Four seconds was about how long it took for Laramie Police Department officer Mike Morrow and citizens Wallace “Wally” Okobia and Nicholas Scott Duvall to bring a potentially dangerous man to the ground, holding him until back-up law enforcement could arrive at the Big D gas station on Snowy Range Road.
For their heroic, split-second decision on May 2, the two men received certificates of merit during the Laramie City Council’s June 18 meeting.
“There’s a lot of unpredictability out on the streets,” said LPD Chief Dale Stalder during the meeting. “I watched the video; Officer Morrow was alone because calls for service had stacked and there was no help. These two guys stepped in and helped him out and prevented this other suspect from potentially injuring Officer Morrow or other people in the area, so it was a pretty dynamic situation.”
Okobia told the Boomerang earlier this week he knew he had to act because he had heard the man yell at him that he had a gun, motioning under his shirt.
“I was worried; you want to take guys like that serious,” Okobia said. “So that was my main thing, it was a split-second reaction just to help the officer out.”
Working seasonally in the construction field, Okobia was at the gas station working his winter job doing routine maintenance. He saw the manager of the store becoming upset with a man who was “very drunk or on something.”
“To be honest with you, he wanted a pack of free smokes,” Okobia said. “I was going to go get it for him, I just wanted him to get off the property. … That’s when he started using belligerent, ignorant words.”
After the threats of a gun, Okobia said he decided “now it’s time to call the cops.”
As officer Morrow arrived, the man fled, where Duvall — who was just finishing his shift at the West Laramie Fly Store — found him by a dumpster. Once the officer realized the suspect was not going to cooperate, he grabbed one of the suspect’s hands. Worried about the potential firearm, Okobia grabbed his other arm.
“In that moment I was running around the side of my car because I was standing on the driver’s side,” Duvall told the Boomerang earlier this week. “So, I ran around the front of my car, (Okobia) already had his arm, and I just came by and swooped up his legs and made sure that he wasn’t going anywhere.”
Within three or four seconds, Okobia said, the three had the man subdued on the ground until additional officers arrived to the scene.
Duvall said he acted quickly because helping others has “been ingrained” in him from organizations like a state patrol youth academy he went to and his time with the Scouts.
“I really thought about intervening just because I’m not one just to sit idle while other people are needing help or taking care of us as citizens,” Duvall said.
Both Duvall and Okobia said they appreciated the recognition from the city. Okobia said he considers Laramie “probably one of the best towns I’ve lived in,” and it was an honor to receive the award. He said he was disappointed he couldn’t make it to the City Council meeting to receive it.
Duvall said he’s not one to make a big deal out of something he perceives as a civic duty.
“Pretty much just as long as everyone stays vigilant, as long as they help anybody out at any given time, you never know when you might need it later on,” He said.