Sergeant Brian Kunze

(Pima County Sheriff's Office, AZ)

On June 18, 2016, Sergeant Brian Kunze and additional deputies from the Pima County Sheriff's Office responded to a call from a man who had barricaded himself in a home while holding his family hostage. When the first responding deputies arrived, they encountered a woman trying to escape from the residence. She had fled from the house and was trying to jump a fence.

The deputies freed her and took her to safety. She told the deputies that her son was armed and had been acting delusional when he assaulted her and took her cell phone. She told them that her son's elderly, disabled grandmother was still inside the house, and that her son had placed filled gasoline cans in the hallway of the house. The deputies could smell a strong odor of natural gas emanating from inside the home.

Sergeant Kunze quickly decided to make an immediate rescue attempt to free the elderly woman. He entered one of the home's bedrooms along with the other deputies, only to be forced back by the overpowering smell of gas. Sergeant Kunze recognized the danger of entering the home again with the presence of an armed suspect, the highly combustible natural gas, and the cans of fuel. In spite of the risk, Sergeant Kunze opted to find another point of access to the residence to reach the elderly woman.

The deputies could see the armed suspect's shadow moving around inside the house. Sergeant Kunze located a window to the elderly woman's room and broke it. Deputy Richard Coz entered the house through the window in an attempt to rescue the elderly woman. Additional deputies were at the window to assist with the rescue while other deputies continued to attempt to locate the suspect and access the residence from another point. Before Deputy Coz could reach the victim, the home exploded. The combination of natural gas and fuel violently detonated, lifting the roof off the home and sending a ball of fire into the elderly woman's room. Deputy Coz was flung from the house and back through the window by the explosion. Sergeant Kunze and the other deputies at that location were also thrown to the ground.

Before deputies could reenter the house, they realized that despite the intense heat and smoke, Sergeant Kunze had already courageously re-entered the burning home. He reached the elderly woman and carried her to the window, where he handed her to the deputies who pulled her from the burning home and quickly moved her to safety. Sergeant Kunze was the only one injured on the scene. He suffered lacerations from the broken glass and was treated at a local hospital.

The actions of Sergeant Kunze demonstrated extraordinary bravery, decisiveness, and a willingness to save the lives of others, without regard to his own personal safety.

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