Searching door to door for a critically injured man's family earned Columbus Police Motorsquad Officer Gene House the title "Officer of the Month" Thursday morning.
When a car struck 27-year-old Mejia Sontay on Nov. 24, 2013, police were left with no way to identify the seriously injured victim. The man was struck after attempting to cross Victory Drive without the aid of a crosswalk.
During a morning ceremony at the Public Safety Building, Lt. Tony Danford recounted how House combed through neighborhoods and shops with a picture from the Medical Center, searching for anyone who might recognize the man.
"We tried fingerprints, we tried everything that we could do and we couldn't come up with an ID," Danford said. "(House) started going door to door, business to business. Luckily, he was able to find someone in a store, and they recognized the person in the picture."
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That person was able to contact Sontay's family, who live in Guatemala. Because of House, Sontay was reunited with his family briefly before he died, Danford said.
"Subsequently the pedestrian passed away, but at least the family was able to be with him," Danford said. "But that wouldn't have happened without Officer House."
During the ceremony, Columbus Police also honored employee Donna Wilson, who works as a custodian with the Public Safety Center. After her two of her colleagues retired and another fell ill, Wilson was left to clean the four story building by herself for two months.
The task was an enormous undertaking, but Wilson performed her duties with good humor, Administrative Services Maj. Wanna Baker-Wright noted.
"When she would come to my offices, I said, "Donna, it's a lot of work. Don't hurt yourself. We don't expect you to do all of this,'" Baker-Wright said. "But she just kept on smiling. She never complained. She never checked out sick."
More recently, the department has been able to hire two new custodians, a development which has helped spread the workload more evenly. Baker-Wright lauded Wilson's effort and the other custodians for helping the Public Safety Center function well.
"We're so grateful for our janitorial staff here," Baker-Wright said. "Donna, thank you for those two months. You were a god-send."
Both House and Wilson were given a $100 gift certificate to Buckhead Bar & Grill. Wilson, on accepting the award, responded in the humorous manner her supervisors have come to know her for.
"Thank you for all of your support," Wilson said. "And I am taking donations for the grey hairs I got over the last two months."