An Ohio man who holds a Right-to-Carry license was honored recently by his hometown police department for saving the life of a police officer who was attacked by a suspect and was losing the fight.
Dylan DeBoard, 26, was in his front yard assembling a barbecue grill he’d received as a Father’s Day gift last June when, right next door, he observed “something I’d only ever seen on TV before,” he told A1F Daily in an exclusive interview. A police officer was on the ground on his back, fighting with an attacker who, DeBoard says, clearly “had the upper hand.”
Cpl. Michael Wheeler of the Mount Vernon, Ohio, Police Department had been called to the neighborhood regarding a suspicious person—a man who later admitted he was high on crystal meth—trespassing on a woman’s property and refusing to leave.
“Evidently, he had been back behind her house and looking into windows and sleeping on her porch, and one of my neighbors saw him and called the police,” DeBoard said.
Wheeler told A1F Daily that when he arrived, the man was agitated and disoriented. The suspect refused to leave the property at first, then suddenly took off running. Since Wheeler had no reason to arrest the man at that point, he didn’t give chase.
“Every time you pick up the phone to call 911, the police, the fire department, the EMTs, they show up. The least you can do is have their back when they need it.” — Dylan DeBoardBut then the man inexplicably came back. At that point, believing the man to be a risk to himself or others, Wheeler said, “I tried to get him somewhere and get him help.”
When he tried to restrain the man, Wheeler said, “It didn’t go well. We got into a pretty good fight.”
Although he had been in many physical altercations in his more than 14 years of police work, this was the first time a suspect had ended up on top in a fight. And that’s when things went from bad to worse.
As Wheeler later wrote to his police chief, “I have never truly felt fear in my over 14-plus years on the department, but I did at that moment when I realized that he was attempting to take my gun.”
Indeed, without his radio to call for backup—“my radio mic had been knocked off my shoulder during the fight, yet another attribute to this incident that heightened my fear that I may not walk away from this,” Wheeler later wrote—the officer was swiftly running out of options.
All he could do was try to hug the suspect as tightly as he could, to immobilize him and prevent him from getting his service weapon, until he thought of his next move.
DeBoard said, “I watched the fight start. It got out of control pretty quickly ... It was pretty scary for everybody involved, I think.”
Fortunately, DeBoard had had a concealed-carry license for about a year and a half at that point—and he was ready when it counted. “I pulled my gun and told him he needed to stop,” DeBoard said.
As Wheeler recounts, suddenly the suspect stopped fighting and put his hands over his head—which is when Wheeler saw DeBoard, who identified himself and announced that he had a carry permit. That distracted the suspect long enough for Wheeler to flip him over and handcuff him.“You can bet I would advocate for [the right to carry] now ... I believe in it 100 percent.” — Cpl. Michael Wheeler
After the incident, Wheeler wrote to his police chief about DeBoard, whom he said “deserves some type of recognition for his selfless act.” As Wheeler wrote in his conclusion to that letter, “There is not a day goes by since that day in June that I don't believe that Mr. DeBoard saved my life or saved me from serious harm.”
And so, late last month, the Mount Vernon PD honored DeBoard with the city’s Citizen’s Award of Valor.
“The officer’s entire family was there when they gave me the award—his wife and his kids—and that really meant more than anything, the tears and hugs that they had,” DeBoard said. “It really made it matter, like I did something good.”
The incident also changed Wheeler’s view of the right to carry. “Prior to this, I wasn’t for or against concealed carry,” Wheeler said. “In my thinking, you couldn’t take a gun anywhere, anyway, so what’s the point? But [Dylan DeBoard] wasn’t going to a store, he wasn’t in a bank—he just happened to be in the right place.”
As Wheeler summed it up, “You can bet I would advocate for [the right to carry] now ... I believe in it 100 percent.”
What’s DeBoard’s advice for anyone considering applying for a Right-to-Carry permit of their own? “If anybody’s thinking about it, they should do it,” DeBoard said. “We live in this crazy world right now, and the only way it’s going to get better is if we all help take care of each other, and we all help protect each other.”
For DeBoard, it was an honor to be able to help those who risk their lives to protect us. As he told Wheeler at the award presentation: “You were in my neighborhood, helping my family and my neighbors. I’m just glad that I could be there to help you.”
Indeed, it’s a duty of citizenship that DeBoard plainly wishes more Americans would embrace. As he puts it, “Every time you pick up the phone to call 911, the police, the fire department, the EMTs, they show up. The least you can do is have their back when they need it.”