Officer Zac McDowell said, “Some people think we’re just out to take people to jail or write speeding tickets, and stuff like that. But really at the heart of it, it’s because you want to help people.”
Sunday night Zac McDowell, an officer with the Urbandale Police Department in Iowa, received a call that a vehicle was on fire in the parking lot of the Urbandale Baptist Church. McDowell told ABC5 News, “I saw the smoke rolling across Aurora Avenue. So I knew there was an active fire and when I rolled up, the whole front of the vehicle was engulfed in flames.” What McDowell didn’t know at the time was that 18-year-old Ian Waseskuk, who had apparently been doing doughnuts in the parking lot of the church before he slammed into the building’s AC unit, was unconscious in the drivers seat.
McDowell’s dash cam clearly shows the 30-year-old police officer rush to the car, accompanied by his intern Nick Schroeder, and try to determine if there is anyone in the car. There was so much smoke in the car however, that McDowell said he couldn’t see anything. He told KCRG News,
The smoke is from the floorboard of the vehicle up to the roof and you can’t see anything … That smoke is so thick. If I would have got a good breath of that I probably would have went down, so you just got to give it everything you got and get it done first try because you may not get a second …
I took a breath, I went inside, and I’m no more than a half a foot to a foot away from this guy’s head, and I still couldn’t see him. I look down, and I dropped my head to get away from the smoke, and I see part of a hand on the driver’s seat. So I just grabbed what I could, propped my foot up on the door jamb, and just ripped as hard as I could and pulled him out with me.
Nick Schroeder, a student at Iowa State University who hopes to become a police officer some day, was riding along with Officer McDowell Sunday night and told reporters, “If we had been just probably like a few minutes later, I don’t know if we would have had the same outcome. [I] Feel good we were able to respond in time and get him out before he died or got any further injuries.” McDowell said he is “super proud” of his intern. He said, “Usually a ride-along is just chit chat back and forth — he reacted, and I think it showed his character.”
But for himself, Officer McDowell says he doesn’t feel like a hero. He said, “You’re given a situation and you just have to do whatever you have to do to resolve it and make sure you get the best outcome.”
Ian Waseskuk is listed in serious but not critical condition at a Des Moines hospital. A spokesperson for the Police Department said, “He will be charged with reckless driving once he is released.”