By Bill Rettew
Daily Local News
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WEST CHESTER, Pa. — The lightning-fast actions of a West Chester police officer saved the life of an early morning gunshot victim, who would have otherwise died along High Street, near the historic courthouse steps.
Within a minute of hearing a single gunshot, Officer Aaron Davis had loaded the unnamed victim into his police car. Within four minutes, the 21-year-old man with a wound to the abdomen was under the care of staff at Chester County Hospital.
The shooting victim was later airlifted to Penn Presbyterian Medical Center where a surgeon said that if Davis had waited for an ambulance to arrive, the shooting victim would have certainly perished.
Moments after arriving at Chester County Hospital, the victim was in cardiac arrest. Extraordinary lifesaving efforts by doctors and nurses began immediately. They located a punctured aorta, stopped the bleeding, and restored a heartbeat.
The 21-year-old victim has undergone multiple surgeries and remains in extremely critical condition.
West Chester Police Chief Jim Morehead praised Davis, a 19-year veteran officer, for his quick thinking.
“I felt the need to tell the details of this event to show the good that police do,” Morehead said. “The acts of this officer started 19 years ago when he took an oath to protect and serve all people of West Chester and East Bradford.
“Officer Aaron Davis certainly did just that with respect and compassion. Job well done!”
West Chester Police Lt. Josh Lee saluted Officer Davis.
“It’s what we are out there to do,” Lee said. “As police we are honored to be able to serve and this is a perfect example of that service at its finest.
“This is another example of an officer doing everything he was supposed to do.”
Less than two minutes after the shooting, at 2:18 a.m. on January 26, suspect Vaughn Yanko, 22, was placed into custody. He was charged with attempted homicide, aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.
Davis was parked in his police vehicle at the corner of Market and High streets, just 20 yards away from the shooting scene. He said police often sit in this “good central location” while waiting for the bars to clear out after 2 a.m. Davis was hoping for an uneventful shift on an Eagles playoff day when some bar patrons might be tempted to binge drink.
“By 2 a.m., I thought we’d breeze through the night,” Davis said, during a Wednesday interview at the police station. “Sometimes sporting events dictate how our nights will go.”
Also close by the courthouse steps was rookie officer Ryan McMillen who yelled, “Shots fired! Shots fired!”
Davis is proud of his fellow officer.
“People were running from the danger and Officer McMillen drove straight into the danger zone,” Davis said.
Davis realized that with an abdomen shot and no external bleeding that the victim was bleeding internally.
“It was a bad sign, with no exit wound and no blood, at a very bad place to get shot,” Davis said. “The only thing I could think to do was to get him right to the hospital.
“He could have died right there at the scene if we had waited for an ambulance.”
Davis attended a course at the Emergency Services Training Center in Coatesville from the Naval Strategic Health Alliance for Readiness and Performance called Tactical Emergency Assault Care.
He learned that the majority of battle field casualties die from bleeding or loss of blood.
“If they could prevent the loss of blood a lot of (deaths) could be prevented,” Davis said.
Davis has saved lives in the past. He pulled seniors from the burning Barclay Home building during the November 2017 fire and saved someone who had fallen through ice.
He modestly attributes the lifesaving to simply being in the right place at the right time. He said you can see what you did right away.
What is it like to save a life and give someone extra years?
“You never know what his journey is,” Davis said. “Everybody’s got a story and hopefully he will be around to tell it.”
Mayor Lillian DeBaptiste oversees police.
“I am proud of the manner and quickness in which the men and women of the West Chester police force responded,” she said. “Their extensive training, intuitive response, and mindset, along with their commitment to seeing the humanity in everyone sets our officers apart from many other forces across the country.
“I am also thankful for the leadership provided by Chief James Morehead.”
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