Wright City police officer Jose Malta-Gonzalez recently was honored for his actions and compassion in saving a man who was about to end his own life.
Malta-Gonzalez on May 7 was given the John J. McAtee Award for police officers who show concern and compassion when assisting a person in psychiatric crisis. The award is granted by Mental Health America of Eastern Missouri.
“He displayed great patience and understanding in seeking information to get this gentleman the services that were needed and helped prevent his suicide,” said Wright City Mayor Dan Rowden.
During the incident that led to the commendation, Malta-Gonzalez was sent to a home in Wright City to check on a person in danger of harming himself. The man in his early 20s had been sending text messages about suicide to a former girlfriend, according to a police summary from the incident.
When Malta-Gonzalez arrived, he found the man lying on a second floor balcony with a cord wrapped around his neck. Malta-Gonzalez intervened, removing the cord and physically lifting the man away from the edge. Malta-Gonzalez stayed with the man until paramedics arrived.
He said when police officers find someone in that kind of crisis, it’s their job to show compassion and help calm them down.
“We’re there to help them. We’re not there to hurt them or judge them,” Malta-Gonzalez explained.
Afterward, the man didn’t say much. He was distraught and just needed help, the officer commented.
It was the first time Malta-Gonzalez said he has needed to physically intervene to save someone from self-harm. He has been an officer with Wright City Police Department for almost two years.
Malta-Gonzalez said he tries not to dwell too much on the incidents he responds to as a police officer, but that he is glad he was able to help someone in crisis and stop him from harming himself.
Malta-Gonzalez said he’s seen the man around town, and that he seems to be doing fine, but they haven’t had a chance to talk.
Leaders of the Wright City Police Department commended Malta-Gonzalez’s quick action in helping a person in need.
“The McAtee Award recognizes officers whose compassion and dedication make a significant difference in the life of an individual at a time when they are experiencing a psychiatric crisis,” commented Detective Sgt. Tom Canavan, who nominated Malta-Gonzalez for the award. “When Officer Malta responded to a call for a suicidal subject, he acted quickly and most likely saved a life that day.”