It was shift change at Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Station 31 on April 8 when firefighters and medics from both A and B shift jumped into action to save a life. What they did that day had the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office recognizing their heroic efforts. During Friday’s ceremony the police combat cross was given to Captain Edwin O’Berry. It’s the first time the award was given to someone who isn’t in law enforcement.
Outside the firehouse door on that morning, a Palm Springs police officer was in trouble. Mauricio Cruz was beating Officer Douglas Rua with a ceramic pot and was going for the officer’s gun. As some of the crew followed paramedic Blum Desravins toward the officer, Captain O’Berry went the other way. Jerome Burdi picks up the story in this excerpt from his article in the Sun-Sentinal:
The firefighters continued to distract Cruz. O’Berry went to his car and got his Glock .40 and ran after Cruz as the paramedics attended to Rua, who suffered a broken arm and fractured skull. Cruz pointed Rua’s gun but O’Berry fired, striking him several times. Police Officer Joseph DeRogatis also fired at Cruz. The paramedics rushed to tend to Cruz after he was shot, but he later died.
O’Berry, who’s worked as a firefighter for 20 years, said receiving the combat cross was an honor.
“My fear was for the officer,” O’Berry said. “He was in a bad situation, we thought he was dead.”
Cruz was released from jail just four days earlier on a charge of attacking a Rivera Beach police officer but was stopped in that case with a stun gun.
“The firefighter used his firearm and probably saved the officer’s life,” Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said. “You just don’t expect that.”
Fire-Rescue Chief Steve Jerauld said firefighters are trained to save lives, not take them, but he’s glad the officer was rescued and no one else was injured.