Police commend Severin, Grindstaff
Published 1:42 pm Tuesday, July 23, 2013
Dowagiac Department of Public Safety Director Steve Grinnewald and Deputy Police Chief Jarrid Bradford Monday night presented commendations to middle school Principal Matt Severin and custodian Jennifer Grindstaff for “decisive and timely actions.”
The two were cited at the City Council meeting for their June 3 “leadership during an incident involving an armed person on school property that helped to keep school staff and students safe while also assisting law enforcement in bringing a dangerous incident to a close.”
“We all recognize it could have been much worse,” Mayor Donald D. Lyons said.
Previous DPS Director Tom Atkinson approved the commendation signed by the department’s 19 members on his final day, July 5, before retiring.
“It may seem that this incident ended with tragedy,” Bradford said. “Though a tragic loss of life was part of this story, the truth is, our community is stronger and more confident. Many of us in the police department are parents, and we can tell you we feel a sense of confidence that the school system would respond properly to potentially dangerous situations.
“The citizens of Dowagiac should know that our school buildings have leaders and staff who do not back down or panic under great pressure. Custodian Grindstaff did not look the other way or assume it was someone else’s job to report” when she saw a subject standing in the edge of the woods near the school watching her.
“Even though police officers arrived to take control of the incident,” Bradford said, “there was a sense that we were in Mr. Severin’s building and he was in control of it. Many incidents contain tragedy, but we must not dwell on the tragedy. We must recognize the importance of difficult trials and how they shape us. Principal Severin, Custodian Grindstaff and the Dowagiac school system responded to this trial with excellence.”
“In today’s world, it is important to follow the rule, ‘See something, say something,’ ” Bradford said. “Within a few minutes, the middle school would have begun filling with children. Custodian Grindstaff intervened and started a chain of events that gave back precious minutes to first responders.”
Severin called 911 and reported in detail what he saw and heard.
Law enforcement used this information to establish a perimeter and contain the armed subject. Police placed themselves in his path so he could not access the open and populated Southwestern Michigan College campus.
“For reasons we may never entirely understand, the young person took his own life when confronted by officers on Dailey Road just off the main Southwestern Michigan College campus,” Bradford said.