ABC NEWS- After he jumped onto the tracks to rescue a man while a train headed towards them, a veteran New Jersey Transit cop is being praised by police for putting his life on the line.
The shocking incident, which was caught on video, happened Aug. 26 in Secaucus, New Jersey, about 8 miles outside of New York City.
NJ Transit Police Officer Victor Ortiz usually works the overnight shift, ending at 7 a.m. But he happened to be working overtime that day.
At about 7:25 a.m., Ortiz, 41, responded to a call that a man needed to be escorted off a train.
But when Ortiz arrived on the scene, the man reacted. “The guy turns around and says ‘Why did you call the police?'” Ortiz told ABC News.
“I told the gentleman, ‘Sir, just have a seat here on the bench,'” he continued. “‘We’ll figure out the problem and you’ll go on your way.'”
But the man walked away, telling Ortiz, “I’m not going to jail,” then jumped off the platform and onto the track, Ortiz said.
Ortiz contacted the dispatcher to stop train traffic and walked along the platform in the same direction as the man, telling him to stop. But the man again said, “I’m not going to jail.”
Ortiz jumped down to the track himself. No trains were approaching at the time.
“As soon as he saw me jump down, he started running to another track,” Ortiz said. “I ran ahead of him and cut him off.”
Then the man said, “I want to die, I want to die,” Ortiz recalled. He proceeded to handcuff the man, Ortiz said, and reassured him, “You’re not gonna die.”
That’s when Ortiz looked up and saw train lights — an approaching train was about a half mile away.
Ortiz radioed about the approaching train and tried to lead the man out of the way, but he resisted.
“He pulled me towards him, I kind of lost my balance,” Ortiz told ABC News. “I thought, ‘I have to let this guy go. He’s resisting, he’ll take me with him.'”
The veteran cop decided to bring him along one more time and “in that last pull he came with,” Ortiz said.
Ortiz was able to drag the man with him, taking refuge between two tracks just before the train arrived.
The man was taken to a medical center to be evaluated. After he was medically cleared and sent to be processed and charged, Ortiz saw him again and this time his reaction was different. He shook the cop’s hand, apologized and thanked him for saving his life, Ortiz said.
NJ Transit said in a statement: “Ortiz, without regard for his own safety, was determined to save the individual’s life even as the man struggled against the officer’s efforts to pull him out of harm’s way.”
His “selfless and heroic actions demonstrated a level of bravery and a true sense of compassion and purpose that often goes unrecognized but is ever present in our law enforcement community,” the statement continued. “NJ TRANSIT could not be more proud of Victor Ortiz and of the New Jersey Transit Police Department and we hope this serves as a stark reminder of what these men and women do every single day to keep us safe throughout this state.”
Ortiz, a married man and father of a 13-year-old daughter, has been a NJ Transit cop for 16 years. He said he takes great pride in his work and credits his instincts for taking over. He said his actions are also a testament to the NJ Transit Police training.
“It’s a scenario where something had to be done,” he told ABC News, adding that he would do it again. “It is my duty to act upon what’s in front of me.”
“We’re here to protect and serve,” Ortiz said. “Had I not done that and just stood there and watched it all happen, what kind of police officer would I be?”
NJ Transit police said the man, Alan Jefferson, 56, was charged with one count of aggravated assault on a police officer, two counts of resisting arrest, one count of interference with transportation and one count of disorderly conduct. He was remanded to the Hudson County jail and is expected to appear in court later today.
A Hudson County court official said it was unclear if he has an attorney.