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Wheeling officer’s 13th water rescue recognized

Photo provided to The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register  John Schultz, as he prepared for a life guard drill in 1985 at the Wheeling Park pool.
Photo provided to The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register
John Schultz, as he prepared for a life guard drill in 1985 at the Wheeling Park pool.

WHEELING, W.Va. — Saving people from drowning is nothing new to Wheeling Police Sgt. John Schultz — he’s done it 13 times.

As the prevention resource officer at Wheeling Middle School, Schultz wears a lot of hats, including being a protector of students and staff, a trusted confidant to parents and others who feed him vital information regarding potential troubling situations, and a non-traditional teacher who talks to children about drug prevention and intervention, safety, domestic violence, bullying, lockdowns or anything that may benefit them.

He normally shies away from attention; but in recent weeks he has been unable to avoid the spotlight.

In his mind, it was all in a day’s work on June 2 when he dove, fully clothed, into the Wheeling Park pool to rescue an unresponsive eighth grader from 12 feet of water.

During an end-of-year eighth grade field trip to the park, Schultz saw that a lifeguard needed help in bringing the endangered student to the surface. He dove in wearing his duty belt – service weapon and all – and pulled the boy out.

That action sparked a team rescue effort led by Ed Nowakowski, a retired Wheeling firefighter and current school bus driver, who delivered the students to the park that day. He administered CPR until the student began to breath.

Schultz believed the rescue was old news until he attended an Ohio County Board of Education meeting a few days later where he was publicly recognized for the rescue; and then again at Wheeling Middle School’s eighth-grade graduation when he received a 4-minute standing ovation from a grateful audience of several hundred students, parents, grandparents and teachers.

A lifetime of service

When it comes to drowning rescues, John Schultz has recorded a baker’s dozen.

“I did not realize until I had time to think about it, that this was the 13th person I pulled from the water,” he said of the Wheeling Middle student. “One of them was a double drowning and I had to bring up two kids at the same time.”

Schultz, who has been a certified lifeguard for 30 years and still teaches life-saving skills to Wheeling Park lifeguards, is admired by those who know him – both lifeguards and the Junior Prevention Resource Officers he comes to teach at the middle school.

“I started work at the pool as a lifeguard in 1985 and moved up to pool supervisor,” he said. “I have been training lifeguards ever since.”

He continues to conduct in-service training for lifeguards, teaching them and refreshing their knowledge of rescue, back-boarding and other techniques. He also does aquatic instruction at the J.B. Chambers YMCA pool. Lessons include CPR, first aid and life guarding.

Schultz joined the Wheeling Police Department in 1995. He attained the rank of sergeant and served as a supervisor for five years. During his time of “working the streets,” he was no stranger to danger.

He earned an “above and beyond the line of duty” citation on Nov. 9, 1999, when he was the first officer to enter a hotel room on National Road where Yasser Abdelhaq had inflicted 233 stab wounds into the body of Dana Tozer.

As police made a forced entry into the room, Abdelhaq grabbed a knife and a plate of what appeared to be cocaine. Schultz disarmed him and placed him in handcuffs. Soon afterward, they found Tozer’s body on the bathroom floor.

Schultz started working with children as a D.A.R.E officer for the Wheeling Police Department. He became a PRO in 2011 and, three years later became the 2014 West Virginia Prevention Resource Officer of the Year for his work on a case involving a student who brought a loaded gun to school.

“I got a tip from a parent who gave me bullets that the troubled student had passed out to other students,” he said.

In 2013, he worked with the Wheeling Police Department to capture an online predator who had been stalking a girl.

Schultz also fondly remembers receiving a letter from a Learning Center student who thanked him for “making her a better person.”

“She said she wanted me to be proud of her,” he said. “Things like that are the rewarding part of this job.”

In another instance, Schultz intervened to make a student with an eating disorder understand she was in harm’s way.

A 1981 graduate of Wheeling Park High School, Schultz is married and the father of two children. His daughter, Aimee, is a lifeguard at Wheeling Park pool and his son, Danny, also is a certified lifeguard and works in another capacity at the pool.

He also is a U.S. Army National Guard veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm during the first Gulf War as a military policeman in the 152nd Military Police unit out of Moundsville.

Schultz holds a bachelor’s degree from West Liberty University, and has a black belt in Che-wed Kung Fu. He once served as the self defense instructor for the Wheeling Police Department.

In addition, he teaches a basic self defense class every year at West Virginia Northern Community College.

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