Mankato, MN – A Good Samaritan was presented with an Award of Valor on Monday night, in recognition of his willingness to help a Mankato police officer who was knocked to the ground by a combative suspect.
The incident occurred on Oct. 15, 2018, as Jacob Siem was headed to the South Street Saloon to meet up with his friends, The Free Press reported.
Siem, who has worked in a human services position for the past 15 years, was born with spina bifida.
He has no usable muscle below his knees and generally relies on a wheelchair to get around, contributing to his incredibly strong upper body strength.
Mankato Police Officer Dan Grassman was on foot patrol in the downtown entertainment area, when a fight broke out on the street.
Officer Grassman jumped into the fray to detain the aggressor, later identified as 22-year-old Austin Meuangsaksith, but lost his footing during the altercation that ensued.
The officer landed on the ground, pinned beneath Meuangsaksith.
A moment later, the combative man was standing above him, KMSP reported.
“I don’t remember deciding to get involved,” Siem told The Free Press.
Officer Grassman said that he saw Siem tackle Meuangsaksith to the ground just beside him, and that Siem immediately placed the suspect into a “headlock hold,” according to the criminal complaint.
Siem’s overturned wheelchair ended up on top of him and Meuangsaksith, but he was able to use his upper body strength to maintain control of the combative man.
“My brain just went into automatic mode, I think, more than anything,” Siem later told KMSP. “I still don’t know if he either fell on me, or lunged at me, but all of a sudden he was on top of me so just by pure luck, I kind of caught him in a headlock.”
Siem stayed on top of Meuangsaksith, then pinned his head to the ground and gained control of his hands so Officer Grassman could get free and call for backup.
Meuangsaksith was arrested on charges of assault on a peace officer, The Free Press reported.
In appreciation for his heroic actions, the Mankato City Council presented him with the Award of Valor – the city’s highest honor.
“Jacob's quick actions undoubtedly prevented further injury while he risked exposing himself to danger,” Public Safety Director Todd Miller said during the award ceremony. “The officer could have been seriously injured and/or the suspect could have escaped and continued to assault other innocent civilians.”
“The accommodation was just a small piece of gratitude that we give him as a city to really thank him for protecting us so that we can do our job better,” Mankato Police Commander Jeremy Clifton told KMSP. “Any community could use more Jakes. We’re proud to have him here.”
Siem said he just did what anyone should do when they see someone in need.
“Hopefully it’s a good lesson for people in general and their perceptions of people with disabilities,” he added. “If anything, it would be great that it showed other people that disabled people are a lot more capable than necessarily given credit for.”