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Everyday Hero: Portsmouth officers risk their lives to save armed man

Kurt Everyday Hero (May 31).jpg
Posted at 8:11 PM, May 31, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-31 20:11:57-04

PORTSMOUTH, Va. - Risking their lives to save an armed man. We're catching up with two Everyday Heroes whose fast actions saved a man's life.

Body cam footage shows Portsmouth Police Officer Christopher Darden and Sgt. Michael Blankenship risking their lives to save another.

“I think it came in as a suicidal person in the water, and it was right behind the hospital,” said Sgt. Blankenship.

This all unfolded last October. They were told he was armed.

“The water's cold.. we know he's injured; we don't know how bad for sure,” said Blankenship.

Officer Darden added, “But we also didn't know what he had, either. We tried to talk to him as much as possible, just to come to us, work it out and even just to show us his hands and see what we were dealing with at the time.”

This all went down on the Elizabeth River on the other side of the Portsmouth Naval Medical Center. Blankenship and Darden arrived in their cars, hopped out, got into a fire department boat and then headed in the direction of this man, who's trying to harm himself.

And when they saw him, he's in neck-deep water. They spent about 15 minutes trying to calm him down, and then at some point, they see he's trying to take his own life.

We asked the heroes what they saw that told them, “We gotta act now.”

“It was the change in his face for us," Darden recalled.

"That, and he was making movements to stab his neck,” Blankenship added.

We also asked them if there was anything going through their minds as they were thinking about getting into the water to help someone who was armed and combative.

“Save him. I mean, that's what we're here to do,” Darden said.

And that's what they did.

“So, how quickly were you able to get off the boat, kinda regain your footing in the water and then get to him before did any damage?” News 3 anchor Kurt Williams asked.

“That's funny because I could not remember what happened from the point I jumped off the boat to the point I had my hands on him,” said Blankenship. “I had to go and watch his footage to see what happened.”

Blankenship and Darden put their lives on the line, and they say at the end of the day, that’s what’s expected of them – to preserve life.

So, at police headquarters, News 3 had a little surprise for these two. We surprised them both with an Everyday Hero award, along with a $300 gift card from our community partner, Southern Bank.

When we asked them what was going through their minds, they said they were very appreciative.

Portsmouth Police Chief Renado Prince told us the two are the typical example of everyone in the department.

Related: Everyday Hero: Local firefighter attacked trying to save a life

“They are what policing is. They did probably what anybody in this room would do," Chief Prince said.

Blankenship and Darden are also being honored with a Valor Award, which celebrates our first responders from across Hampton Roads for their selfless acts of bravery.

The Valor Awards are sponsored by the Hampton Roads Chamber. News 3 is proud to be a media sponsor. That program is next month at the Virginia Beach Convention Center.

To nominate someone for an Everyday Hero Award, click here.