Rogers State University police officer Steve Downie was recently inducted into the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Hall of Fame for his courage during a 1996 incident while he was a Tulsa police officer.
Downie, who has served as a part-time RSU officer since September 2011, was honored during a Dec. 4 ceremony in Chandler, Okla.
Downie dealt with tragedy and hardships during his 27 years of service with the Tulsa Police Department, yet he overcame them all. The most devastating occurred in June 1996 when he was involved in a dangerous search for an armed robber in a downtown Tulsa alley.
Downie and fellow K-9 officer Dick Hobson were called to the scene to search for a man who had robbed a local restaurant. Jim Leach, another Tulsa police officer, was already at the scene. He and Downie both drove through the dark alley to look for the suspect. With no success, the three officers decided to cover the area on foot. Though no one liked the idea, it was their only option without a police helicopter, he recently recalled.
They brought Hobson’s dog, Dino, and started carefully searching the alley. It was then that the suspect opened fire on the officers, who subsequently returned fire. Due to poor lighting, they were not able to identify the exact location of the suspect. There was just one light nearby that backlit both Downie and Hobson giving them a significant disadvantage. Leach was bringing up the rear and the light did not give away his position.
Downie and Hobson had both been shot, but despite their injuries they held their ground. Dino went in search of the robber and Downie continued to fire in the direction of the first shots.
Downie called for backup, and minutes later officers Jack Pike and Walt Milner joined the others, illuminating the alley for a clear view of the suspect, 21-year-old Steven Williams. Leach, Milner and Pike opened fire on Williams, killing the suspect.
Downie and Hobson were immediately taken to the hospital. Downie had been shot in the leg with a serious but not life threatening injury. Hobson was more critically wounded and died the following morning.
Downie was crushed by the news. He explained that though he was prepared to deal with dangerous situations including gunfire, he was not prepared to deal with losing a friend and fellow officer.
The months to follow were some of the hardest of Downie’s life. After recovery, Downie returned to work at the Tulsa Police Department where he stayed another ten years before retiring. He still has nearly 200 shotgun pellets in his leg from the incident.
Downie said he could not be more grateful to Leach, Milner and Pike for their courageous efforts that ultimately saved his life.
Because of Downie’s courageous actions, he was awarded a Purple Heart and a Medal of Honor from his department and the Oklahoma Association of Chiefs of Police. Throughout his career he also received the Tulsa Police Chief’s Award, Marksmanship Award and Commendation Award. He was named Officer of the Month in 2000 by the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.
“Being inducted into the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Hall of Fame is a really big deal,” Downie said. “It means a lot to me, especially with the history of the state and being included with the other men who have been inducted.”
Downie played an important role as a part of several different areas within the Tulsa Police Department including the K-9 Unit, Mounted Patrol Unit, and Special Operations.
As a retired Tulsa police officer, Downie still spends his time creating and maintaining a safe community. In addition to his work at RSU, he also provides security for the federal building in Tulsa.
Other lawmen who were inducted during the 2011 ceremony included Oklahoma County Sheriff John Whetsel, Edmond Police Chief Bob Ricks, OSBI Agent Luther Bishop, retired Oklahoma City Police Chief and former Bureau of Narcotics Director Tom Heggy, and former Stillwater Police Captain Glen Shirley.
– By Monique Demarais, RSUPR Intern