On June 19, 2014, the high in Augusta was 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
It was a fairly typical summer day, sunny and humid with a slight chance of rain. Like the day before, it began cool and gradually warmed throughout the morning.
With proper care and frequent hydration, the heat wouldn’t have been particularly dangerous, but for a 2-week-old child left alone in a hot car, it was almost a death sentence.
That was the situation Deputy Oleg Grinko found when he arrived at 2807 Wylds Road at roughly 8:50 a.m.
After fellow deputy Michael Rollins received a tip from a security guard at Virginia College, Grinko rushed to the scene. What he found chilled him.
Sitting in the back seat of a gray 2011 Toyota 4Runner was a male infant. He had been strapped into his car seat, where a white blanket had been thrown over him. Grinko soon realized the situation was beyond what one officer could offer. The vehicle was locked, the air conditioner off. The child’s only source of relief was a single back window, cracked maybe an inch or two.
Maj. Eugene Maxwell, assistant chief of police for Police Operations, said Grinko sprang into action immediately.
“Officer Grinko was the first on scene,” he said. “He was able to wedge his baton into the vehicle enough to move the blanket. He recognized immediately that the child was in distress.”
Thinking quickly, Grinko radioed for assistance. Soon after, Rollins arrived with Jake Green and John Scott, both deputies with the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office (RCSO).
“They were just about to break the window when Officer Green realized the sunroof was cracked,” Maxwell said. “He forced his way in and was able to unlock the vehicle. Then the officers immediately called the Augusta Fire Department.”
According to Maxwell, officials with the fire department claimed the child might not have survived another few minutes without the officers’ intervention. The infant was taken to the Augusta University Medical Center shortly thereafter in critical condition.
For their efforts, the four deputies received Lifesaving Uniform Ribbons from the RCSO.
Now, three of them — Green, Grinko and Rollins — work for Augusta University’s Public Safety Division.
Maxwell, who has worked extensively with all three men, said he was approached earlier this year about the possibility of allowing officers to wear ribbons earned in prior service.
“I’ve known all three of these men for a while, but I had never made the connection between them and this incident,” he said. “Officer Rollins came to my office recently and asked me if it was authorized for them to wear their lifesaving ribbons. I told him it would be an honor.”
The ribbon, Maxwell explained, represents much more than just the officers’ past achievements.
“It’s a sign to our students and faculty that our officers have a good head on their shoulders and that they can accurately assess a situation and make good calls,” he said. “You can teach some things, but some things are just inherent, and quick thinking and good judgment are things you just can’t teach.”
Maxwell also said allowing the officers to wear their ribbons sets a strong example for the rest of Augusta’s officers.
“A lot of our officers are new to law enforcement,” he said. “This tells them that there’s someone here with experience and that their experience is valuable. I’m proud to have them on my team.”