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Parole officers spot danger, protect a life

It was a cold Tuesday night in mid-November when Parole Officers Godfrey Melhado and Edward Pressley were conducting home visits. Around 10:45 p.m. they were outside an apartment building by the L train station and across from the Samuel J. Tilden housing projects in Brooklyn, ringing a doorbell and waiting for a parolee to let them inside.

Melhado was ringing the bell, and his partner Pressley was watching his back. He observed a chained-up pit bull and a small crowd of people who were outside of a bodega, which was adjacent to the apartment building.

“I was just watching our surroundings,” Pressley said. “I noticed a woman who was standing in the doorway in the front of the bodega, and I could tell she was getting upset. I couldn’t make out what she was saying, but she was backing out of the doorway as if someone was trying to push her.”

Pressley and Melhado sprang into action when they saw a man come out of the bodega holding a large hook blade knife. The perpetrator attempted to grab the woman, an African American in her mid-thirties, and held the knife behind his back.

“He was walking toward her, and he had opened the knife as if he was getting ready to use it. At that point, I observed his action as an immediate threat to her life, and I drew my firearm on him. I told him I was an officer and ordered him to drop the weapon. He turned his attention away from the woman. He was screaming things like, ‘Why are police messing with me?’

“One person there called him ‘Unc’ and told him to drop the knife when he was arguing with us and still holding the large blade in his hand.

“Finally, he did drop the knife. I got him to put his hands behind his back, and my partner was able to handcuff him,” Pressley said.

As the parole officers were calling their central office on the radio to inform them of the situation and request backup, most of the people in front of the bodega, including the woman, ran off.

“I don’t think many of those people were doing legal things,” Melhado said. “If we had been there with a large team, we could have questioned some of the people. With just the two of us, our first priority was to subdue the man with the knife. We saw a person in immediate danger, and as peace officers we did what we are trained to do.”

The parole officers detected an odor on the perpetrator as they escorted him to the police station, and searched him when they arrived. Melhado found several plastic sandwich bags filled with marijuana tucked in his large coat pockets, including one big enough to hold a scale.

“It wasn’t like he was just buying marijuana for his own use,” Pressley said.

Both parole officers said many people don’t realize what their job entails, and that they are law enforcement officers. Most of the time, their job has a routine, such as conducting home visits, which they do at the rate of 40 to 50 per week, without any incidents.

“You also have to train and prepare both physically and mentally for when someone or something disrupts your routine or when the unexpected occurs,” Pressley said. “That night, we saw someone in the community who needed our assistance, and we automatically jumped in. It’s our duty as peace officers.”

PEF President Wayne Spence, who is also a parole officer, commended the quick and diligent action taken by Melhado and Pressley.

“If you have worked the streets like parole officers do, then you know a dangerous situation can present itself at any time,” Spence said. “PEF continues to push for equity so parole officers have the same benefits as other law enforcement officers. This case is another example of their bravery and dedication to protecting the community. It is only fair they get the benefits.”

— Deborah A. Miles

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