- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 4, 2015

MUSCLE SHOALS, Ala. (AP) - Police Chief Robert Evans said being a police officer is a calling.

“We’re not always able to help, but we are trying to help and assist when we can,” said the Muscle Shoals chief.

Monday night, while eating dinner with his wife, Jennifer, Muscle Shoals police Sgt. Eric Balentine found himself in the kind of situation Evans was talking about,

“We were eating dinner around 7 p.m. at Logan’s Roadhouse (on Woodward Avenue), and I had noticed when I came in a group of young people sitting behind us,” Balentine said. “I recognized the guy (Lakota Wilson) as someone my daughter knew. The next thing I knew, one of the girls with him jumped up and was screaming that he was choking.”

Balentine said he looked at the girl and then saw the young man and could see he was in distress.

“His eyes were getting big. I got up and ran to their table, got behind him and immediately started the Heimlich maneuver,” Balentine said.

He said he squeezed Wilson “two or three times” before Wilson spit out the piece of steak.

“Once he threw up and got the steak up, he was OK. He was a new man,” Balentine said.

Wilson, 20, said when he started choking the “fear of death did cross my mind.”

He said all he could think of was what he was taught in health class in high school.

“I thought about how I was taught to remain calm and look for someone who could most likely perform the Heimlich maneuver properly,” Wilson said. “Officer Balentine was the obvious choice due to him being a police officer.

“I knew I could trust an officer to act without hesitation and to make the best decision possible in an urgent moment like that.”

Evans said he was proud Balentine was there.

“I think we are ordained by the good Lord to do what we do. I know (being in law enforcement) is a calling,” Evans said. “(Eric being able to help the young man) was a very proud moment for us and our department. I’m happy the young man was not injured and glad (Eric) was there to assist.

“A lot of times the good Lord puts us in the position to deal with things, and the main thing is we are in the position to help when the opportunity presents itself.”

Balentine said he didn’t do anything that others in the restaurant couldn’t have done.

“I’ve got a daughter the same age as Lakota, and I would want someone to help her if she had been in his place,” Balentine said. “I’m glad I was there to help him. There were probably 10 other people in the restaurant that could have done the Heimlich maneuver on him, I was just the closest to him.”

Balentine said several people in the restaurant offered to buy his and his wife’s dinner for his efforts, but he declined.

“When we went to pay, the waitress said someone had already paid for our meal, anyway,” Balentine said.

He said Wilson came by his table as he was leaving “and thanked me again.”

Wilson also posted to Twitter to show his gratitude.

“Shoutout to Officer Balentine for performing the Heimlich maneuver on me and saving my life in Logan’s,” he tweeted.

___

Information from: TimesDaily, https://www.timesdaily.com/

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