Medal of Valor presented following Pelican Bay murder
Olney’s Interim Police Chief Robert Cross was presented with the Medal of Valor, the highest commendation for bravery for public safety officers. Mayor Phil Jeske II received a letter from Pelican Bay Chief of Police Robert Porter last week requesting the medal be presented to Cross for his actions on April 18, 2016, just months before moving to Olney the following September.
Detailed in the letter, Porter describes how Cross, who was supposed to be off-duty that day but was assisting the Chief in administrative work, responded to a landlord dispute turned terribly wrong. The letter states, “Upon arrival, Officer Cross was met by a violent individual who was rambling incoherently.”
Cross recalls the conversation and said, “I couldn’t find the other half of the disturbance. Finally, after about a minute I asked, ‘Where’s she at?’ It was like something just clicked in his head and he said, ‘I told you, she’s on fire in the house.’”
According to Porter, the individual “was heavily intoxicated on methamphetamine and was hallucinating.”
The letter continues, “Acting on years of training and experience, Officer Cross immediately secured the individual in handcuffs.”
“Recognizing that the manufactured home was now on fire, Officer Cross, without the aid of fire protective gear, valiantly ran into the burning residence to save the elderly female. Unfortunately, Officer Cross was overcome by dense black smoke and all rescue efforts failed. Officer Cross inhaled a massive amount of smoke and nearly became incapacitated, but he never gave up. Officer Cross searched every room in the burning trailer, until he was forced to retreat because of the dense smoke and intense heat,” the letter states.
“I had been on the job for about six years at that point. I didn’t handle it well at all at first because every time I went back into the house I could still hear her screaming,” said Cross as he wrestled with the memory.
“It really bothered me a lot, and the only thing that I could do to function was to focus on the investigation. We probably spent three months on it. You know, there’s a lot of times we feel helpless in this job, but I have never felt that helpless,” said Cross.
Porter, looking in on Cross’ investigation, stated,”Officer Cross, overcome with emotion and physically exhausted from the fire, remained focused and initiated a thorough investigation into the murder. Battling mental and physical exhaustion, Officer Cross had the fortitude to lead a multi-agency investigation that resulted in the successful arrest and conviction of a violent murderer.”
Cross’ investigation led to multiple confessions by the suspect and an eventual 42-year plea bargain that took a serial offender off the streets.
There are no records at the Olney Police Department or detailed in the archives of the Olney Enterprise that list any Medal of Valor recipients in the history of the Olney Police Department.