A Pine Bluff Police officer has been recognized for his actions after entering a locked apartment that was on fire and pulling out a 95-year-old woman. At the monthly Coffee with the Chiefs, sponsored by Interested Citizens for Voter Registration, Officer Kevin Collins was presented with a certificate based on the recommendation of Lt. Sam Atkinson and Sgt. Brad Vilches.


In his letter of recommendation, Vilches said that on June 30, Collins was sent to 2202 W. 22nd Ave., St. John Alexander Towers, in reference to a woman trapped inside her apartment, which was on fire. When he got there, he spoke to two other residents and heard an audible alarm going off. Collins also reported that he could smell smoke in the hallway and heard a woman inside the apartment saying she could not walk.


Another resident told Collins that he had a key to the door but couldn’t open it because there was a chair blocking it. Collins kicked the door twice and entered the apartment, where he encountered dark smoke coming from the kitchen. He found a black, cast iron skillet on the stove that was turned on high. The cabinets above the stove were on fire, and Collins removed the skillet and turned off the stove.


Vilches reported that Collins then crouched down on the floor and found the resident, Estalla Stredrick. After making his way to her, Collins wrapped his arms around her chest, interlocked his fingers and pulled her out of the apartment to safety in the hallway, where Fire and Emergency Service personnel gave her oxygen until an ambulance arrived.


The report also said that Stredrick told Collins she didn’t remember what happened, and when Collins told her what had happened, “she smiled and shook Officer Collins’ hand and said ‘thank you.’”


In his letter, Atkinson said Collins put himself in danger knowing the possible risks and consequences of his actions.


“Officer Collins gave back to this community a citizen, someone’s grandmother or mother, which I feel is one of the best gifts in life,” Atkinson said in the letter. “We are fortunate to have this officer who sees trouble, responds and without a thought for himself, saves lives. This officer represents the true meaning of bringing services to life, which is what this agency is for.”


Also Tuesday, Vilches, Officer Donald Griffin and Officer Jesse Valdez were cited for their actions in responding to a reported burglary and arresting a suspect on Aug. 29. Capt. Terry Hopson said in a letter to Assistant Chief Kelvin Sergeant that “Instead of just taking a report, these officers investigated the circumstances, pursued the suspect and apprehended him, then were able to call detectives to process the suspect further.”


Vilches reported that he, Griffin and Valdez responded to a reported burglary at 1011 S. Missouri, where the victim was able to provide a description of the suspect. While checking the area, Vilches saw a man fitting the description in the area of Martin and Ohio streets.


Griffin, who was still with the victim, was able to get more information on what the suspect was wearing, and Vilches reported that he had spotted the suspect at the coin laundry on Ohio Street and would stand by until other officers got there.


Griffin, Valdez, who is a probationary officer, and Sgt. Jeremy Brown went to the location, and when police pulled onto the parking lot, the suspect ran. Officers chased him until Griffin was able to use his phazzer to knock the suspect down and handcuff him.


Officer Xavier Kirklin, who was not present Tuesday, was also recognized for his involvement in the arrest of an armed suspect on Oct. 21 at McDonald’s on Olive Street.


Hopson said in a letter to Sergeant that Kirklin was sent to the business in response to a reported disturbance, and when he arrived, encountered the suspect, who pulled a handgun from his pants pocket as Kirklin approached. He said Kirklin then fought the suspect to the ground and disarmed him and was able to handcuff the suspect and avoid any injuries.


“Kirklin put his own safety aside to affect this arrest and save who knows how man lives in an unselfish act of bravery and heroism,” Hopson said in the letter.