- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Topeka police Cpl. Jason Harwood lay in the street near his patrol vehicle this month in East Topeka.

Topekan Gina Barron-Jaramillo cradled his head in her hands, The Topeka Capital-Journal (http://bit.ly/WTUzoX ) reported.

“I kept telling the officer: ‘Stay with me. Stay with me,’ ” she said with tears in her eyes. “He was looking at me. He didn’t speak, but I could tell in his eyes he was looking for help. I started praying for him.”

It was a routine day for Barron-Jaramillo. She had attended church services with her family and then gathered at her parents’ home in Oakland for lunch.

Shortly after 4 p.m., Barron-Jaramillo got behind the wheel of her truck with her son Dominic Jaramillo and his girlfriend, Miranda Garcia.

“We were on our way home,” she said.

They were eastbound on S.E. 6th Street when they noticed a police car stopped in the road facing west.

“He (Dominic Jaramillo) said, ‘Oh my gosh, someone is lying in the street,’ ” Barron-Jaramillo said. “I put it in park.”

Barron-Jaramillo ran across the street to Harwood. She saw two women - one was on her phone, while the other was recording the scene with her phone.

“I saw someone down, and I had to help him - to do something,” Barron-Jaramillo said.

She had taken CPR classes and immediately rendered aid.

“This is not a mannequin,” she said. “This is the real thing. Blood was running down his arm.”

Barron-Jaramillo yelled for her son to call 911. Another man came out of nowhere and offered his help. He took over CPR as Barron-Jaramillo moved to cradle Harwood’s head in her hands.

“It was my motherly instinct,” she said. “I lost focus of my surroundings. He was a person in need - desperate need.”

Barron-Jaramillo saw a radio on Harwood’s uniform and used it to call for help.

“I screamed, ‘Officer down, officer down, 6th and Deer Creek. Officer down. Please help us. Please help us,’ ” Barron-Jaramillo said.

Barron-Jaramillo talked to Harwood as the man kept performing CPR. She talked about her faith. She told him God was going to see them through. She whispered for him to hang on.

Harwood looked up at her “with these big blue eyes,” she said. He didn’t talk and gasped for breath.

“It felt like forever” until emergency services showed up, Barron-Jaramillo said. In reality, she realized later, it didn’t take that long.

“I looked up and there were police everywhere,” she said.

Emergency personnel removed Harwood’s shirt and were trying to remove his bulletproof vest, which appeared to have bullet holes in it. Barron-Jaramillo was still at Harwood’s head and was able to pull off the vest. She noticed a gunshot wound near his side in the stomach area.

An officer pulled her up and away from the corporal and thanked her for her help. She looked down and saw blood covering her hands from the back of Harwood’s head. Her pants also were covered in blood.

Her son led her to the truck, and they went to Barron-Jaramillo’s home.

“I was still trying to comprehend everything that had happened,” she said.

Barron-Jaramillo washed the blood from her hands and arms. She changed her pants and placed a phone call to one of her cousins who works at the police department.

“I needed to know for my own peace of mind that he was going to be OK,” Barron-Jaramillo said. “God put me there for a reason. I know my God will never give me more than I can handle. He put me there to help that officer.”

Barron-Jaramillo called her mother, who offered comfort as Barron-Jaramillo relayed through tears what had happened.

“People say she took a big risk,” said Juanita Barron, Barron-Jaramillo’s mother. “I’m proud of her. I’m glad she was out there to help.”

Barron-Jaramillo didn’t consider the risk, she said, and doesn’t regret helping. Family members and friends sent her messages through Facebook, thanking her for what she did.

“People I didn’t even know,” she said. “I didn’t know how to respond. I don’t look at myself as being heroic. It was just human nature to help someone.”

Barron and her daughter prayed. And Barron-Jaramillo waited on a call that would tell her Harwood would survive.

That call never came.

Later that night, Barron-Jaramillo, as well as her son and his girlfriend, were asked to give statements at the police department. As she spoke to two officers, she asked how Harwood was doing. With tears in their eyes, they told her he had died.

“I lost it at that point,” Barron-Jaramillo said. “Guilt just poured into me. I thought: ‘What did I not do right? What could I have done differently?’ I wanted people to stop thanking me. This man died.”

For interim police Chief Tony Kirk, the actions of Barron-Jaramillo and the others who stopped to help Harwood “mean a lot.”

“It is a testament to the human spirit,” Kirk said. “It renews my faith in mankind.”

While family members, friends and community members are grieving the loss of a third officer in less than two years, Kirk stressed that people also should be thinking of those who stopped to render aid.

“They experienced a traumatic event,” he said.

Barron-Jaramillo and the others who helped will be affected forever, he said.

Barron-Jaramillo, however, would “do it again in a heartbeat,” she said. She also encourages others to step up and help out when someone is in trouble.

“Don’t hesitate,” she said. “Don’t think twice. You can always help in some way, even if it’s comforting them.”

And, Barron-Jaramillo said, she hopes she did that for Harwood.

“I’m still crying about it,” she said. “I still think about it. I still see him. I feel sorry for the family. I can’t imagine those kids not having a father anymore. I don’t regret it. I just wished I could have done more.

“I hope I gave him peace at the end - I really do. I hope I gave him comfort in his last bit of time here.”

___

Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, http://www.cjonline.com

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