By Tim Kelly
Sheriff’s Officer Robert Saunders knew something wasn’t right.
Tasked with monitoring a holding room in Cape May County’s drug court recently, Saunders observed one of the male inmates didn’t appear to be functioning normally.
“This is a mundane – but critical – chore to keep an eye on the inmates,” County Sheriff Bob Nolan said. “Officer Saunders had other things on his plate, and was also charged with looking after these people. He did exactly what he was supposed to do in that situation.”
Saunders, a resident of the Villas section of Lower Township, immediately contacted Sheriff’s Officer Andrew Raniszewski, who was stationed nearby.
Raniszewski rushed into the holding area to attend to the stricken inmate and found him to be unresponsive.
“Earlier, as is routine in drug court, the inmate submitted to a screening and was found to be not clean,” Nolan said. “Officer Raniszewski is experienced not only as an officer, but as an emergency medical technician. He correctly assessed the inmate was the victim of an overdose (of heroin or other opioid).”
Raniszewski, who lives in Wildwood, immediately administered Narcan, an antidote for overdoses of heroin or other opioids.
The man’s eyes opened briefly, but he then lapsed back into a state of unresponsiveness. At that point, Raniszewski made a life-saving decision.
“He administered a second dose,” Nolan related. “That brought the inmate all the way back (to consciousness).”
As a result of their actions, both Saunders and Raniszewski were awarded the Sheriff’s Lifesaving Medal at the graduation ceremony on Tuesday.
“I have no doubt Officer Saunders and Officer Raniszewski shared equally in saving this man’s life,” said Nolan. “It was clear to me that if Officer Saunders hadn’t noticed something was wrong, or if Officer Raniszewski hadn’t responded immediately and with great medical decisions, that gentleman would not have survived the incident.”
It was gratifying to see the officers’ training pay off in such a manner, said Antwan McClellan, Director of Personnel and Confidential Assistant to Nolan.
“These officers go through six months of rigorous training to react appropriately in real-life emergencies,” McClellan said. “(Saunders and Raniszewski) did exactly what they were trained to do, and their actions averted a tragedy.”
Also honored at the ceremony was Sheriff’s Officer Andrew Garcia, a Sea Isle City resident, who took the award for highest academic performance during his training.
“It was a back-to-back honor for Officer Garcia. Six months before, he was given the top academic performance recognition among trainees in the Corrections Department,” said McClellan, an Ocean City resident who in addition to his work for the Sheriff’s Office is a councilman in Ocean City.
Garcia had initially been hired as a Corrections officer under the Sheriff’s Department, and had also applied for a position as a Sheriff’s Officer. The Civil Service list for the job and hiring process landed him in a position to garner both academic honors within a six-month period.
“We’re extremely proud of these officers for the job they do every day,” said Nolan, “and sometimes their duties place them in a position to do something extraordinary.”