The way Fairfax County Police Officer Rockie Akhavan sees it, he was just doing his job on the night that an allegedly drunk driver smashed into his patrol cruiser.
As for the Good Samaritans who pulled the door off of the mangled police cruiser to pry him out, and comforted the stunned driver and her two small children: "they are the true heroes," Akhavan said.
Fairfax County Police held a small ceremony at the Sully District Station Friday afternoon to honor Stacey Hawkins, Emily Zetts and Greg Zetts for their help on the evening of March 11.
"Sometimes even our heroes need help," said Captain Ed O'Carroll, the commander of the Sully District Station.
And that was the case when Greg Zetts, a pastor at King of the Nations Christian Fellowship in Maryland, and his daughter Emily Zetts, saw an apparently impaired driver getting onto I-66 that night.
"She was speeding 80, 90 mph and almost clipped a couple cars on the way," said Greg, who happens to also be a police chaplain with the Montgomery County Police Department.
He said that after the woman almost hit a semi truck, they called 911 and sped up to try and get her tag number. Afterward, they found Akhavan, who was on patrol.
Akhavan quickly left to try and find the driver, but was almost hit by another vehicle, that was moving erratically. Mistakenly believing that this was the drunk driver, he put on his lights and pulled the car over.
Akhavan found out too late that the vehicle was forced to move that way because of the impaired driver. As he pulled the car over to the side of the road, the drunk driver smashed into the back of his cruiser, pushing it nearly 80 feet forward, according to police.
"I was hit pretty bad," said Akhavan. "I was knocked out."
Horrified, Emily and Greg pulled their car over. Emily heard a child crying and went to check on the other car. Greg tried to help Akhavan out of the car, but found the door damaged and was unable to open it.
"That's where I believe it was miraculous," Greg recalled. "I was able to pull the door out."
As Emily comforted the children that cold night, Stacey Hawkins also rushed in to help. She comforted the children and covered a young boy with her coat, police said.
Three Virginia State Troopers—Lorenzo Goode, John Yacek and Matthew Ratliff—were the first law enforcement to respond to the scene. They were also honored at the Friday ceremony.
Akhavan escaped with only minor injuries that night, but he is all too aware that he escaped death by a matter of inches.
"I'm just glad that I could go home and see my family and see another day," he said.
More local police news:
Sully District Officer of the Year: Joseph Shields
An Afternoon With a Traffic Officer
Patrol Officer Leads Outreach to Local Korean-Americans