Park officer honored for saving life

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August 1, 2005 // UPDATED 1:56 pm - April 26, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

Park Police Sgt. Rick Doll received a city lifesaving award for pulling a man off the Downtown railroad tracks moments before a train would have killed him.

Brad Johnson, the parks' police chief said the incident occurred Feb. 11 at 6:42 p.m. The dispatcher asked police to "check one down on Cedar Lake Trail," near the Royalston Avenue railroad tracks, an area frequented by homeless people.

Doll said, "I knew the area pretty well, so I responded."

He read the additional remarks on the computer report. A passing bicyclist had seen the man and called it in. The report said the passed-out man was lying on the railroad tracks, so Doll stepped up his response - lights and siren.

Doll arrived, but a fence blocked his way. He saw the man, cross-legged and head drooped, sitting between the rails, he said. He yelled at him.

"He picked his head up and looked at me, and then dropped his head down," Doll said. "Then I yelled again and didn't get any response from him."

Doll couldn't find an opening in the fence. He looked in the distance and saw a headlight far off. He thought a Minneapolis squad was coming to help. He scaled the fence.

"When I was out on the tracks, I looked up and I realized then that it was a train coming, not another squad car coming to assist me," Doll said. "My adrenaline at that time was moving pretty good. I grabbed him by the jacket and I lifted him up. I walked him back to the fence. As we were walking, the train came by. I probably had 30 seconds to spare."

Doll recalled knocking the man's hat off trying to move him. It landed where he had been sitting. "The train went right over that hat," he said.

The man was 43 years old, Chief Johnson said. The city Police Department gave Doll the lifesaving award.

Luckily, Doll paid attention to what was going on, "and responded faster than he probably would have, and got there in time to pull him off," Johnson said.

Doll said the man had had a lot to drink. He didn't think it was a suicide attempt. "I don't think he realized he had passed out on the tracks," he said.

After he pulled the man from the tracks, a Minneapolis squad arrived. "I don't even know who the guy was," Doll said. "The other squad transported him [to detox] for me."