By Brandi Underwood
“It was raining; the winds were gusting ...,” said Crime Stoppers of Raleigh County President Butch Fink, as he painted the picture of the harrowing December night on which National Park Service Ranger Nathan Freier saved a man’s life from an untimely death.
High wind speeds and freezing temperatures didn’t stop Freier from climbing onto the New River Gorge Bridge’s catwalk, while he was off duty, to attempt to talk a man out of jumping from the 6-foot support beam he had walked out on.
“The gentleman that was going to commit suicide had even climbed up out on a beam, and Ranger Freier talked him into coming down.
“The gentleman today is alive because of Ranger Freier’s actions. We’d like to thank him for his good work and conscientious behavior, especially on that night,” Fink said, in a prelude to the presentation of an achievement plaque for Freier’s hard work.
Freier, a former Marine, has been the primary component in two suicide preventions on the New River Gorge Bridge this year, including the December incident.
“What I usually try to tell them is to just improve themselves,” Freier said. “If you improve your life, you’ll regret ever having tried to commit suicide,” Freier said.
Thursday’s ceremony at the American Legion Post No. 32 marked one of four quarterly Crime Stopper civic achievement award ceremonies. The awards are bestowed upon law enforcement officers who consistently excel in their work performance, are committed and dedicated to upholding their duties and are always willing to go the extra mile to get the job done.
Freier and Lt. Larry D. Lilly, chief detective of the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Department, were honored at the event.
“I’ve known Larry for quite a few years and he is really a dedicated, diligent working police officer,” Fink said.
Lilly has been with the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office for 16 years, and in his current position oversees a staff of nine, including the drug unit. He has specialized training in homicide investigation, advanced fingerprinting, internal investigation and SWAT Team certification, as well as being the primary investigator of all Crime Stoppers tips.
“Not only is he dedicated, but he will bend over backward to assist anybody with their investigations or needs,” Fink added.
Lilly said that his wife and children are the main driving force behind the work he does. He said he wants to keep the community safe, “for my family and for everybody else.”
He attributed his success to his fellow peers and detectives, and was admittedly surprised by receiving the award.
“I try to promote that we’re a team. I can count on them. If there’s something I need them to do, they do it. They’re just great guys. Every bit of the credit goes to them,” Lilly said.
“I think law enforcement is a calling. Since I was a young child, I knew this is what I wanted to do,” Lilly said.
Lynn O’Brien, former president of Crime Stoppers of Raleigh County, took the floor for another special recognition.
O’Brien thanked Raleigh County Sheriff Steve Tanner for the time and energy he has devoted to helping Crime Stoppers grow.
“We just want you to know that this is a great organization, you’re a great sheriff.
“The law enforcement community needs to be appreciated more,” she said.
“Crime Stoppers is a wonderful organization and benefits every single member of our society. I’m thrilled that Crime Stoppers also takes the time to recognize the people who serve our community and risk their very lives,” said Tanner. “We owe them every honor that we can give them.”
— E-mail: bunderwood@ register-herald.com