HORNELL, N.Y. --
Dylan Knights, a member of the U.S. Marine Corps’ delayed entry program, assisted authorities in foiling the getaway of a perpetrator Aug. 4.
Members of the Geneseo Police Department attempted to stop 27-year-old Thomas Sheflin after complaints from commuters that he was forcing cars off the road at speeds of 90 to 100 mph.
Sheflin fled from the police officers and led them through three jurisdictions in a high speed car chase across several New York counties.
Knights, 18, a graduate of Dansville High School in Dansville, N.Y., was at a local sports store as events unfolded.
According to Knights he was talking to his high school counselor about what physical fitness activities he was doing in preparation for Marine Corps recruit training when he heard the thrashing sound of a car crash.
Knights turned to see a parked van rear ended by the assailant’s vehicle. According to Knights, Sheflin, reversed his vehicle and smashed into a police cruiser’s make-shift barricade in an attempt to get away.
Reacting instinctively, Knights pursued the vehicle on foot.
“I just reacted,” he said. “He was really dangerous and I didn’t want to see anyone get hurt.”
Knights said he caught up with the vehicle three blocks later after the vehicle became stuck in traffic.
Knights approached the vehicle from the passenger side, leaned through the open window and forced the vehicle’s gear shifter into the park position.
“When I jumped in his car I thought ‘Wow, how did I get here?’” Knights said, as he recalled having a moment of clarity and grasping the gravity of the situation at that point. “Then I thought to slam his car into park before he could go anywhere.”
Knights then reached for the car keys and removed them from the ignition.
With police officers closing in and his vehicle now immobilized, Sheflin fled on foot. Knights gave chase, attempting to tackle Sheflin to the ground.
Knights, a mere 130 pounds, was shaken loose by the suspect who Knights purported to be about 180 pounds.
Continuing chase, Knights attempted to tackle Sheflin a second time. The suspect broke free again.
“The first two times he threw me down I started getting pretty angry,” Knights said. “I told myself it wasn’t going to happen again.”
Knights said by this time police officers managed to head off the suspect forcing him to turn back in Knights direction. Knights lunged toward the assailant grabbing a hold of his legs and tripping him to the ground.
Knights said he was able to maintain the suspect on the ground long enough for police officers to take him into custody.
Knights was awarded a certificate of commendation by the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office for his actions that day.
Knights said he appreciates the recognition, but feels his actions that day were rooted in his belief in duty to the community.
“I kind of felt like I had to, like a civic responsibility,” Knights said. “If a person thinks that they can help, they should do what they think they can to help.”
While the staff at the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office doesn’t encourage Knights actions that day, they said they are appreciative of Knights assistance in ending the ordeal.
“We are proud of Dylan and we know he will make a fine Marine, and one day, a fine deputy,” said Sheriff John York, of the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office.
Staff Sgt. Richard Nimrod, the staff noncommissioned officer-in-charge of Recruiting Substation Olean, Recruiting Station Buffalo, also commented on Knights actions.
“Our recruiters continue the tradition of recruiting quality applicants to join our ranks,” Nimrod said. “Knights has been a case study for all our future Marines.”
Knights was recruited by Sgt. Francis Emery Ellsworth out of Permanent Contact Station Hornell, RSS Olean, and enlisted under the heavy equipment mechanic option. He is currently scheduled to begin Marine Corps recruit training at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, S.C., on Nov. 7.