MOORHEAD — From time to time a suicidal resident will call 911 and tell the dispatcher they are going to take their life by jumping into the Red River.
Last summer, the heroics of a Moorhead police officer and a trainee helped save the life of a suicidal, homeless man who had gone into the river and later told the officer he had "nothing else to live for."
Officer Zach Johnson and trainee Ezra Walz were recognized this week at the Moorhead City Council meeting for what they did on that dark, late night of June 8 just before 11 p.m.
The two earned the police department's lifesaving award, which hadn't been given to an officer since 2015, although other officers have received honors for bravery and other exemplary service since that time.
Johnson said he had just reported for work that night when the 911 call came in where the man said he was going to jump into the river.
Johnson, an officer for four years, and Walz, who is no longer working with the department, were at the scene near the rapids of the mid-town dam just south of Veterans Memorial Bridge in less than five minutes.
Not knowing exactly where the man was, the two officers "in the pitch black" walked up and down the riverbank before finding the man's shoes and clothes. Walz then spotted the man floating on his back just downstream from the rapids about 30 feet off the riverbank.
Walz jumped into the river, which was about waist deep in the area, and with the help of Johnson pulled the man, who wasn't breathing, onto the shore.
The man didn't have a pulse, so the two performed CPR on him and he then began coughing up water from his lungs.
F-M Ambulance and Moorhead Fire Department then arrived and took over the lifesaving operation and transported him to Sanford Health. The man survived.
Johnson said he has never heard again from the man, who said he had been living in homeless shelters in the area. "I hope he's in better spirits now," he said.
Moorhead Police Chief Shannon Monroe said they don't just give the lifesaving award to an officer who does CPR at the scene of an incident because "that's our job." However, Johnson and Walz went "a step above that" by jumping into the river and performing lifesaving measures.
Monroe said an awards committee meets to determine if honors should be given. Walz will also be given the lifesaving award, Monroe said.