When the veteran finally answered his cellphone, he told Prince George’s County police Cpl. David Thompson he was driving to West Virginia to kill himself. Thompson begged the man not to, and then he just listened.
“I got family members in the military,” Thompson said. “It really touched me.”
The man eventually agreed to meet Thompson at a hospital in D.C., though he was intercepted by Montgomery County police on his way back. On Tuesday, Prince George’s Police Chief Mark Magaw presented Thompson, now an acting sergeant, with an award of merit for his “calm demeanor and unrelenting determination” in talking the man out of taking his own life during the September encounter. Thompson said he just told the man, “I’d listen.”
“I just lent him an ear,” Thompson said. “That’s what it was.”
The award was one of dozens Magaw presented to police officers and others Tuesday as part of a ceremony to recognize individual and team acts of heroism over the past few years. Among the others who received accolades were a group of police officers who broke up a massive drug operation, a search party that rescued a 75-year-old man with dementia from the woods in Bowie and an officer who was injured in a crash on I-95 that killed a colleague with whom he was riding.
“It’s important that we recognize what these guys do every day,” Magaw said. “Our agency is one of the best departments in the nation.”
Thompson’s case, Magaw said, exemplifies a case of an officer wanting to “do the right thing.”
The September incident began when someone from Alabama called police to say his friend — a veteran who lived in Temple Hills — had threatened to commit suicide. Officers went to the veteran’s home and began tracking his cellphone while Thompson retreated to a back room and tried to call the number.
Thompson said the veteran did not answer at first, but he “kept calling and calling.” Eventually, the two connected and began to talk. The man complained about financial problems and periodically, he would hang up, Thompson said. Thompson said he kept calling back.
Eventually, Thompson said that he agreed to meet the man at a hospital in D.C. On the way, though, the man got lost and ran into police officers in Montgomery County. They took the man and had him admitted for evaluation, authorities said. Thompson said that the last he heard, the man was doing well.