Recognized for bravery

Officers Brian Stroshane and Ryan Stuart were presented with the police department’s Medal of Valor after responding to an October call about a potentially suicidal man on the Fourth Street overpass above Interstate 694.

Oakdale Police Chief Bill Sullivan (middle) was presented with the police department’s Medal of Honor for his actions during a bomb threat at Lake Elmo Bank last July. (submitted photos)

Sgt. Karin LaTour was awarded the police department’s Medal of Valor for her actions during a July 2012 incident involving a bomb threat at Lake Elmo Bank.

Oakdale police officers, Chief Sullivan & city employee presented with police department awards

Police officers consistently put themselves in harm’s way to keep the public safe, but sometimes they go above and beyond to protect and serve.

Four members of the Oakdale Police Department and a public works employee were honored at an Oakdale City Council meeting last month for their heroic actions during 2012.

First, police officers Brian Stroshane and Ryan Stuart were presented with the police department’s Medal of Valor for their role in an incident that occurred on the afternoon of Oct. 18.

On that day, a potentially suicidal man was found standing at the guard rail of the bridge deck on the Fourth Street overpass above Interstate 694.

Oakdale Police Chief Bill Sullivan described how the two officers devised a plan to distract and subdue the distraught man, despite the danger they faced of potentially falling off the overpass themselves into the high-speed traffic below.

Thanks to the officers’ quick thinking, a potentially tragic situation was avoided, and the man was transported to a medical facility for a physiological evaluation, Sullivan said.

“We are very proud of the officers’ willingness to place themselves in harm’s way in an effort to save another human life and for compassionately and professionally managing a person experiencing significant emotional distress,” Sullivan said.

Also presented with the Medal of Valor was Sgt. Karin LaTour, who along with other officers was dispatched to the Lake Elmo Bank in Oakdale on July 25.

On that morning, a knife-wielding suspect at the bank’s drive-up window claimed to have placed bombs in the night depository box and in a postal box inside the building. After assessing the situation, LaTour quietly led a four-person apprehension team around the building, then tased the suspect so he could be taken into custody.

Sullivan noted that if LaTour had missed or if the taser hadn’t had its intended effect, LaTour would most likely have been put in grave danger due to her close proximity to the suspect.

“In a situation that could easily and lawfully have ended with the use of deadly force by the police, Sgt. LaTour instead bravely placed herself in a dangerous situation in an effort to end the incident with less than lethal force,” Sullivan said.

Chief’s recognition “long overdue”

Also at the council meeting, Sullivan was recognized for his role during the July incident at Lake Elmo Bank. City Administrator Craig Waldron told Sullivan that he was being presented with the police department’s Medal of Honor - the highest commendation that is offered by the department.

“It is reserved for those members who without reckless disregard knowingly and purposefully expose themselves to the risk of death or serious injury to accomplish a meaningful or humanitarian goal,” Waldron said. “This award is rarely bestowed.”

Waldron noted that even though no explosives were ultimately discovered on that July morning, the danger presented by the armed suspect and his threats was “very real.”

“Chief Sullivan knowingly and purposefully exposed himself to the risk of death or serious injury when he approached the armed suspect and distracted him until the suspect could be tased and apprehended,” Waldron said.

In addition to his actions that day, Waldron noted that Sullivan has “knowingly placed himself in harm’s way to shield fellow officers from undue risk” in previous incidents as well.

“Never before formally acknowledged, recognitions of acts of bravery routinely dismissed by Chief Sullivan as just being part of his job, is long overdue,” Waldron said.

After he was presented with the award, Sullivan said he was thankful for it.

“It means a lot to me,” he said.

Public works employee also honored

In addition to the members of the police department who were honored, Oakdale Public Works employee Bob Bieniek was also recognized at the council meeting.

Bieniek was presented with the police department’s Lifesaving Award for his actions on Oct. 27, 2012.

Sullivan said police were called to an Oakdale residence that day after a man had reportedly stopped breathing. When emergency personnel arrived at the residence, they discovered that Bieniek, a friend of the victim, had already been performing CPR for about 10 minutes.

Performing CPR for that length of time can be physically and emotionally exhausting, Sullivan explained, especially when the person you are caring for is a friend or family member.

“Bob performed admirably under very stressful conditions and clearly contributed to his friend’s life being saved,” Sullivan said.

Alex Holmquist can be reached at or 651-748-7822.

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