Officials praise guard for coming to officer's aid

By Kecia Bal

Thomas Slusser Jeff Keafer (second from left), a corrections officer at State Correctional Institution-Somerset, is congratulated by Somerset Borough poli Officer Christopher Pile after receiving a commendation for helping Pile when a suspect he was arresting fought him. At left is Somerset Borough police Chief Randy Cox, who presented the commendation to Keafer onThursday at the state prison.( Thursday, March 3, 2016 Thomas Slusser/The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

SOMERSET – Early Monday, toward the end of his shift, Officer Christopher Pile encountered the type of frightening situation he knew could come while responding to a domestic call, making a traffic stop or any of the other calls he answers daily while in uniform.

An auto theft suspect assaulted Pile in a struggle that ensued after the officer pulled him over, police said. Pile said he eventually reached a stalemate: He was to subdue the suspect, but was unable to reach his handcuffs. That’s when he noticed a shadow and heard an offer to help. A corrections officer, Jeff Keafer, happened to be driving past the traffic stop along Berlin Plank Road on his way to work at State Correctional Institution-Somerset. Keafer helped Pile complete the arrest, an act that police and prison officials said prevented what could have been a far worse outcome.

Pile, standing with his wife, Sheena, during a ceremony to honor Keafer’s actions, said he’s grateful. He has injuries that will heal, and he was able to return home to his family. “I had angels out there,” he said. His wife, who knew something was wrong after her husband didn’t return from work when he was supposed to – in time to take their two children to school – said the same. “He was sent from above, a higher power,” she said. The two also said that the officer’s father, the late veteran police Officer Clifford Pile, was watching over them.

During the ceremony, Keafer turned to Chris Pile and told him that Cliff Pile was one of his instructors at Johnstown Police Academy in the mid-1980s. “We’re very thankful for whoever sent him,” Sheena Pile said.

Borough police Chief Randy Cox presented a commendation to Keafer at the prison on Thursday, and said the police department is in his debt. Keafer’s actions highlighted community support for law enforcement officers and helped to connect two entities that don’t often get the chance. “Sometimes, (police) don’t give you the credit you deserve,” Cox said. “I can say thank you, brother, on behalf of everyone in this room.”

Borough Mayor Scott Walker said Keafer “saved the day.” “Most people run from danger,” Walker said. “This gentleman walked into danger to see what he could do to help.” Pile said he thinks Keafer’s response came from his character, not just his profession. “He’s just a good person,” he said. “He would have done it the same way whether he was in uniform or in the supermarket. “My family, my wife and my children thank you,” he told Keafer.

Pile was treated and released after the incident.

Police charged Robert Glenn Mitchell, 35, of Stoystown Road in Somerset, with stealing the vehicle and assaulting Pile. Keafer said he was surprised at the community’s reaction, and didn’t know that hundreds had shared a letter from Cox to his supervisor, Superintendent Trevor Wingard, until Wingard pointed out the posts online.

Wingard said the incident brought people together in a positive way, beyond interactions between police and corrections officers that often center on handling or processing offenders. “In this case law enforcement came together in the community,” he said.

CO who helped Somerset police officer honored

Corrections officer Jeff Keafer was honored Thursday during a ceremony at SCISomerset. Keafer helped Somerset Borough police Officer Chris Pile who was struggling with a man who was driving a stolen car Monday. From left is Mayor Scott Walker, SCI superintendent Trevor Wingard, Chief Randy Cox,Keafer, Pile, his wife Sheena and Kathy and Adrian Keafer. (Submitted photo)

By MICHELLE GANASSI | Posted: Thursday, March 3, 2016 10:40 pm

Somerset corrections officer Jeff Keafer could have continued driving when he saw Somerset Borough officer Christopher Pile being assaulted during a traffic stop. Instead he turned around and returned to help his fellow law enforcement officer.

Keafer was given a commendation Thursday during a ceremony at the State Correctional Institution-Somerset attended by Somerset Borough officials, Pile and his family and Keafer's family.

On Monday morning Keafer was on his way to work when he saw Pile struggling with a suspect along Berlin Plank Road. Pile had stopped Robert Glenn Mitchell, 35, of Somerset, for driving a stolen car. Keafer stopped at the scene to assist Pile. Pile was treated and released from Somerset Hospital after the altercation.

"It could have been a lot worse if it had not been for CO Keafer," Randy Cox, Somerset Borough police chief, said.

Cox also gave Keafer one of the department's badge pins. Cox said that they are rarely given.

"We in the criminal justice system outside of the fence sometimes forget about those who work in the criminal justice system inside the fence," he said. "I don't think that is going to happen anymore and you are to thank for that."

Cox said that Keafer mentioned during the ceremony that he took classes at the Johnstown Police Academy under Pile's father, Clifford.

"We are very proud of Officer Jeff Keafer," prison Superintendent Trevor Wingard said. "With over two decades of service at SCI-Somerset, we are not surprised that he would render assistance to a police officer or anyone else along the road who would need help."

March 4, 2016