Tacoma police officer jumps into Wapato Lake to save teen

TACOMA, Wash. — A Tacoma Police officer is being called a hero, after his and his team’s actions to save a teenager.

Officers got the call Monday afternoon that a 15-year-old girl was drowning at the lake in Wapato Park. A group of officers happened to be nearby, eating lunch at the time.

“Every single one of us just stopped what we were doing and ran to the lake,” says Officer Steve O’Neal. “This is my first water rescue.”

Body camera video, released by the Tacoma Police Department, shows Officer O’Neal rushing into the water to rescue the girl.

Officer O’Neal says he was in a full uniform with gear at the time, which made it difficult to swim. But says he continued to work as quickly as he could.

“We get trained to just act. Our who goal is to save lives and protect lives,” he said.

He tells KIRO 7 the girl was about 20 feet from shore and wasn’t moving when he was able to get to her.

Officer O’Neal says he worked to push her body to the surface and toward the shore. Other officers then helped pull the teenager out of the water.

“Going in there was just instinct and I know that anyone in our department would have done the same,” says Officer O’Neal. “I think it’s obviously being a parent and being a police officer. I think at the end of the day you’re obviously responsible for that person. There’s no hesitation. You just protect and you save.”

The girl was taken to the hospital and is expected to recover. The teen’s dad has since thanked the police department for their role in saving his daughter.

The department says Officer O’Neal, along with two other responding officers, will be given a medal for their live-saving actions.