On June 4, 2018, private citizen Jerry Pendergrass found himself in a position to aid two police officers that had exchanged gunfire with a suspect when the chase ended in his yard. Unfortunately, Pendergrass had to shoot the assailant, but the police avoided injury, or worse, thanks to his quick actions.
Recently, the Springfield police and the Missouri Police Chiefs Association bestowed Pendergrass with the President’s Citizen Award, one of the top honors that law enforcement can give a civilian in the Show Me State, for his heroic actions that summer evening.
“That probably actually happened in ten seconds,” Pendergrass told KSPR News of the fateful day’s events. “I still once a day go, ‘Wow, that happened!'”
Officer Sean Kelly and Officer Andy Zinke were chasing the suspect—who had already shot at them—on foot. The would-be cop killer ended up in Pendergrass’ backyard. “He just kind of rounded the corner, he drew his weapon at me, I drew my weapon at him and we both—he backed away to house, I backed away behind a tree,” Officer Kelly said to KSPR..
“After I shot this guy I went to re-load and my gun jammed, and I looked down at my gun and I turned and there’s Jerry standing there with his gun. It bought me that second,” Officer Zinke told KSPR.
While Zinke was wrestling with his firearm, the suspect drew his and pointed it the officer.
“It was one of those things where you could see there’s a stranger there with a gun it could really be a very scary environment, but I saw it just in his face, just in the way Jerry was—he wasn’t a threat that the other guy was, and instantly that brought me some relief,” Officer Zinke said in the story.
Pendergrass tried to diffuse the volatile situation.
“That guy sat back up on his knees and looked directly at me and that’s when I was telling him hey stop, hey stop—you can live. I mean it doesn’t have to end here. You can live,” KSPR reports Pendergrass yelled. “There is an ambulance in front of the house that can get you help right now. He looked at me, looked at his gun and I said no don’t look at the gun. With me saying that, Zinke was able to stop moving around and bring his attention back and it was at the same time that he brought his attention back that we both ended up– the man reached for the gun and we shot him.”
The officers are exceedingly grateful for Pendergrass, and his quick thinking and fast actions. “Not a lot of people would do something like that… certainly we don’t encourage people to do that, people without training, but what Jerry did on his own, the bravery that he showed—it was something pretty remarkable that day and I was blessed to have him over there,” Zinke said.
“There wasn’t a controversy, there wasn’t a fear between the two of us.” Zinke told KSPR Jerry’s countenance told him everything he needed to know. “I didn’t recognize his race or color at that moment in time. It was just somebody there who was being supportive. He was a guardian that day.”