TERRE HAUTE —
Thursday was a special day for Indiana State University Police Officer Christopher Heleine in multiple ways.
It was his fourth anniversary with wife Natalie.
It was the birthday of ISU student Mark McKinley.
And it was the morning that Heleine was honored with the Sergeant Kevin Artz Outlanding Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award — for saving the life of McKinley.
“It’s a great honor,” Heleine told the Breakfast Optimist Club, which presents the annual award in honor of the Vigo County Sheriff’s deputy. “I want to thank you for showing your support to the law enforcement community.”
Praise for Heleine’s actions on that day came from ISU Police Chief Bill Mercier, who introduced Heleine during a breakfast meeting that included many members of the ISU Police Department, as well as city police and sheriff’s deputies.
“Without regard for his own safety, he saved the life of Mark McKinley,” Mercier said of Heleine, referring to a surveillance video which captured the incident in ISU parking lot 14. The video shows Heleine arriving at the smoky scene where McKinley’s car has crashed into other parked vehicles.
McKinley, who had suffered a medical emergency, was buckled into the driver’s seat of the burning auto, unconscious but moaning. Heleine used a fire extinguisher the knock down the flames before entering the passenger door of the car, unbuckling McKinley, and pulling him to safety. The student has since fully recovered and continues to take classes at ISU.
Heleine’s heroic action earned him a nomination for the Artz Award, presented in honor of Sgt. Artz, who was shot and killed during his response to a domestic dispute on July 1, 1987.
Former Vigo County Sheriff Jim Jenkins recalled his friend and co-worker, Artz, as a man who enjoyed spending time with his children, working at his own business, and going dancing with his wife.
“Kevin Artz was a good friend of mine,” Jenkins said. “We had a lot of good times and we did a lot of good police work.”
Heleine received the congratulations of many people following the awards presentation — ISU President Dan Bradley, his fellow officers, current Sheriff Greg Ewing and Chief Deputy Clark Cottom — as well as the admiration of his family and wife Natalie.
“I told him that we are celebrating our anniversary tomorrow,” Natalie Heleine said. “Today is his day.”
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.