Cop medic saves bagpiper and former fire Capt., who collapsed at police memorial
Two officers performed CPR and shocked the downed bagpiper for 5 minutes until paramedics arrived
By Joel Currier
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch
WASHINGTON — A St. Louis County police officer was among those who helped revive a bagpiper who collapsed with heart problems Wednesday afternoon while marching at a national police memorial ceremony in Washington.
St. Louis County Officer Gary Robertson and Orlando, Fla., police Lt. Douglas Goerke rushed to help Lito Lemus, 62, of Schererville, Ind., until an ambulance arrived.
Lemus is a former fire captain in the Riverdale Fire Department in Illinois and member of the Lake County Pipes and Drums Unit. It was one of the bagpipe teams hosting a ceremony at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.
Robertson said he was holding a banner for the Emerald Society of Missouri, a group of Irish police officers, when he saw Lemus collapse.
"He falls face first with his bagpipe in his hands, and I just initially thought he had his knees locked, and that it was a heat-related emergency," Robertson, 34, of Maryland Heights, said in a telephone interview Thursday. "I got a bottle of water to him and I saw that he's blue. I knew it wasn't just heatstroke."
Robertson said that when he realized Lemus was in cardiac arrest, he began chest compressions and called for a defibrillator. After about five minutes, Goerke took over chest compressions.
They shocked Lemus with a defibrillator and continued chest compressions for five more minutes until an ambulance arrived, Robertson said. Paramedics shocked Lemus again and took him to a hospital.
Officials said Lemus was listed in critical condition after surgery but was alert and responsive and expected to survive.
Robertson said he never met Goerke before. "I had no idea who he was," Robertson said. "He said, 'I'm a medic. Let me help.'"
In a TV interview in Washington, Goerke credited standardized training for "seamless" work by the two strangers.
Lake County Sheriff John Buncich called their response "fabulous."
Robertson has been a county patrol officer since 2005 and is about to move from the police academy, where he has been an instructor, to the central precinct. He said he has been a licensed emergency medical technician since 1999.
"It shows that no matter what uniform you're wearing, we're all a team," he said. "We're all doing the same job and that we're all serving the community. We're all family in this line of work."
Robertson said he was hoping to visit Lemus at the hospital before returning to St. Louis on Friday.
"I know that he'd do the same for me and I'm glad he's OK," he said.
The Times of Northwest Indiana contributed to this report.
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