‘I didn’t know how much time I had to get her out’
St. John police officer Darrell Shaffer was left choking back tears after what he witnessed on Dec. 12
The incident occurred after a car was pulled over for a traffic stop in St. John, Indiana.
Police found the 26-year-old male driver to have an outstanding warrant for failure to appear on drug-related charges.
But not long after being pulled over, the man jumped out of the car and made a run for it, who the female drove off and led police on a chase.
Shaffer was following the car from Indiana to Illinois and back to Indiana again before the driver lost control and veered off the roadway.
The vehicle could be seen splashing into a retention pond on the dashcam.
Shaffer dropped 40 pounds of gear and approached the car.
As the officer approached, he saw a 3-year-old girl floating in the back seat of the car.
“I didn’t know how much time I had to get her out,” he said during a news conference.
After rescusing the toddler from the passenger side window, he was urged to keep looking for a baby.
“All I could see was water, and then there were two bags of clothes that I moved out of the way and I still couldn’t see the baby,” the officer said.
“And then I … I reached in the water, and I felt the leg, then I pulled her upside down out of the water and handed her to the Lake County sheriff’s officer that was on the embankment to get her to an ambulance.”
Shaffer then described the 8-month-old as unresponsive and frozen in terror.
“I didn’t know if she was breathing,” he recalled.
“I just wanted to get her out of that water and into the medic’s hands.”
But by a miracle, he reached the girls in time, and they both regained consciousness before being taken to Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago.
Shaffer said the encounter was especially difficult.
“(The children) did nothing wrong,” he said.
“They were in a bad situation that they shouldn’t … ever have been put in.
“It’s just hard. I mean, we see stuff as officers, and firefighters, and EMS, and all first responders. We see stuff that people should never see, you know, and sometimes it hits home.”
“In a high-speed pursuit like that, you don’t want anything bad to happen to anybody.”
Police Chief Steven Flores recognized Shaffer’s brave actions.
“We are very fortunate that he was there when he was, and he got to them as soon as possible,” Flores said.
“I truly believe that … his efforts saved those kids’ lives.”
“The St. John Police Department, and our entire community, is extremely proud of Officer Shaffer and his heroic efforts. He did not hesitate, and his actions went above and beyond to save the lives of not only one, but two children.”