the woman and make sure she was OK,” noted Exterovich.

“Then I was told another vehicle had been struck by the juveniles who were in the Dodge Dart. That driver was sitting in his car in the turning lane waiting to make a left turn into the McDonald’s parking lot when he saw the car speeding through the McDonald’s parking lot, hit the SUV and then struck his car,” Exterovich said.

“Two of the three juveniles who had been in the Dodge Dart were quickly apprehended by other police officers who were on duty that day. We are still looking for the third person in the car that morning,” he said.

“I don’t consider myself a hero. I was on duty, patrolling the city, and heard the crash. Your training comes into play when something like that happens, and I work with good officers who immediately responded to the scene. It is part of our job to help people in need,” stated the low-key Exterovich.

Steubenville K-9 Sgt. Rob Cook and his partner, Bono, are usually busy on traffic stops, checking individuals or vehicles for possible drugs and occasionally tracking a suspect.

Cook and Bono also make visits to local schools, where Cook talks to children about the police being their friends.

“We try to show the young kids that we are here to help people,” Cook said.

But on a recent chilly night, the team was called to help locate a missing 8-year-old boy.

Cook said the child had waited until the other members of his family had fallen asleep before crawling out of his bedroom window.

“He then rode his bike down state Route 213 and along U.S. Route 22 to the John Scott Highway ramp, where a passing motorist stopped to check on the boy. He told the motorist he was heading to Wal-Mart so the man gave him a ride to the store. The motorist then called the police department to ask them to check on the boy,” Cook related.

“One of our officers went out and talked to the juvenile, but he wasn’t giving us much information. He did supply the officer with a last name, so the police dispatcher contacted the 911 center and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department to try to find people with that same name. They eventually found an address on Efts Lane, so the officer took the boy to that house. While the officer was knocking on the door at the residence the boy slipped out of the police car and ran away,” continued Cook.

“That is when I was called in with Bono. We went to the Efts Lane location. Bono got the boy’s scent and immediately started tracking him across a nearby field. Bono went to a small group of trees at the far end of the field and then sat down and pointed his nose up in the air. That told me the boy was somewhere in one of the trees,” Cook explained.

“We spotted the 8-year-old and spent sometime coaxing and trying to bribe him to come down to us. He was confused, cold and hungry at that point, but we were able to determine where he lived and a deputy sheriff took him back to his home. It was a good feeling to help that little boy compared to our usual job of tracking bad guys or checking vehicles for drugs. I’m glad we were able to help him go back home safe and sound,” declared Cook.

“I have always been a dog lover and have always raised dogs. They are usually hunting dogs. I love what I do in the police department. It is difficult to understand this job unless you do it. Being a K-9 officer is a 24-hour-a-day job. I spend a lot of time training and working with Bono to keep him sharp. That is what canine handlers do,” remarked Cook.

“I work rotating shifts because I am the only K-9 officer in Steubenville. And, while searching for a lost boy isn’t our regular job, I can tell you it was a good feeling to find him with the help of Bono and return him to his family. That little boy was cold and scared, but it all worked out,” he said.

“Bono is very good at doing his job. But for Bono, everything is a game. The police canines do what they are supposed to do because they are loyal to us. Going to work is play time for the dog. He wants to do what I ask of him so he can have his toy or a treat. That night Bono knew he was looking for someone and he found him. Simple as that,” Cook explained.

(Gossett can be contacted at dgossett@heraldstar online.com)