St. Paul police officer receives third Life Saving Award in two years

May 07, 2019 07:53 PM

When St. Paul police officer Alexander Graham arrived on the scene of a shooting on the 400 block of Charles Avenue in June of last year, there was little doubt as to just how serious the situation was.

A man had been shot while sitting in a vehicle behind a residence. Fellow officer Peng Lee was already on the scene and applying direct pressure to the gunshot wound, pressing harder as he saw blood seeping through the self-made tourniquet the victim had fashioned.


Graham quickly applied a fresh tourniquet to the man's wounded left leg, securing it tightly. St. Paul Fire Department medics soon arrived and transported the man to Regions Hospital where doctors credited Lee and Graham's actions with saving his life.

"The image that stands out the most for me was seeing the blood squirting through my partner's fingers," Graham recalled Tuesday, when he and Lee were among five officers who received the department's Life Saving Award from Police Chief Todd Axtell.

"It was not one of those situations you thought might be bad. It was one of those that you knew was going to be."

But despite having been with the department just two-and-a-half years, the 32-year-old Graham is no stranger to such calls.

In fact, Tuesday marked the third time he has been honored with the award in his still relatively short time on the force - a feat Axtell called unprecedented in his introduction.

Graham was honored twice last year; first for saving a man shot during a robbery at a gas station on Thanksgiving of 2017, and again for saving another gunshot victim in February of last year.

"He knows what to do right to make a difference," said Capt. Ken Adams, the coordinator of emergency medical services for the St. Paul Fire Department. "I've run into him around the city at different events, and he's always doing the right thing for the patient."

"It's just an ability that some people have."

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Graham, though, was humble about his own accomplishments - calling them simply part of the job.

"It was just one of those situations that bubbles up," he said of his actions last June. "And I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time, and that everything turned out OK. But any of the other officers in this room would have done the same thing had they been in that situation."

He said he sees the man wounded in the gas station robbery from time to time. But he has not seen the other two men whose lives he is credited with saving since the incidents.

He is just glad to hear that they all are seemingly doing well.

"It's one of those things where you enter someone's life for a short time, and then you leave and it's on to the next situation," he said. "But you hear things in the community. And it's nice to hear that it sounds like they're doing well."

"If you can play a role in helping to give someone a second chance at life, that's a big thing."

Also honored Tuesday were officer Mathew Jones, an eight-year veteran whose efforts are credited with helping to save a gunshot victim last August on the 700 block of Portland Avenue, and officers Charles Lemon and Mike Kempe, whose efforts are credited with saving a woman who had attempted suicide by hanging in an apartment last June.

Jones spoke movingly about the toll such incidents can sometimes take on officers and other first responders, saying he began having bad nightmares soon after, and that the memories took a toll on his mental health.

But he credited those who offered support, and said today he is as healthy as he has ever been.

"This isn't so much about me getting an award for saving another person's life," he said. "This event, and the things that unfolded afterward, significantly saved mine."

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Frank Rajkowski

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