Indiana State University Newsroom

University police officer honored for rescue of student

May 23, 2013

Thursday was Chris Heleine's wedding anniversary, but the Indiana State University police officer and his wife Natalie decided to wait a day to formally mark four years together.

"I can't handle two celebrations on the same day," Heleine quipped.

The celebration that took precedence on Thursday came from the Terre Haute Breakfast Optimist Club, which honored Heleine for rescuing a student from a burning car by presenting him with its prestigious W. Kevin Artz Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award.

Club President Ed Cook said the award reflects the respect and admiration Optimists have for all law enforcement agencies and officers in the Terre Haute area.

"This year we received several outstanding nominations for the award making it a difficult selection process. However, it was obvious that Officer Heleine's heroic actions were an outstanding example of the ‘above the call-of-duty' actions that this award represents," Cook said. "We are pleased that we could present Officer Heleine with the award and wish him the best of success."

University Police Chief Bill Mercier nominated Heleine for his efforts in responding to a car fire on a campus parking lot last November where he found the driver slumped over the wheel. Unable to open the driver's door, Heleine pulled the unconscious motorist to safety through the passenger side as smoke filled the interior of the vehicle. The car had crashed into several parked vehicles, the engine was still running and the car's spinning front tires had caught fire. Seconds after the rescue, the rest of the car burst into flames. A nearby security camera captured the incident.

Investigators later determined the driver, Indiana State student Mark McKinley, suffered a medical incident that resulted in the crash. McKinley has since fully recovered from his injuries.

"Acting with total disregard for his own safety, Officer Heleine's actions directly resulted in Mr. McKinley's life being saved," Mercier said in his nomination. Earlier this year, Heleine received the university police department's Lifesaving Award. "Saving a human life is truly the most important single act any law enforcement officer can perform. When that act involves putting his own life at risk, as it did with Officer Heleine, it becomes truly heroic.

Chris' actions not only reflect well on him personally but on all the fine men and women we have serving as police officers at Indiana State University."

The Optimist Club has presented the award annually since 1988 in memory of Kevin Artz, a Vigo County sheriff's deputy killed in the line of duty in 1987 while responding to a domestic disturbance. This marks the second time the award has gone to an Indiana State University police officer. In 2008, Cpl. Ian Loomis and Officer David Glick were recognized for saving the life of a professor who suffered a heart attack in his office.

"I'm very grateful for this award," Heleine said. "I didn't know Kevin but I know he was a good man. It always hurts when you lose someone in the line of duty. To receive an award in his name brings me a lot of joy. I appreciate the Optimist Club recognizing the work of area law enforcement."

Another celebration took place Thursday away from the media spotlight that accompanied Heleine's receipt of the Kevin Artz Award at Terre Haute's Hilton Garden Inn. Mark McKinley quietly marked his 31st birthday - a birthday he might never have celebrated had it not been for Heleine's actions.

Photo: - Ed Cook (left), president of the Terre Haute Breakfast Optimist Club, presents Indiana State University police officer Chris Heleine with the 2013 W. Kevin Artz Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer Award. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Photo: - Indiana State University Police Chief Bill Mercier (left) and Ed Cook, president of the Terre Haute Breakfast Optimist Club, pose with university police officer Chris Heleine, recipient of the club's 2013 W. Kevin Artz Outstanding Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award. (ISU/Rachel Keyes)

Media contact and writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or