ATLANTA — In the middle of the night, under an Atlanta overpass, five police officers fought for one thing. Time.
You feel and sense their desperation and determination through the body camera Officer Michael Skillman was wearing.
Just watching it your heart accelerates and you can sense a prickle of adrenaline.
A car with two men inside has slammed into a bridge abutment, flames pour from under the hood. The doors are jammed and Officer Skillman’s fire extinguisher empties — with no effect.
On the video, screams from those inside mix with the officer’s shouts for them to get out. He attacks the car’s windows with his baton trying to open an escape.
‘This was really real and we had to act fast’
Officer Bill Brooks took it all in as he and three other backup officers arrived.
“For me it was one of the most traumatic scenes I have ever been on,” Brooks said.
Officer Elijah McCall admits he had expected to find a simple accident.
“Most of the time we get calls and it is not as bad as people usually say it is, but yeah, once we arrived on scene, we realized this was really real and we had to act fast,” said McCall.
McCall, Brooks as well as officers Derek Daniel and Andre Valentine joined the battle to break into the burning car.
They succeed — only to find the victims’ legs trapped beneath the dashboard and the officers have no tools to free them.
All Brooks felt was frustration.
“You can’t get them out and you can feel the heat from the flames on your arms as you are trying to pull them out,” said Brooks.
Atlanta firefighters were on the way. The officers could have just backed off and waited.
But they didn’t.
Instead they went from trying to get the men out, to trying to keep the flames from getting the men.
Five empty fire extinguishers later, the flames were still burning, McCall recalled.
“Once we exhausted all the fire extinguishers and pretty much busted out all of the windows, at a certain point you feel helpless,” he said.
“We were praying at one point.” Officer Valentine admitted.
It was right about then when officer Daniel remembered something.
“I realized that we did have an old can of water in the back of our trunks.”
Grabbing their emergency water supplies, the officers poured it onto the burning car as a last line of defense.
Moments later the fire department arrived. Firefighters extinguished the blaze in seconds, but even using pneumatic tools took hours to free the driver and passenger — who survived.
“A lot of people say we are heroes — I mean that is what we signed up to do,” Brooks said.
It’s more than people saying the men are heroes.
Thanks to a body camera, you can see it.