"There is value in every human life. We are all children of God and I can't imagine just watching anyone burn," he said.
Daylan McLee was at his dad's house for Father's Day when he heard a big crash followed by the sound of people screaming. When he stepped outside to investigate the source of the commotion, he saw a law enforcement officer trapped in a crashed police cruiser that was moments away from going up in flames.
As he took in the scene before his eyes, it wasn't the current police brutality protests or the year he spent in jail following a wrongful arrest he was thinking about. Instead, all 31-year-old saw was a man in need of help.
After saving an officer's life, 31-year-old Daylan McLee said he wants more people to look at individuals and not judge all police based on one interaction. https://t.co/8YcNrzBCZY— CBS 17 (@WNCN) June 23, 2020
Speaking to ABC News, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Robert Broadwater revealed that the two-car accident took place on Sunday in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. According to Broadwater, the "big boom" caused by the collision immediately drew McLee outside where he saw a Uniontown police officer pinned inside his car behind a door that wouldn't open.
McLee revealed that he could smell the fumes and feel the heat before the front of the car became "engulfed in flames." With no regard for his personal safety, he immediately pulled the door open and dragged the officer Jay Hanley away from the burning car.
"I don't know where I mustered the strength," he admitted. "My heart was beating, I was scared to death thinking we were gonna blow up. But something in me wouldn't let me leave him."
Although Hanley hurt his leg and the other driver suffered a few injuries, none of it was life-threatening. "I don't know how anybody walked out alive," McLee said.
Speaking to the Associated Press, McLee said it wasn’t a complicated decision to help the officer in the burning car. "No. There is value in every human life. We are all children of God and I can't imagine just watching anyone burn," he said. "No matter what other people have done to me, or other officers, I thought, 'this guy deserves to make it home safely to his family.'"
Hanley was flown to a hospital in West Virginia where he underwent surgery and is recovering. McLee revealed that it was only later he realized that he had spoken to Hanley maybe three weeks earlier when the officer was on patrol.
I’m Not Gonna Let Him Die!— Terrence Daniels (Captain 🍀 Planet) (@Terrence_STR) June 23, 2020
Daylan McLee saves cop from burning car refusing to give up on the officer’s life... McLee has been a victim of Police Brutality several times & was even held for a year in jail after police blatantly lied about their encounter. pic.twitter.com/LTJHHMdlXb
"I realized after, that I'd seen him. He speaks to people; he says hello; he isn't an officer that harasses anybody. He commented to me about the heat was coming for us," he said.
The moment the two men's paths crossed came years after McLee was wrongfully arrested and spent a year in jail. In late 2018, he filed a lawsuit against four Pennsylvania State Police troopers involved in his March 2016 arrest following a fight outside an American Legion bar. The incident occurred after McLee's sister called him to pick her up from the bar because she'd been drinking and a fight had broken out. When he arrived, he saw a man standing in the parking lot with a gun and quickly disarmed him.
Daylan McLee from Pennsylvania...saving police officer Jay Hanley ...👍 pic.twitter.com/awLTKOrS6V— Martin Golobič (@martin_golobic) June 24, 2020
Although he immediately threw the weapon aside, just as he was leaving, a trooper who claimed that McLee had twice pointed a weapon in his direction fired several shots at him. These claims were refuted by the security footage which showed McLee disarming the man, discarding the gun quickly, and fleeing when shots were fired. However, McLee was still made to spend a year in jail before a jury acquitted him on the charges after reviewing the video. He had another run-in with cops a few months ago during which an officer kicked him in the face through a fence, splitting his lip.
Despite his repeated troubles with law enforcement, McLee isn't one to blame every police officer for bad interactions he had with any others. "We need to work on our humanity... that's the main problem of this world. We're stuck on how to get up or to get even, and that is not how I was raised to be. You learn, you live, you move on and I was always taught to forgive big," he said. "You can't base every day of your life off of one interaction you have with one individual."