Sergeant Juan Gonzalez
Washington, DC—The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund has selected Sergeant Juan Gonzalez, of the Newark (NJ) Police Department, as the recipient of its Officer of the Month Award for March 2018.
On the night of February 14, 2017, Newark Police Sergeant Juan Gonzalez risked his life when a suspect in a stolen minivan he was pursuing jumped off a six-foot wall and into the icy Passaic River. Sgt. Gonzalez and other officers tried to coax the suspect back to shore but were unsuccessful. As the suspect swam further out into the river, he began to flail and go under the water, which was roughly 36 degrees at the time.
Watching the man in distress, Sgt. Gonzalez removed his boots and police belt and jumped into the murky river without hesitation. The officer swam in the direction of bubbles in the water that the suspect was emitting from underneath. Upon reaching the suspect, Sgt. Gonzalez felt him struggle a little bit as the suspect’s survival instincts kicked in.
Sgt. Gonzalez was able to bring the suspect to shore, which had been lit by flashlights from rescue personnel. The rescue from the frigid river, which had taken less than 10 minutes, left the sergeant with cramps throughout his body. He was later treated for hypothermia and pneumonia. Taken to the same hospital, the suspect thanked Sgt. Gonzalez for saving his life.
Because of his brave act, the New Jersey Devils will honor Sgt. Gonzalez as their ‘Hero of the Game’ at their March 31 match against the New York Islanders.
“Sgt. Gonzalez displayed extreme courage and placed himself in harm’s way to save the life of a drowning suspect,” said Newark Police Lt. Cesar Soares. “Sgt. Gonzalez is a credit to the police division and an example of what it means to be a Newark police officer.”
“This is a remarkable story of heroism by Newark Police Sgt. Gonzalez,” Memorial Fund Chief Executive Officer Craig W. Floyd said. “In that moment, the suspect’s criminal background didn’t matter, only saving his life did. I applaud Sgt. Gonzalez’s instinct to rescue the suspect under extreme circumstances. We are honored to present him with the Memorial Fund’s Officer of the Month Award for March 2018.”
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 Award Program began in 1996 and recognizes federal, state, and local officers who distinguish themselves through exemplary law enforcement service and devotion to duty.
Sgt. Gonzalez, along with the other Officer of the Month Award recipients for 2018, will be honored at a special awards ceremony in Washington, DC, in 2019.
About the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund
Established in 1984, the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund is a private non-profit organization dedicated to telling the story of American law enforcement and making it safer for those who serve. The Memorial Fund maintains the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington, DC, which contains the names of 21,541 officers who have died in the line of duty throughout U.S. history. The Memorial Fund is now building the new National Law Enforcement Museum, which will tell the story of American law enforcement by providing visitors a “walk in the shoes” experience. The Museum is working to expand and enrich the relationship shared by law enforcement and the community through the Museum’s educational journeys, immersive exhibitions, and insightful programs. For more information, visit www.LawMemorial.org.