Beverly policeman honored

As a mother anxiously awaited the safe return of her child outside, longtime Beverly Police officer Sgt. Bradley Oliver ran into her smoke-filled apartment on Nov. 28, blindly found the child and reunited him with the woman before firefighters could arrive.

His actions were recognized by Beverly Police Chief Mark Sams during a Beverly Council meeting on Wednesday, where he presented Oliver with a medal, letter of commendation and certificate of recognition.

“Every time an officer puts on their uniform, they know there is always a chance they may have to make that split-second decision…to take a life or to save a life even if it means risking their own,” Sams said. “These are decisions that may have to be made by officers in large police department or small police departments.”

Oliver said running in for the baby, about nine months old at the time, was something he did without thinking of the consequences.

Question: How long have you been with the Beverly Police Department?

Answer: About 17, 18 years. I worked for Marietta for a year and it was really fast paced. Then I settled in at Beverly.

Q: What keeps you invested in the job? What do you enjoy about it?

A: It’s not a regular job. One minute you may be pulling a baby out of a burning building and the next it could be going to a traffic crash. I love doing traffic crash investigations. They’re really fun. Not when people get hurt..that stinks, but otherwise I enjoy them. Or it could be just public relations. For years, we’ve been doing this program that our former chief started with kids going into kindergarten. We do their fingerprints and it’s always been a blast. We get to meet the kids and some that I’ve met as kids are now law enforcement officers themselves. Whenever you can put something positive out into the world, it’s a great thing.

Q: So, tell me about what happened on Nov. 28. You got a call about a fire?

A: We got a call that a fire alarm was going off. A lady walking her dog heard the alarm. Dispatch always tries to get an officer there in case it’s a false alarm or if there needs to be an evacuation.

When I opened the door (of the apartment) it was just a wall of black smoke. A woman was screaming that her baby was in there. I went in and felt around until I could grab the doorknob. I couldn’t see anything but I felt around and you can tell what’ s human flesh. I grabbed the baby and felt my way back out of the building. I handed her the baby and started evacuating the residents. There were eight apartments there so I had seven more to evacuate.

Q: Had you ever experienced a fire like that, where you can’t even see?

A: No, I’ve never been in a fire like that before. The firefighters told me it was good that I shut the door and that kept the fire from accelerating. Back when I was a kid, in the ’80s, the firemen would come to school and tell us to feel the door to see if it’s hot and to shut the door to cut off the fire. It’s something I remembered. It’s hard to describe how it was in there. You can’t see anything, it’s hard to breath, my nose and throat were burning, it’s not fun.

Q: I’m assuming you were in your uniform and had no fire protection or anything to help you?

A: No mask, no nothing.

Q: Did you hesitate at all before going in, or think that you should wait for the fire department?

A: My mind just shut down. I didn’t even think. I just went in.

Q: Did they determine what caused this fire?

A: I think it was a pan left on the stove. It ended up being contained to that apartment.

Q: Was the baby OK?

A: He went to the hospital with me. We both went for smoke inhalation but were OK.

Q: I would imagine the mother was pretty hysterical, worried about her child. What was it like to be able to put her baby in her arms?

A: She was very happy and she thanked me.

Q: How bad was your smoke inhalation?

A: It was a little bit of local irritation. They told me to take it easy and not run any marathons for a few days. After a day or two, I was back.

Q: Do you think you would do the same thing if you found yourself in that circumstance again?

A: I think so. I’m not the first law enforcement officer to do this. Firefighters and EMTs do this. You’re there at that moment and you do what you have to.

Q: You were recognized at the Beverly council meeting on Wednesday. Did you know that was going to happen?

A: I was surprised, blindsided. I try to do silent service. You try to be a silent professional and go about doing your job and if you get recognized, you get recognized.

Three weeks before this, I had just helped a guy having a massive heart attack. He was in a vehicle and just happened to get out on the lawn of an ICU nurse. She was working on him before we got there. That lady didn’t get recognized and she was doing an excellent thing. It’s her job. The firefighters and EMTs were sitting on the gurney doing chest compressions. It happens all the time.

Q: Is helping people one of your favorite parts of the job?

A: It’s one of the better things. I always pray that when I go to work I can save a life or help somebody out.

Kate York conducted this interview.

At a glance

Sgt. Bradley Oliver

¯ Age: 42.

¯ Education: Morgan High School graduate; served three years in the Army and more than 17 years in the National Guard.

¯ Residence: Morgan County.

¯ Family: Wife, Bambi; Eight children ranging in age from 3 to 22.

Source: Bradley Oliver.