Paul Higgins of Calverton didn’t speak at Friday’s award ceremony in Aquebogue, where the Riverhead Police officer he credits with saving his life was recognized as the department’s Officer of the Year for 2011.
Neither did the officer, Charles Schneider.
Mr. Higgin’s letter said it all.
“The person involved wrote a lot better speech than I ever could,” said Riverhead Police Lieutenant Bob Peeker, who presented Officer Schneider with the award at Southampton Town Kiwanis Club’s 42 Annual Police Awards Ceremony, during which officers from various East End departments are given their own department’s officer of the year award, as chosen by the departments.
Lt. Peeker simply read from Mr. Higgins’ letter, which was published in the News-Review on Dec. 8.
“Riverhead police officer Chuck Schneider saved my life on the morning of Oct. 19.,” Mr. Higgins’ letter read. “For the past eight years, I’ve been a dialysis patient. A major artery in my left arm ruptured and burst. I was bleeding out at an incredible rate. My wife, Carol, called 911 and Officer Schneider arrived in minutes.
“He immediately took command of the situation. Taking a belt, he made a tourniquet and squeezed my arm with all his strength. I told him that I have Hepatitis C. He never wavered and held tight until Jamesport Fire Department paramedics Jim Fetten and John Andrejack arrived 20 minutes later.
“During this time, Officer Schneider kept talking, and yelled at me to keep me conscious. Once I was in the ambulance, he escorted us to Peconic Bay Medical Center. I lost four units of blood and blacked out on several occasions.
“There’s no doubt to anyone involved how close I came to dying. Officer Schneider would not let that happen…”
Mr. Higgins appeared emotional as he put his arm around Officer Schneider as the officer received the award. Officer Schneider is a 10-year NYPD veteran who joined the town force in June 2010.
Although it wasn’t part of what he was given the award for, Officer Schneider himself needed medical attention last year, after his police cruiser was involved in a head-on collision with a van driven by an alleged drunk driver who was being chased by another officer on Dec. 14 on Herricks Lane in Jamesport.
Officer Schneider was on his way to assist the other officer when the van crossed into oncoming traffic and hit him, police said. He was airlifted to Stony Brook University Hospital and was released several days later. He broke a non-weight bearing bone in his leg and has since been out of action.
As for his actions in October, Mr. Higgins also wrote in his letter about how he was especially touched by Officer Schneider’s concern after the ordeal.
“Later that day, he stopped by my home to talk to my wife and sons, and to offer support and hope. He then stopped at the hospital to check on me.”
“We all hear so much criticism of our police,” Mr. Higgins continued. “I want to acknowledge the outstanding performance of police officer Schneider, and the high quality of service of the Riverhead Police Department.”