Police honor civilian heroes

Rescue of sergeant injured on Beltway gets most attention

April 21, 2000|By Mark Ribbing | Mark Ribbing,SUN STAFF

At a Maryland State Police awards ceremony in Pikesville yesterday, the audience heard story after story of helpless people rescued, suspects apprehended, tough cases cracked. Of all these tales of valor, only one brought the crowd to its feet.

Byron Brevard Greene, a 27-year-old high school biology teacher from Washington, was driving along the Baltimore Beltway on the night of March 24. It was a Friday, and Greene was taking his girlfriend, Nigel Harried, and her sister Lois Harried to the movies.

He might have been going a little fast, but it was still a shock to see a police car come up from behind to pull him over. I'm going to be late, Greene thought to himself; kiss the previews goodbye.

As the police car pulled Greene's black Honda Accord over to the right shoulder just before the Security Boulevard exit, Lois Harried told Greene, "Tell him to hurry up. We have a movie to catch."

Sgt. Kevin R. Utz, 42, was a 22-year veteran of the force. He was headed downtown, where he worked with the aviation unit that dispatches medical-rescue helicopters to accident sites throughout the area. He had made traffic stops before, but his last one had been about two months before.

Utz got out of his car and walked up to the Accord. When approaching a stopped car, Utz usually looked over his right shoulder to check for traffic. This time, he didn't have the chance.

Greene had pulled his license halfway out of his wallet when the driver's side of his car was smashed by an outside force. He got out of his car and saw Utz on his back in the right lane of the highway, his head in a pool of blood.

Utz was unconscious and likely to be killed if he remained on the highway.

"It was someone who was in need of help," Greene said. "My immediate reaction, once I got my thoughts and senses together, was to get him out of the road."

That wasn't easy. Utz weighed about 220 pounds. Greene weighed about 125 pounds. But Greene did it, just grabbing Utz and yanking him to the shoulder of the road, perhaps aided by adrenalin.

Two witnesses

Utz never saw what hit him, and Greene hadn't seen it either. But two motorists, passing the scene in separate vehicles, did.

One was Alison Hiltabidle, 38, who was heading home to Catonsville from her job at a Towson computer company. She saw a pickup truck veer over to the shoulder and strike Utz, who was spun around like a top and thrown onto the highway.

Hiltabidle pulled over. By the time she got to Utz, Greene had pulled him to the shoulder. Hiltabidle could detect neither breathing nor a pulse. The impact had been so sudden and violent that it had knocked him out of one of his shoes.

Using Lois Harried's cell phone, Hiltabidle told the 911 operator where they were and what had happened. Utz's pulse and breath were returning, and his limbs began to move. As Hiltabidle held his hand, she felt his grip strengthen bit by bit.

"The happiest I've ever been in my life, I'd have to say, is when I saw [Utz's] legs move," Hiltabidle said.

The other motorist who saw the truck strike Utz was Keith Patrick Gillan, 24. He had been heading to Baltimore-Washington International Airport to pick up his girlfriend.

"I honestly didn't think I saw what I really did see," Gillan said of the incident. "I assumed the guy would pull over. I noticed he didn't."

The reunion at BWI had to wait. Gillan followed the white Ford pickup along the Beltway to Interstate 70, then to U.S. 29. The truck began turning down back streets, as if trying to evade Gillan. At that point, Gillan drove off. He had been in phone contact with 911, and police soon came to arrest Jeffrey C. Kerler of Woodlawn.

Man charged

Kerler, 40, was charged with driving while intoxicated, failure to stop at a personal injury accident and failing to report a personal injury accident to police. His trial is scheduled for Sept. 19.

Gillan, an assistant property manager for a White Marsh apartment complex, didn't go to yesterday's ceremony. "I did something I would have hoped anyone else would have done, police officer or not. I honestly didn't even think twice," he said.

Greene and Hiltabidle attended and were similarly modest. "I didn't need this," Hiltabidle said, gesturing at the packed gymnasium where the awards ceremony was held. "It's enough to know he was going to be OK."

Kevin Utz is OK, considering how serious his injuries could have been. He suffered a collapsed lung and lacerations, and has a scar next to his left eye. The most serious lingering injury the right-handed Utz suffered was a fractured right thumb.

He hopes to return to the force soon. He was deeply grateful to his rescuers but hadn't known about all they had done until meeting them yesterday.

"I don't remember the ambulance ride," Utz said. "When they said I needed a chest tube, I remember that."

Utz, Greene and Hiltabidle came on stage to applause after Maj. Greg Shipley summarized the incident for the audience. They offered further details in interviews.

No speeding ticket

Greene did not get a speeding ticket.

"There's no doubt that this man saved the trooper's life," said Col. David B. Mitchell, superintendent of the state police. "He drags our guy off the road, we're not going to give him a ticket."

Dozens of other troopers and civilians received citations or certificates. The Trooper of the Year award went to William Rosado of the Leonardtown Barracks in St. Mary's County. Rosado, who has been on the force for 2 1/2 years, issued an average of 162 citations and 100 warnings a month, in addition to other police work.

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