Firefighter garners national nomination for Harlem heroism
By KAREN OGDEN Tribune Regional Editor
A volunteer firefighter who collared and handcuffed the dangerous suspect in
the fatal shooting of a Blaine County sheriff's deputy last May is nominated
in the national Volvo For Life Awards.
Twenty-seven-year-old Scott Baker, who has since moved to Great Falls where
he works at Home Depot, was nominated in the "off-duty heroism" category.
Prizes start with a certificate of merit for the top 100. The top three
receive $50,000 to donate to charity and the grand award winner will drive a
Volvo -- a new one every three years -- for the rest of their life.
Winners will be announced April 7. Baker's father, former Harlem police
chief Bill Baker, nominated him for the award. The younger Baker calls the
contest a "long shot." He's among 2,700 Americans competing for the honor.
Whether he wins or not, those who saw his heroism at the nightmarish scene
in a weedy field in Harlem last May will remain grateful. "I want to thank
him for what he did," Blaine County Sheriff Glenn Huestis said this week.
"Had he not shown up, what would have happened we don't know." The toll
already was heavy when Baker arrived. Minutes earlier, 28-year-old Deputy
Josh Rutherford was fatally shot as he chased Larry Jackson Jr. across a
field along Highway 2. Jackson, 25 at the time, bit off another man's nose,
ear and pinky finger in an earlier incident, according to court documents.
Rutherford pursued Jackson as he fled after allegedly trashing his
girlfriend's home. Several blocks away, Baker and his wife, Yasmine, were
returning home from the eighth-grade graduation ceremony of Baker's nephew.
Baker had just kicked off his shoes when he heard heavy breathing over the
family's police scanner and a frantic call for help: "Officer down!" Having
worked as a sheriff's dispatcher and detention officer for two years, he
recognized the voice as that of Deputy Loren Janis. He knew the nearest
backup was likely 20 miles away in Chinook, the county seat. Ignoring his
wife's pleas to stay, Baker grabbed the 30-30 rifle his parents gave him for
high school graduation, climbed in his car and raced down Main Street to the
scene, less than a minute away. He found an exhausted Janis leaning against
his patrol car, bleeding heavily from a gunshot wound to his upper left arm.
Janis still pointed his gun at Jackson, who stood in the field just outside
the reach of his spotlight. Baker quickly tried to piece together what had
happened from the growing crowd of bystanders. "I hollered at Loren and let
him know that I was behind him," Baker said.
Both men shouted at Jackson, who soon dropped his gun, but refused to lie
down. Drooling, wild-eyed and bloodstained, Jackson walked toward the patrol
car, stripping off his clothes as he went. "All he had when he got to the
car was boxer shorts on," Baker said. As Jackson neared, Baker grabbed a set
of Janis' handcuffs and gave his gun to a trusted bystander. "The guy was so
close I didn't want to go up to him with my gun," said Baker, a man with a
gentle face, but an imposing frame at 6-foot-1 and 290 pounds. "I just
slowly went out after him," he said. "He wouldn't get down, but he wasn't
thinking right." As Janis leveled his gun at Jackson, Baker slipped on the
cuffs and put Jackson in a patrol car. Baker remembers the pit in his
stomach when, at about that time, another man helping on the scene called
out that Rutherford was dead.
Using his dispatch skills, Baker radioed for more backup and ambulances. "It
basically calmed the whole situation down," Huestis said. "It helped the
deputy that was wounded get the suspect into custody before his wound took
over and he was unable to function anymore. His presence gave that deputy
the ability to finish what he needed to do before he passed out." Janis, the
wounded deputy, was off of work for two weeks and has been back on duty ever
since, fully recovered.
Baker, who owned Yasmo's variety store in Harlem at the time of the
incident, has since moved to Great Falls with his wife and 2-year-old
daughter, Aspen. He drives a black Pontiac Firebird and said he hasn't
thought much about winning a Volvo. But Baker said he would like the charity
money to add to a scholarship fund for his cousin, 19-year-old Dawn Marie
Zellmer, who died in a car crash on Highway 2 in September 2002. Baker was
the first responder on that accident scene through the volunteer fire
department and still is haunted by the experience. But he said he didn't
hesitate when he heard Janis' call for help. "I still can't explain exactly
why I went," he said. "I guess it's in my blood."
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03-15-2004, 11:54 AM #1
Montana Fire Fighter nominated for award...-Brotherhood: I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
-Mistakes: It could be that the purpose of you life is to serve as a warning to others.
-Adversity: That which does not kill me postpones the inevitable.
-Despair: Its always darkest before it goes Pitch Black.
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