High School senior and off-duty OPD officer go above and beyond

OXFORD – “We are fortunate to employ officers like Cole Samsel and to have community members like Mr. Gates who act to better not only themselves, but the local community and global community as a whole,” said Oxford Police Chief Richard Nolan. In December 2014 Samsel and Cole went “above and beyond” in an attempt to save a woman’s life and on Jan. 27, 2015 the two were presented with awards for their efforts.

It was on Dec. 23, 2014 when off duty Oxford Police Officer Samsel observed an incident involving multiple vehicles on South Canal St. According to Nolan, Samsel had an inclination to stop and investigate the situation.

Samsel found – upon approaching the vehicles – that two drivers, Margot Barrows and Jesse Gates, observed an elderly female driving erratically on the roadway.

Barrows is an Oxford High School physical education teacher and Gates is a 17-year-old Oxford Academy High School senior.

“Gates made a quick-minded attempt to get the elderly female to stop out of fear that she was under duress,” said Nolan. “Gates put his own life at risk in doing so by maneuvering his vehicle in front of the elderly female driver until her vehicle came to a stop.”

Once Samsel learned this, he immediately advised dispatch and requested that the Oxford officer on duty to respond to the scene.

“Officer Samsel rushed to the aid of the driver, who was unable to open the door of the vehicle due to the car being in gear,” said Nolan. “Officer Samsel was successfully able to coach the driver to put the car in park and unlock the door.” Nolan added that Samsel was able to take the keys out of the ignition, and upon doing so observed the vehicle had a strong smell of Ketosis — which is associated with Diabetes — and Samsel knew that it was a sign the woman was suffering from a possibly life-threatening condition.

Upon arrival of the OPD, Samsel maintained contact with dispatch while EMS was en route. Samsel searched the property of the driver in an attempt to locate family contact information.

Barrows, who remained at the scene, assisted in informing the family of the ongoing situation.

“At the same time, Officer Samsel’s wife held the hand of the driver whose condition was deteriorating,” said Nolan. “Gates, Barrows and the OPD officer on duty worker to keep the driver alert as possible until EMS arrived.”

Once EMS arrived, the driver was transported to UHS Chenango Memorial Hospital.

Samsel, after ensuring the driver was inside the ambulance heading to the hospital, secured the woman’s vehicle at the United Methodist Church and provided the keys to the EMS to ensure the family had access to the vehicle.

Chief Nolan said that after clearing from the scene with his wife and two children, Samsel and his family headed to the emergency room to check on the progress of the driver.

“It was then learned from the driver’s family that the elderly driver’s vitals had dropped to a critical level,” said Nolan. “The family was very thankful for Officer Samsel’s response as well as the kind hearted citizens who decided to take action. Unfortunately, the driver has since passed away.”

“The Oxford Police Department sends its condolences to the friends and family of the driver,” said Nolan. “We stand by for them in their time of need.”

17-year-old Gates was presented a Citizen Hero Award by Chief Nolan on Jan. 27, 2015 in Oxford. The award is “for going above and beyond for that the Oxford Police Department is crediting as attempting to save a life and preventing risk of harm to others.”

Said Nolan, “Mr. Gates, in carrying out his actions, exhibited bravery, valor, and compassion. He acted without regard for his own life and personal interests in hopes to preserve those of others. In doing so, he made an impact on that driver, her family, and our department will never forget.”

Gates received an honorary plaque handed down by Nolan as well as a sealed commendation letter from the Chief of Police.

Officer Cole Samsel was awarded a Meritorious Conduct commendation, which included a specialized pin to forever carry on his uniform and a sealed letter.

“Officer Samsel is a model law enforcement officer who has time after time shown his true compassion for his community and its members,” said Nolan. “It is in these critical events that seconds and minutes make a difference and Officer Samsel’s passion for lending a hand to anyone in need allowed for the driver to receive life-saving care at a critical point in time. The support that he provided to the family and the driver in their time of need was heartwarming and representative of his character.”

Nolan continued by assuring that the OPD is not only a law enforcement agency and its members are not only law enforcement officers.

“We are active members of the community,” said Nolan. “Our officers care deeply for those that they are serving and will always serve with compassion or all in all aspects of our duties. We all come from different backgrounds, believe in different ideas, and we each face difficult times in our lives, but are united by community.”

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