The flames licked closer and closer to the inside of the upturned vehicle where the cop lay helpless. As he stood in front of the wreckage, the risk he would be taking burned in his conscience.
No one helped him when he was wrongfully stuck in prison for a year, missing his kid grow up, his mother’s last days… Why would he put his neck on the line again?
When Daylan McLee walked out into the world after serving a year in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, the air tasted sweet. His first port of call was to see his 13-year-old son, Avian. The Pennsylvanian father was desperate to catch up with him after missing out on a year of his life.
If only the camera evidence clearing his name had emerged sooner.
Before life took a tragic turn, Daylan was at home hanging out with his son when he got an unexpected call from his sister. She begged Daylan to help her after a fight broke out at a local bar. The dutiful brother set off to get his sister out of danger, but after knocking a gun out of an attacker’s hand and diffusing the situation, he found himself on the wrong side of the law.
It took a whole year for evidence of what really happened to materialize.
Unearthed security footage proved Daylan’s innocence: that he didn’t fire at officers and in fact saved the day. Now he was free.
Daylan was again able to enjoy the simple things in life, like a family Father’s Day cookout. Just sharing a hotdog with his son meant the world to him after everything he’d been through. Then he heard the explosion.
“We felt it in the house. It was like a jolt,” said Daylan. He and his family’s first thought was that is was an earthquake, so he rushed to put out the flames of the barbecue for everyone’s safety.
Then an out-of-breath relative arrived to say there had been a crash outside the Uniontown apartment involving a police cruiser – and there was a man trapped inside screaming for help.
By the time Daylan and a few family members got outside to East Fayette Street, there were already people gathering around the wreckage as Officer Jay Hanley struggled to escape the upturned car.
Within a matter of seconds, flames began to engulf the vehicle and Officer Hanley’s life hung in the balance. He wouldn’t survive long enough for the fire department to arrive.
Protecting his sister at the bar fight wasn’t the first time Daylan had gotten in trouble with police for trying to do the right thing.
Daylan is currently fighting a charge of resisting arrest, during which he claims he was kicked in the face. “Over the course of his life, Daylan McLee has had multiple, unjustified encounters with police officers just because of the color of his skin,” his lawyer Alec Wright said.
Officer Hanley’s life was slipping away in front of his eyes, but it was clear that if he was going to save him, he’d need to get dangerously close to the fire and risk being engulfed in an explosion at any second.
Daylan heard sirens in the distance. Help was on the way. Could the cop hold out? And if not, could he risk everything again to save him?
Here he was in exactly the same position that ruined his life just one year earlier. He could do the right thing like his heart was telling him, but that’s exactly what left his son without a father and forced him to miss his mother’s last days before she died – not to mention the danger he would be putting his own life in.
Daylan took one last look at the flames and turned away.
Daylan turned to tell his son he loved him, draped his jacket over his head and sprang into action. “I’m not going to let him die!” shouted Daylan, as he ran towards the scene.
Brushing aside any regard for his own safety, the hero father ripped off the door, reached into the burning vehicle and pulled the officer to safety. It was then that he realized who he was.
Daylan had met Officer Hanley three weeks prior to the crash. “I realized after, that I’d seen him,” he said. “He speaks to people; he says hello; he isn’t an officer that harasses anybody. He commented about the heat that was coming.”
Officer Hanley was flown to a hospital in Morgantown and is expected to make a full recovery. Daylan saved the cop’s life, but he doesn’t want to be known as a hero, just an “upstanding person.” The town’s mayor felt he deserved more praise.
“That was a horrific accident that happened, it was bad,” Uniontown Mayor Bill Gerke said when he met Daylan in person. “But something good came from it.” Officer Hanley’s sister called Daylan to thank him for saving her brother and a neighborhood boy gave him a bracelet that read “The Kindness Revolution.”
“This guy deserved to make it home safely to his family,” insisted Daylan, who added that he wanted the troopers who had wronged him in the past to know he forgives them. No matter what he says, Daylan is a hero in a lot of people’s eyes.