When any of America’s police officers are shot, it harkens scenarios that echo why we direly need courageous law enforcement officers to tackle malevolence and the Good Samaritans who help during incidents gone awry.
One such situation unfolded not long ago, in October 2022, when a teenage girl and her friend were simply out and about, destined to a nearby mall, having zero ideas that they’d be participants in an officer-involved shooting. Except, they were on the side of the good guys and gals in police uniforms who just had a gun battle with the bad guys.
Here is what transpired, and how it played out, according to the Clay County (MO) Sheriff’s Office:
“As the Clay County Sheriff’s Office investigated the October 1 officer-involved shooting in Excelsior Springs, an unlikely hero emerged: 17-year-old Ava Donegan.
“On the night of the shooting, a suspect shot Excelsior Springs Missouri Police Department Officer Andrew Stott twice before another Excelsior Springs officer shot and fatally wounded the suspect. The exchange of gunfire took place at one of the busiest intersections in Excelsior Springs, Kearney and Crown Hill roads.
“Ava Donegan, an Oak Park High School student, and her friend were stopped at the intersection when the shooting took place. Officer Stott ran to the vehicle Ava was in after he got shot. She did not know whether more bullets would fly, but she could see he needed help. He had been shot in the right arm and the left hand. Officer Stott pointed out where his tourniquet was on his outer carrier vest. Ava helped him retrieve it and put it on his wounded right arm.
“Because of his injuries, he could not use his radio, so Ava pressed his radio button so he could tell dispatchers what happened. Finally, she helped him take off his outer vest so he could receive medical treatment.
“Ava and her friend had come to Excelsior Springs that day to go shopping. She had no obligation to help a law enforcement officer in a life-or-death situation, but she did. Ava also assisted the Sheriff’s Office in our investigation of the incident, providing information about what she witnessed. That investigation has been turned over to the Clay County Prosecutor’s Office.”
For her heroic efforts, a Certificate of Recognition provided by the Clay County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) has the official endorsement of Clay County Sheriff Will Akin and was personally granted by him on November 17, 2022, before an applause-full crowd of onlookers at a local high school.
A CCSO bulletin indicated that “Sheriff Will Akin [presented] awards not only to deputies who saved a life but also to a high school student [Ava Donegan] who stepped in to help a police officer who was shot in the line of duty.” How’s that for being among great company…and for an unorthodox yet imperative reason?
That Certificate wasn’t it, though. While on stage to receive the sheriff’s office accolades, Ava was also provided gratitude from the Excelsior Springs Police Department (ESPD), whose new police Chief Gregory Dull granted Ava a department challenge coin, a small but valued token for saving the life of an Excelsior Springs cop in a big way.
According to Excelsior Citizen reporter S. Jason Cole, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office also provided Ava with a challenge coin. Other law enforcement agencies in the region added their challenge coins to the mix, honoring Ava’s bravado and crucial life-and-death applications.
(Photo courtesy of the Excelsior Springs Police Department.)
Before heading the Excelsior Springs PD, Chief Dull spent over three decades with the Kansas City (MO) Police Department. That’s ample police experience whereby plenty of major incidents were witnessed and filed away for future reference. I’m willing to bet the scenario involving Ava is a first for Chief Dull.
In any event, agency figureheads get to extend gratitude, formally and informally.
Although it is not every day that huge traumatizing events like this occur, law enforcement agencies make it a practice to honor citizens among them who unhesitatingly come to render aid to police officers, deputies, troopers, and constables.
Ordinarily, model citizens are identified and graciously invited to a department’s annual or semi-annual awards ceremony as guests of honor, whereby the agency’s sworn and non-sworn law enforcement personnel are issued certificates, plaques, medals, and various other icons…just like the Clay County S.O. did for Ava and agency personnel who went above and beyond.
Generally, the media doesn’t necessarily cover these award ceremony events. But that is okay—it is primarily about the recipients being among peers and new friends while being touted as wonderful human beings who did the right thing despite adversity hauntingly staring them down.
On that note, I read some excerpts from Ava’s mom, commentary that is resoundingly robust, applicable to enduring horrific events that are undeniably life-changing, highly symbolic of integrity, and illustrative of great character. In a nutshell, Mrs. Donegan praised Ava for doing the right thing, proudly citing, “That’s my kid.”
With that, doing the right thing can bring monumental rewards, such as the one granted by Excelsior Springs Mayor Sharon Powell (pictured below). Extending heartfelt appreciation to Ava for saving the life of one of their cops, Mayor Powell handed Ava a $2000 scholarship from a Ford dealership operating in their jurisdiction. Generous just desserts to pave the way toward college studies.
(Photo courtesy of the Excelsior Springs Police Department.)
Stars ordinarily take center stage. It is fair to say an extraordinary one stood under focused lighting to receive what she spontaneously earned. Now, she has a plethora of new friends for life, many of them with justice shields, who filled the audience seats and applauded their young heroine.
According to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, “Ava received a standing ovation.” Deservedly so!
Excelsior Springs PD’s agency credo is “Dedicated to Service, Committed to Excellence.” Ava sure does befit the ethos!
A report by WCOY indicated that with Officer Stott “Approaching Donegan’s car in the intersection, she could see that he’d been shot and jumped out to help. Her dad is a critical care nurse and has trained his family how to use a tourniquet. This came in handy after Stott had been shot in the arm and hand. He has had subsequent surgeries and is expected to recover.”
Per the Excelsior Citizen, Ava has a focus on pursuing a degree in the medical field. She sure has a story to tell throughout the rest of her life, one that involves saving one at the age of 17.