By Paul Schlesinger | Reporter
A Clovis police officer received a standing ovation and proclamations for saving a 5-year-old boy from drowning while off-duty in the Sierra Nevada during the Clovis City Council meeting on Sept. 6.
Cpl. Curtis Shurtliff and his family were camping in the Dinkey Creek area near Shaver Lake on Aug. 3, when he heard screams for help.
They were coming from the parents of a boy who was found unresponsive in the water. Shurtliff immediately began life-saving measures by getting water out of his lungs and started CPR on Gabriel.
After 30 minutes of CPR and another 20 minutes of rescue breathing of a pulseless non-breathing Gabriel, who was in the water for 5-8 minutes, Shurtliff started to have thoughts running into his head about what else he could do.
“Even though there’s nothing else you could do and I knew that and I recognized the signs and I knew that it just wasn’t going to happen, but I wasn’t going to be the one to turn to his mom, who was begging for him to come back to her, and say there was nothing we could do,” Shurtliff said. “That’s when I asked her to pray.”
Shurtliff turned to Gabriel’s mother and asked if she believed in God and Jesus Christ as her savior. She said yes.
“That’s when it happened,” Shurtliff said. “The power of prayer.”
As they prayed, Gabriel’s pulse returned. Shurtliff continued rescue breathing and promised Gabriel that if he lived, he would give him his hat.
Shurtliff made good on his promise to Gabriel and gave him the hat during a visit to Valley Children’s Hospital on Aug. 7.
For Shurtliff’s life-saving actions, the Clovis City Council invited him to their meeting and provided him a proclamation on behalf of the city, alongside other proclamations presented on behalf of Congressman Devin Nunes and Assemblyman Jim Patterson.
The Clovis Rodeo Association also honored Shurtliff with a new hat to replace the one he gave to Gabriel.
In the end, Shurtliff, who has been a first responder for 27 years, and a paramedic for eight years, only had one person to recognize.
“When you come down to the end of it, there’s only one person really to recognize and that was God,” he said.
Shurtliff said he recently spoke with Gabriel’s father, who told him that the five-year-old continues to improve as he runs around and enjoys doing things that boys his age do.
“But at the end, I didn’t think it was going to happen,” Shurtliff said.
The officer thanked his colleagues and superiors with the Clovis police for supporting him the whole way and recalled when he recanted the story to them the next day after the incident.
“When I told the story in the morning briefing, you could’ve heard a pin drop and I just appreciate all of their support,” Shurtliff said.
Police Chief Matt Basgall was glad that Shurtliff was where he was on that fateful day in August and said that he’s the kind of person he’d look for when he needed help.
“I’m just so thankful Curtis was where he was when this happened,” Basgall said. “Officer Shurtliff is a pretty humble person. He’s not a guy who typically looks for the limelight of any kind, but if there’s anything that needs to be taken care of, this is the guy and if I was ever in a situation where I needed help, he’s the guy I want.”
With the pressures of being on the thin blue line, Basgall said moments like the one Shurtliff had remind him what being in law enforcement is all about.
“Being an law enforcement officer, there’s ups and downs with the career, and this is what we get into this business for: is to help people.”