York attorney who police said saved lives is in good company
Attorney Seamus Dubbs hadn't been with the Blake Law Firm firm for very long when founding partner Kurt Blake helped save a woman trying to jump to her death from the sixth floor of the York County Judicial Center.
The story made headlines when it happened Feb. 17, 2011.
Blake, retired York City homicide detective Dennis Williams — who at the time was a sheriff's deputy — and county resident Ross Kling all sprang into action when they saw a woman trying to commit suicide in the judicial center's atrium.
A 54-year-old woman climbed over the sixth floor's glass railing and stood on a thin ledge, prompting the three men to grab her and pull her back over the railing to safety. They were later honored with life-saving awards from York County.
At the time, Blake's actions were made even more interesting because his then-law partner, Ron Gross, had himself been honored for rescuing a court reporter under attack by a gun-wielding man a few blocks form the old county courthouse.
Gross was injured and the attacker was shot and killed by sheriff's deputies. Gross was given a prestigious Carnegie Hero Fund Commission award in 2004 for his actions.
'Competitive' lawyers: The York Dispatch interviewed Blake the day he helped save the would-be jumper, and he joked that he and Gross were competitive by nature.
"I'm just trying to keep up with Ron," he quipped.
On Tuesday, Dubbs and Blake recalled people making comments in 2011 that since the firm's two partners had both saved lives, Dubbs had much to live up to.
"We joked about it," Blake said. "I joked that Seamus should get his CPR (certification) updated."
"People asked me, 'Who are you going to save?'" Dubbs recalled.
But it's no joke now.
At a press conference last week announcing the arrest of Howard Timothy Cofflin Jr. for allegedly planning to kill his ex-girlfriend and as many state police troopers as he could, state police officials praised Dubbs for alerting them to Cofflin's purported murderous plan.
Dubbs praised: Dubbs was privy to Cofflin's scheme and in October alerted state police after first consulting with the Pennsylvania Bar Association's ethics hotline and being told it was proper to breach attorney-client privilege "due to a legitimate officer and public safety concern," court documents state.
"He potentially saved lives," said Trooper Rob Hicks, a state police spokesman. "We don't know for sure whether (Cofflin) was going to go through with his plan or not. However, all the evidence (indicated) it seemed highly likely. Luckily, due to the courage of this lawyer coming forward with information, we'll never have to find out."
Hicks said Cofflin was "capable, willing and able" to carry out his revenge on law enforcement and on the woman who was his girlfriend for 20 years.
Dubbs said he no longer represents Cofflin, but noted it would still be improper for him to discuss matters related to Cofflin's cases because attorney-client privilege is still in effect.
"I can't really get into it," he said.
'Regular guy': Blake said he's proud of Dubbs and described him as a highly intelligent person who graduated early from high school, college and law school. Despite that, Dubbs is down-to-earth, he said.
"He's the type of guy you can eat a burger and drink a beer with in a bar," Blake said. "He's just a regular guy."
Gross — who is now at the Jay C. Whittle Law Firm in York — said Dubbs' actions impressed him.
"I'm really proud of him," Gross said. "I wasn't surprised one bit that he would do his homework about his ethical obligations and then report (the threats). His ethics are beyond reproach."
Asked about the improbable odds of three attorneys from one firm taking life-saving action in three separate incidents, Gross said all three of them were taught to put others first.
"I think it comes down to how you were raised," he said.
Cape in storage: Gross said he'd do it again, despite likely being "a little slower at 44 than I was at 31."
"Nothing has presented itself for me to dust off my cape," he said.
Blake said that, all joking aside, it's not always easy to be the center of media attention. It's a lesson he learned in 2011 and one Dubbs is now learning.
"It's uncomfortable to be in the limelight," he said.
— Reach Liz Evans at firstname.lastname@example.org.