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June 23, 2020

SVSU police officer earns national award for response to 2019 shooting of Saginaw Township officer

A Saginaw Valley State University police officer’s quick response to a fellow law enforcer’s need for help earned him national recognition this week. 
 
Ryan Persails, of SVSU's University Police, received the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators Award for Valor during a virtual awards ceremony Tuesday, June 23. The Philadelphia-based association's award annually recognizes members of college campus-based police forces who risk their lives in the line of duty. 
 
Persails’ act of heroism happened during the early morning hours of Jan. 22, 2019. He was the first person to respond to a call for help from Saginaw Township Police Officer Jeff Koenig, who was shot in the jaw and shoulder during a traffic stop in nearby Saginaw Township. 
 
Koenig survived the shooting, the gunman was apprehended hours later and then eventually sentenced to 75 years in prison. But, at time of the emergency call at 2 a.m. on that Tuesday morning, uncertainty and a determination to help a fellow officer meant “all bets were off” for Persails, he said. 
 
“In my mind, as I’m driving there, I’m thinking, ‘Is this going to be an ambush?,’” Persails said. “I was expecting the worst at first, but by the time I got there, I forgot all that. I was focused on helping Officer Koenig.” 
 
Within moments of Persails’ arrival, Saginaw Township Det. Greg Remer pulled up to the scene, Persails said. They helped their injured colleague into the back of Remer’s vehicle before it sped toward Covenant HealthCare in Saginaw. 
 
“You could tell Jeff was in pain, but it was a good sign that he was talking,” Persails said of Koenig, who had called in his own shooting to Central Dispatch earlier. “We just wanted to make sure he was calm while we were getting him to the hospital.” 
 
When they arrived at Covenant, Koenig was listed in critical condition at first. He was upgraded to stable condition and released to recover at home over the course of the next few weeks. 
 
The experience was humbling for Persails, a 10-year veteran of SVSU’s University Police force who enjoys a tight-knit relationship with his university colleagues as well as peers in the law enforcement agencies patrolling the region surrounding the campus. The agencies often collaborate and network resources, and Persails knew Koenig long before Jan. 22. 
 
Persails’ close relationship with his peers as well as his close proximity to the dangerous incident — he was patrolling the area less than five miles at the time of the shooting — put things into perspective for him. 
 
“It really opens your eyes to the kind of danger you can find yourself in as a police officer,” Persails said. “99 percent of the people we run into are good people, but there’s always that danger.” 
 
The experience was eye-opening in other ways, he said. 
 
“Everyone really came together to help, from the doctor and nurses who helped Jeff to all the businesses and people who have put together fundraisers to help him with expenses,” he said. 
 
“It’s been great, the way the community has responded to this. It’s good to know police have that kind of support here.”