A University police officer was honored for saving a child from possible injury.
The FrostFest Parade in downtown Hays is part of magical time in early December. Folks from near and far brave the cold to watch the lighted floats pass them by while making their way down Main Street.
Some swift action by a Fort Hays State University police officer prevented the joyous time from possibly turning tragic during the 2018 event.
Spying some candy in the middle of the street, a young girl darted out in front of a pickup in the parade. In a flash, Officer Jonathan Rupp skidded his bicycle to a stop between the youngster and the truck.
At Friday’s Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police Valor Awards Banquet in Topeka, Rupp received the Silver Life Saving Award in honor of his decisive action at the parade. His boss, Fort Hays State University Police Chief Ed Howell, was on hand for the presentation.
The truck driver in the parade hit his brakes when he saw Rupp suddenly appear in front of him – and was able to stop in time. Neither Rupp nor the girl were injured.
Rupp was on bicycle patrol while assisting the Hays Police Department at the time of the incident. Lt. Tim Greenwood of the HPD said that Rupp was so close to the truck that when the driver came to a stop, he could have touched the vehicle’s hood.
“I didn’t think it was necessarily a big deal,” Rupp said. “I was in the right spot at the right time. I did what I had to do.”
“I don’t believe it was luck,” Greenwood said. “I believe it was Officer Rupp’s professionalism, work ethic and attention to detail that prevented a tragedy. Officer Rupp intentionally placed himself in physical danger by riding between that child and the vehicle to get the driver’s attention.”
Greenwood, who has served with the Hays Police Department since 1998, recommended Rupp for the award.
“I’ve been doing this job for over 20 years, and that’s by far the closest call I’ve seen at a parade,” Greenwood said. “I am certain that had (Rupp) not been paying attention, that little girl would have been hit. I know it would not have been good.”
The girl, who was about 3 years of age, made a beeline for the candy when her mother became distracted. Rupp said he had been eyeing the girl, whose identity he still does not know. He went back to his duties along the parade route after the mother thanked him several times.
“I could tell before it happened that she was thinking about running out into the street,” Rupp said. “That’s why I turned all of my attention toward her.”
Howell said his officers know what to do in such a situation.
“We train our officers to make that reaction and act accordingly,” Howell said. “This is a primary reason why we’re out there.”
This is the first commendation for Rupp, who has worked in law enforcement since 2015, when he joined the University Police Department.
Rupp, 37, previously worked as an electronics technician and in the oil fields after graduating from Hays High School in 2000. His wife, Amanda, was present for the award presentation. The couple has two children, Ivan, 3, and Amelia, 1.
Rupp hopes to have a long career with the University Police Department.
“I enjoy the interaction with the students, faculty and staff,” he said. “I don’t have any plans to go anywhere else. Hopefully, I will retire from Fort Hays State.”