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New London police honor local heroes, swear in Marine as new recruit

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New London — City police on Wednesday swore in a new officer recruit and recognized three good Samaritans for their heroic actions that saved a man’s life.

On a Sunday afternoon in August, three strangers were stopped at a traffic light near Bank Street and Montauk Avenue in New London when they noticed that something wasn’t right.

When the light turned green, a red car at the front of the line remained motionless. The driver, a young man, appeared to be slumped over.

Grant Smith, a petty officer in the United States Navy, got out of his own car and sprang into action when he saw the man was unconscious.

One by one, other people jumped out of their cars and rushed to help. A nurse from Lawrence + Memorial Hospital and a former Ocean Beach lifeguard pried a needle from the man's rigid hand and checked his pulse. It was weak, and they knew they didn’t have a lot of time. He was suffering from an opioid overdose.

In a Wednesday afternoon ceremony led by police Chief Brian Wright, city police gave Smith, 34-year-old Matt Landeck of Waterford and lifelong New London resident Gustavo Pereira Jr. each a letter of commendation and thanked them for their bravery and generosity.

“These people had no obligation or requirement to stop and help this citizen,” Wright said. “The New London Police Department commends you for your actions that undoubtedly contributed to preventing an unnecessary and tragic loss.”

The rescue was a team effort, the men said. Pereira, who was a lifeguard at Ocean Beach for five years and now works as a first responder through his traffic control company, helping drivers in distress, is certified in CPR and knew how to help. Landeck, who has worked at L+M for 12 years, worked for five years in the hospital's emergency department, did too.

After Smith noticed the man was in distress, Landeck and Pereira checked his vitals and then pulled the man from the car. As they began performing chest compressions, another man sprinted to CVS on Bank Street to buy Narcan — a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose — and a woman who stopped to help gave the man mouth-to-mouth.

Pereira said when paramedics arrived, he saw the young man open his eyes. “When he was on the stretcher, he looked up and he knew that he was alive because of all these people’s efforts.”

Pereira said he was happy to help the stranger and hopes the young man remembers how many people wanted to help save his life. “I think the opioid epidemic is a sad thing and if I can help save one person and maybe help them make different choices, then it’s worth it.”

Landeck attended the ceremony Wednesday with his wife, Jules, and their three daughters — 6-year-old Ella, 4-year-old Ainsley and 2-week-old Amelia — and said he and his family were driving home from church when they spotted Smith checking on the driver. He said he didn’t hesitate to help and hopes others in a similar situation won’t hesitate, either.

“Like Gustavo said, the opioid epidemic is a real crisis and chances are some else will see something like this happen,” Landeck said. “If they do, I hope people know that even if you don’t have medical training and you don’t know what you’re doing, you can be an extra body there to help. It’s important to be aware that this happens and you could have something to offer.”

During the same ceremony, city police also swore in their newest officer recruit: United States Marine Corps Sgt. Eric Sadowski.

Sadowski, 23, of Pawcatuck, is a student at the University of Rhode Island studying computer science and a volunteer firefighter in Pawcatuck. He has been a member of the U.S. Marine Corps since 2017 in the Scout Sniper Platoon and Unit Deployment Program. He has been primarily stationed at Fort Devens in Massachusetts and has been deployed to Japan and South Korea.

He has always planned to further his service by joining a police department, he said. “I’ve always wanted to be a law enforcement officer.”

A Stonington native, Sadowski said he has spent a lot of time in New London by boxing with the Whaling City Boxing Club and through his mother’s job in nursing at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. He said he is "looking forward to working for the city and making a difference in the community.”

Sadowski was sworn in by New London City Clerk Jonathan Ayala. His partner, Holland Woods, pinned his badge on him during the ceremony. The couple are expecting their first child, a baby girl, in December.

“I don’t believe you could be at any better police department or any other community in the state of Connecticut,” Chief Wright said to the new recruit.

New London Mayor Michael Passero, congratulating Sadowski, offered a similar sentiment: “We’re busy rebuilding this department and we’re proud of this department and each and every one of our officers. You’re going to feel that when you’re on the street.”

Wright commended Sadowski for his decision to join the department, noting it's not an easy process. “With this new recruitment our goal is to replenish and increase our numbers to best serve the greatest community in Connecticut, or better yet, the greatest community in the Northeast,” the chief said.

Sadowski will begin his training at the Connecticut Police Academy on Thursday, after which he will undergo at least 14 weeks of field training paired with another officer in New London, according to Capt. Matt Galante.

The Norwich Police Department also swore in a new recruit on Wednesday.

Shariff Fair of Hartford was sworn in on Wednesday and will begin training at the police academy on Thursday. Fair has worked as a supervisor at Amazon in Windsor and is a graduate of Enfield High School, where he played baseball and was a track and field athlete.

t.hartz@theday.com

Editor's Note: Grant Smith is a petty officer in the United States Navy. The military branch was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.

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