On April 8, 2009, Palm Springs Officer Douglas Rua found himself in a heap of trouble with Mauricio Cruz. The robbery suspect was assaulting Officer Rua with a ceramic pot and trying to grab his gun.
Palm Beach County firefighters were in the middle of a shift change at Rescue Station 31. Captain Edwin O'Berry and others from both the A and B shift saw what was happening and knew they needed to assist the officer.
Rushing to Rua's Aid
Part of the crew went with paramedic Blum Desravins over to help the officer who was being beaten with a gun at that point. O'Berry went the other way to his vehicle to retrieve his handgun.
O'Berry went over a barbed-wire 6-foot fence to get to the officer and his attacker. Another Palm Springs Officer arrived. He and O'Berry ran after Cruz into an alley.
The other firefighters carried the unconscious officer to safety. Rua had a fractured skull and a broken arm. Cruz had taken the officer's weapon and now had leveled it at the secondary officer and O'Berry.
Officer Joseph DeRogatis and O'Berry both fired four rounds into Cruz. O'Berry and other paramedics tended to Cruz's injuries, but he later died.
"My fear was for the officer. He was in a bad situation, we thought he was dead."Captain O'Berry
Cruz had just gotten out of jail four days prior on charges of attacking a Rivera Beach police officer. That attack was ended with the use of a stun gun.
O'Berry had been a firefighter for 20 years and said receiving the police combat cross from the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office was an honor. O'Berry is the only non-law enforcement personnel to receive the award.
Fire-Rescue Chief Steve Jerauld said that even though firefighters are trained to save people's lives, not take them, he is happy that Rua was rescued and no one else got hurt.
Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said, " The firefighter used his firearm and probably saved the officer's life. You just don't expect that."
O'Berry was honored in Washington, D.C., with the Medal of Valor. Vice President Joe Biden and Attorney General Eric Holder presented him with the honor.
Biden put the medal on O'Berry, shook his hand, saying, "Tell you what, congratulations. I'm proud of you. I'm proud of you."
Rue is still alive because the firefighters came to his rescue and subdued Cruz.