Commendation for regular guy, rising to rescue

By Matt Byrne
Globe Correspondent / May 15, 2011

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Robert Casey was on his regular jog through the Middlesex Fells Reservation when he heard the screams.

With his dog, Elway, in tow, Casey, 41, had left his home later than usual that day. It was Labor Day weekend, and Casey, tired from his work week and a party the night before, waited until his 5-year-old boxer was howling at the back door before he went for a run at about 4 p.m. Sept. 5.

From over a rise in the trees the sound hit him.

“It was not like your regular scream, it was so deep and desperate,’’ said Casey, a laborer for a Boston construction company who lives in Stoneham near the expansive, 2,575-acre Middlesex Fells preserve. “I figured I’d better check this out. I turned the corner and I couldn’t believe it.’’

The scene he stumbled on was chilling: a man was dragging a 15-year-old girl into the woods, his arms around her waist, thrashing her from side to side.

Stunned at what he saw, Casey cried out: “Hey, wait!’’

The man looked up, startled, and then fled, letting go of the teen.

“He was trying to drag her down to a little valley. No one would have heard her,’’ Casey said. “It’s sick how a guy can do something like that to somebody. It’s awful.’’

Casey picked up the girl and called 911.

“I grabbed her and said, ‘No one is touching you,’ ’’ he recounted.

Within minutes a State Police helicopter was circling above as police units from surrounding towns fanned out in the reservation.

A short time later, officers arrested Yuri Mikalixen, 23, of Malden, and charged him with assault with intent to rape, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and kidnapping, according to the office of Middlesex District Attorney Gerard T. Leone Jr.

Mikalixen was held without bail and awaits a September trial, Leone’s office said.

For his actions, Casey was honored at a State Police ceremony May 6 at the State House. He was among 27 police officers and civil ians recognized with plaques or medals by top state officials for acts of heroism, courage, and bravery.

Bagpipes blared as the guests of honor gathered at the State House’s grand staircase, where each shook the hand of the State Police superintendent, Colonel Marian J. McGovern, who thanked them for answering the highest call.

“There is no greater service than to risk one’s own safety to save the life of another,’’ she told the gathering.

The ceremony, which is held twice a year, honored an unusual number of civilians.

Of the 27 who received recognition, 10 were regular citizens who took great risks to save lives or acted in the face of extreme danger to protect the public, McGovern said.

Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray, offering brief remarks, also expressed the state’s gratitude to the group.

“It’s important that we have events like this, where we say thank you,’’ said Murray.

“We say thank you to those individuals who put themselves in harm’s way, we say thank you to their families who serve alongside them each and every day when they go out the door to do a shift,’’ Murray said.

The awards come after a spate of recent high-profile cases involving violence against police, including the fatal shooting of Woburn Police Officer John Maguire on Dec. 26 by a paroled convict in the course of a robbery, and an attack in Springfield last month, allegedly by an escaped convict, that left one man dead, another wounded, and nearly took the lives of two pursuing law enforcement officers.

Karen M. Wells, undersecretary of law enforcement in the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, which oversees the State Police, described the moment she learned of the Springfield case, in which a local police officer and a trooper were shot.

“This past Saturday I received a call from the governor about two officers,’’ Wells recounted to the gathering of about 100.

“I cannot quite describe that split-second, how I felt when he was able to tell me that they were wearing their vests and that they were OK. It was a vivid reminder to me of the risk officers face at a moment’s notice, at any time.’’

For their role in the response to the fatal Woburn robbery, Trooper Edward F. Johnson III of Methuen and Sergeant Michael S. Fiore of Middleton received the Medal of Merit and the Medal of Valor, respectively.

Fiore directed the dozens of other officers who responded to the scene. One of them was Johnson, who, while patroling in a snowstorm, located and arrested a fleeing suspect.

In one of the civilian cases, six workers at a construction site on Route 24 near Fall River ran across the road to help a motorist pinned in an overturned car.

Joined by a police lieutenant on a detail, they extinguished a fire and lifted the vehicle to free the driver pinned inside.

The life-saving actions showed great strength in the face of “moral testing,’’ Wells said.

“It struck me how each and every one of these people stepped up at a time of crisis and showed their character,’’ she said.

“These award recipients acted in a way that we all hope we could act if faced with similar circumstances.’’

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