REAL HERO: Off-Duty Deputy's Quick Thinking Saved His Life & Tho - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

REAL HERO: Off-Duty Deputy's Quick Thinking Saved His Life & Those He Loves

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He saved the lives of his neighbors, loved ones and even his own. He saved the lives of his neighbors, loved ones and even his own.
PASCO, WA - When it comes to heroes there are some that prepare a lifetime for their moment to prove themselves and there are those that prove themselves in a moment they never knew they'd face.

Corporal Jason Erickson of the Benton County Sheriff's Office is awarded this year's Emergency Services Red Cross Real Heroes award because when his moment came he did exactly what his training told him. He saved the lives of his neighbors, loved ones and even his own.

"While I was standing there trying to talk to him, he was pointing his gun at me. His finger was on the trigger, his hands were shaking and I've never experienced anything like that before in my life. I thought that day I was going to die."

It was a warm July evening when then Deputy Erickson came across his neighbors Leo Garcia, Rick Howard and Howard's wife Vicki in what appeared to be an argument. His 6-year-old and 4-year-old daughters were with him coming outside to play in their quiet Pasco neighborhood.

"They had no idea what was going on. That really scared me because I thought either they were going to see me die or they were going to die or they were going to see Rick die."

Erickson quickly noticed Howard was inebriated and possibly suicidal with multiple guns out on his front porch. He was a danger and his kids were walking right into it.

"So I turned back to Rick and I plead with Rick basically that, I know you wouldn't want to hurt my children, you love my children. Accidents happen, your gun could go off. Please put the gun down. He tells me that if I come back outside with any of my guns that he would shoot and kill me." 

So Erickson brought the kids inside knowing Leo Vicki Howard were still out there seeking cover. It was time for serious help.

"Can you have County 16 respond to my residence?" Emergency," said Erickson on the recording of his call to emergency dispatch.

Erickson was now watching the situation from his first floor window when he grabbed his gun. As he stays on the line with emergency dispatch he hears a shot from inside the Howard's home.

"He starts to lift the gun up and pointed it at Leo. I thought that he was going to shoot Leo at that time and so I took my gun and I pointed it through the screen and started shooting at Rick."

The deputy's shots were not fatal. They sprayed Howard's porch and forced him back inside.

"Shots fired. Leo get out of the way! Rick put the gun down. Leo lay on the ground!" he yelled on the recording.

Leo was still out there in the street. Using his portable radio, Erickson communicated with the SWAT team now on the scene and helped guide them to extract Leo from behind a car and Vicki who had been in a neighbor's yard.

"It's a good example of why we look for people like Jason Erickson in this profession, because we can trust that they're going to do the right thing," said Benton County Sheriff Steve Keane.

"I'm grateful that we were protected, that everyone's safe. It really just aligned our priorities and just kind of reminded us that family is important," explained Cindy Erickson, Jason's wife.

It was something that fueled many of Erickson's decisions that day; his family. Protecting them and his neighbors' lives was a top priority. It still came with a tragic end.

"It was a very difficult day. I thought I was going to die. I thought Leo was going to die. I thought my kids were going to die," said Jason.

When Rick Howard was eventually shot and killed by officers, Erickson knew he wouldn't be saving everyone that day.

"There's nothing else like it...after you're involved in a shooting. You feel very alone. I have a wife and kids and a house and I know that when I put this uniform on every day I potentially put that at risk."

It's taking that risk sometimes even when the badge isn't on that makes Jason Erickson a Red Cross Real Hero. 
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