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Honored for bravery

May 15, 2003|by LAURA ERNDE

By LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

As Hagerstown City Police officers remembered their fallen comrades Wednesday, Sgt. Mark Knight recalled how dangerously close he came to dying in the line of duty last year.

On Sept. 17, 2002, Knight was patrolling the streets when he was shot by one of two men he was chasing. The bullet grazed the left side of his head without doing serious damage.

Knight, 47, said not a day goes by that he doesn't think about the shooting.

"It's a life-changing incident. It truly changed my life," he said. "It makes you appreciate life more, makes you appreciate everyone around you."

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The two suspects are still at large, but Chief Arthur Smith said the case is still open.

On Wednesday, as part of National Police Week, the police department remembered six local officers who have died in the line of duty since 1866.

Their names are etched into a plaque in front of the Burhans Boulevard police station. The most recent death was Officer Donald Kline in 1975.

Knight's brother, Washington County Sheriff's Department Sgt. Mark Knight, played taps for the fallen officers.

Smith then gave awards to Knight and nine other city officers who saved lives and showed bravery in the line of duty during four frightening incidents during the past year.

When a woman tried to commit suicide by jumping off a bridge last year, Officer Mike Shifler talked her into holding on as she was dangling off the side. Officers Richard Moats and John Lehman then pulled her to safety, Smith said.

"I would like to thank them for caring enough about a stranger to put themselves in jeopardy," he said.

Another suicidal woman was bloody and holding a razor blade when Officers Joe Okronley, Tom Bartles and Sean Flanagan restrained her without anyone getting hurt, Smith said.

"That was a tough situation. Their actions made us all proud," Smith said. "There's only so many chances you get to save someone's life."

In another incident, Bartles and Officer Chris Barnett arrested a Franklin Street man who came at them with a butcher knife.

"This was a ticklish incident that could have gone the other way. Instead we had a bad guy go to jail and the officers go home to their families," Smith said.

Finally, there was the case of the bike patrol officers who captured a gunman who was shooting at another man on Jonathan Street.

"Truly these officers took some significant risks to themselves to take this guy into custody alive," Smith said of Officers Lehman, Brian Hook and Korey Hinkle.

Smith said the officers couldn't do their jobs without the support of their families.

Norma Knight of Hagerstown said she thinks about the dangers her sons face in their law enforcement jobs every day.

"You kind of have to put it in the back of your mind," she said.

George Knight said his wife, Marcie Knight, stayed strong for him and nursed him back to health after the shooting. He was back on the street after just nine days off.

The night George Knight was shot, Marcie Knight had just gotten off work as a nurse at Washington County Hospital when Mark Knight came knocking at her door and took her back to the hospital.

Jessica Okronley, 26, of Waynesboro, Pa., said she often worries about her husband, Officer Joe Okronley, especially when he works late. But she has learned to live with the danger.

"It's what he loves to do. It makes him happy," she said.

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