When a man heard a loud crash outside, he quickly stepped in to save a police officer’s life, despite his history with law enforcement.
Daylan McLee was at a Father’s Day cookout on Sunday when he heard a loud boom and realized it was an accident involving a police vehicle, reports KDKA. McLee jumped in and pulled officer Jay Hanley from his disfigured car, just before flames engulfed the cruiser in Fayette County, Pennsylvania.
“I don’t know what came across me, but I ripped the door open and just pulled him to safety across the street,” McLee told USA Today.
Another officer put out the fire as Hanley was taken to safety. Hanley was flown to a hospital in West Virginia and underwent surgery for a serious leg injury. He is currently recovering. The driver of the second car said he was fine but was taken to the hospital.
"He was asking not to be moved. Not to be moved. His leg," McLee told WTAE. "Then we started to see the flames start to come inside of the car from the bottom and I knew we had to get him out. Another officer tried to assist me and I just ripped the door open and we started dragging him across the street before the car ignited or anything serious like that."
Police officials credited McLee for saving Hanley’s life. Uniontown Police Lt. Thomas Kolencik said the department is thankful McLee was nearby during the incident.
“Daylan actually said, ‘I’m not going to let him die,’” Kolencik said. “There’s just no words to describe, you know.”
The police chief, other officers and many of Hanley’s relatives have phoned McLee to show their appreciation.
While McLee said there was no hesitation when it came to helping the officer, many wondered if he was reluctant to assist because of his past with law enforcement.
“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.’”
Back in 2018, McLee filed a wrongful arrest lawsuit against four Pennsylvania State Police troopers following a year in jail for charges related to a 2016 bar fight, according to USA Today. After getting a call from his sister, saying she needed a ride home because a fight had broken out, McLee drove to the American Legion bar. Upon arrival, he disarmed a man who was standing in the parking lot and threw the man’s gun aside.
One trooper began firing shots at McLee, and he fled. While the trooper said that McLee pointed a weapon at him twice, security footage aligns with McLee’s account of the incident. He was acquitted of the charges by a jury after they viewed the video.
A few months ago, McLee had another encounter with officers when he was at a gathering and plain-clothed officers approached with their guns drawn. McLee ran, but once they announced they were police, he stopped running and placed his hands behind his head. He was charged with fleeing and resisting arrest, and McLee said that during the arrest, officers kicked him in the face through a fence and split his lip. The assault was caught on camera, according to McLee, and he plans to fight the charges.
“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.”
McLee’s attorney, Alec Wright, said he wasn’t surprised the man jumped to help the officer despite his history with law enforcement.
“Over the course of his life, Daylan McLee has had multiple, unjustified encounters with police officers just because of the color of his skin,” Wright said. “Those encounters make him the perfect candidate to hate and resent the police. But, that is not Daylan. ... The answer is not to disregard human life; the answer is to accept it for all that it is. That is Daylan.”
McLee said he’s trying to teach his son not to judge anyone based on how they look, or by their profession.
“Some people may think I look intimidating ... and I can’t hate the trooper who shot at me for what he doesn’t know,” McLee said. “I don’t want to be called a hero. I just want to be known as an individual who is an upstanding man. No matter ... what or where, just an upstanding person. And I hope [that officer] sees this and knows he’s forgiven.”
McLee’s father said the act of heroism is just a testament to who his son is.
“Showed his true character, he showed he’s a true man,” said McLee’s father, Derrick Snyder. “He loves people, he has heart, he believes in humanity. He believes in change.”