A Pennsylvania man who once sued the police pulled an officer out of a burning cruiser after a car accident.
Daylan McLee thought there had been an earthquake on Father’s Day when he heard an explosion so loud his father’s house shook. After a relative informed him it was a car wreck, he ran out of the Uniontown home and saw the mangled remains of a police cruiser and a civilian vehicle.
McLee noticed the cruiser was on fire and Uniontown Police Officer Jay Hanley was trapped inside. Without hesitation, he sprang into action and helped another officer render aid to Hanley.
“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 The Associated Press on Monday.
McLee admitted he was scared to death during the incident.
“I don’t know where I mustered the strength,” he confessed to ABC News. “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.”
Hanley’s leg was hurt in the crash but the injuries are not life-threatening. The other driver, a teenager, was hospitalized but is expected to recover, WTAE reported. Hanley’s wife told the station her husband is OK and expressed gratitude toward McLee.
Uniontown Police Lt. Thomas Kolencik is also thankful for McLee’s intervention.
“Daylan actually said, ‘I’m not going to let him die,'” Kolencik said. “There’s just no words to describe, you know.”
Like many other Black men, McLee has had negative experiences with law enforcement. In 2018, he filed a wrongful arrest lawsuit against four Pennsylvania State Police troopers after he spent a year in jail awaiting trial in connection with a bar fight. The 2016 incident happened after McLee arrived at the scene to pick up his sister, who had phoned him to request a ride home because she was drinking and other patrons were fighting. When he got there he took a gun away from a man who was carrying it in the parking lot. McLee tried to leave after he threw the gun to the side but a state trooper starting firing at him. The officer later claimed McLee pointed a weapon at him. McLee spent a year in jail before his trial and was ultimately acquitted after video footage proved his innocence.
McLee is also fighting another case in which he is accused of resisting arrest after he ran from a group of plainclothes officers with their guns drawn a few months ago. He claims the officers did not announce themselves initially, and when they finally did he stopped running and put his hands up. McLee claimed an officer kicked him in the face and split his lip even though he was cooperative.
Despite these run-ins, McLee’s respect for humanity prevailed.
“We need to work on our humanity,” he told The Associated Press. “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. You can’t base every day of your life off of one interaction you have with one individual.”
Alec Wright, McLee’s attorney, agrees with his client.
“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.”