By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Darla Pullins didn't think hanging over the side of Quincy's Memorial Bridge was that big of a deal.
"I didn't think it being dangerous at the time," said Pullins, a 15-year veteran of the Quincy Police Department. "You look down and see that river below you, and you're thinking: ‘I hope this guy doesn't jump. I have to do something. I have to keep talking to him because if he goes, we'll never find him because of the current.' "
Pullins put herself in harm's way on Aug. 10 to help a man who had climbed over the railing and sat on one of the girders about five feet below the driving lanes. Pullins was one of a number of officers who responded to the call at 10:18 p.m. that Friday.
"When I got there, the male officers were talking to the subject, and he was down on a lower girder and he was not responding to them at all," Pullins said. "In fact, he started scooting closer to the edge. I just thought: ‘OK, he's not responding to the male voices. Maybe he'll respond to a female voice.' As soon as I spoke to him, he looked up. I thought, ‘OK, I've got his attention.' I just kept talking to him."
The 40-year-old man eventually was rescued without injury.
Pullins was honored as Law Officer of the Year by the Quincy Exchange Club on Friday for her efforts that night.
Traffic on the bridge was shut down for 15 to 20 minutes so that the rescue could be made. Pullins talked the man into putting on a K-9 leash and a life vest before the Quincy Fire Department and water rescue unit arrived.
"I did lay down on the bridge," she said. "At the time, you just don't think about that. I reached down and actually held his hand for a long time. I told him I was not going to let go of him. I could feel officers holding my belt behind me and holding my feet. They were all scared and didn't want me to go over the edge.
"I'm glad that it all turned out like it did."
A Quincy firefighter secured the man, who was taken by Adams County Ambulance to Blessing Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.
Pullins has been honored on several occasions by the Police Department. She is a five-time winner of the department's Officer of the Month honor and was named the QPD Officer of the Year in 2004. She had no idea that she was going to be honored again Friday.
She was surprised when Chief Rob Copley read her name. She was coaxed into attending Friday's Exchange Club meeting after being told that her father was going to be honored. To get her dad to go, she told him that she was being honored. Her fib became a reality as she received a standing ovation from the packed house inside a conference room at America's Best Value Inn.
Pullins is the 47th law enforcement officer to be honored by the Exchange Club since it started doing so in 1967.
The Exchange Club also honored its Citizens of the Year. Mayor John Spring recognized Lynn Niewohner and Todd Shackleford with that award for their work with the elderly as part of their duties with the West Central Illinois Area Agency on Aging. Niewohner is the executive director of the group, and Shackleford is an assistant.