2018 POAM Police Officer of the Year
Matt Meissner, Saginaw Valley State University
The perfect storm awaited Saginaw Valley State University Police Officer Matt Meissner the second he arrived at the scene of a high-tension traffic stop late last winter.
While on routine patrol around the university campus during the pre-dusk hours of March 10, 2017, Officer Meissner didn’t hesitate to react when he heard a radio report that two Saginaw County deputy sheriffs needed assistance after pulling over a 69-year-old Midland motorist.
The deputies chased and stopped the man after he had brazenly peeled out in front of the deputy sheriffs’ marked patrol vehicle on Bay Road, as if wanting to draw their attention. It turned out that two unknown elements made the stop very dangerous for the deputies. First, the motorist was armed with a handgun. Second, the man was mentally unstable and suicidal and in a major depressed state due to the recent death of his wife. When Meissner arrived at the scene, he pulled his patrol vehicle strategically behind the deputy sheriffs’ car along the shoulder of Bay Road.
Just seconds prior to Meissner’s arrival, the deputies had discovered that the suspect had already exited his vehicle and was brandishing a gun at the deputies. The long gun appeared to be a semi-automatic weapon. The deputies and the suspect were at a standoff. Meissner watched the suspect defy 15 demands by the deputies to stop and drop his weapon; the man began to advance on them at a steady, aggressive, non-wavering pace.
Meissner, who grabbed his department-issued rifle when he exited his vehicle, found a secure position behind his car where he could take careful aim at the suspect. Meissner was prepared to shoot if necessary. The intensity of the life-and-death situation grew riskier by the second as the man got within a couple car lengths of the deputies, still pointing his weapon at them. He displayed no signs that he was about to drop to the ground as the officers’ repeatedly demanded.
Finding no other alternative, and given the growing threat to himself and the two deputies, Meissner fired a shot into the armed man’s leg. Undaunted by the wound to his leg, the man – his gun still pointed at the deputies – continued his suicidal approach. Meissner then fired a second shot that struck the man’s torso, dropping him to the ground.
The strategically placed shots fired by Meissner proved disabling, but non-fatal. The suspect, who has since recovered from his injuries, is receiving mental health care.
Interviews with the man following the incident revealed the distraught widower had every intention of committing suicide by cop. Only the courageous and instinctive actions of Meissner prevented at least one funeral, maybe more.
Meissner was praised by Saginaw County law enforcement officials for the professional manner in which he disarmed an escalating event that had the potential to end with a much more daunting ending.
For his courageous efforts in bringing the situation to a peaceful conclusion, the Police Officers of Michigan would like to present Officer Matt Meissner with its 2018 POAM Police Officer of the Year Award.