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Chief: Officer took initiative to mow Dover widow's lawn

Liz Evans Scolforo
505-5429/@LizScolforoYD
  • Officer Andrew Shaffer was called to a home where an elderly man died of a heart attack while mowing.
  • After finishing his 12-hour shift, Shaffer returned and finished mowing the lawn for the man's widow.
  • Shaffer has been awarded a chief's commendation for his actions.

At 25 years old, Officer Andrew Shaffer has about a month before he completes his probationary period with Northern York County Regional Police.

But in the 14 months he's been on the job as a patrol officer, Shaffer has already caught the attention of citizens and county officials at least three times.

The most recent encounter led to him receiving a chief's commendation for his under-the-radar decision to return to a Dover Township home where a man had died just hours before, according to Chief Mark Bentzel.

Northern Regional Officer Andrew Shaffer
(Photo courtesy nycrpd.org)

Shaffer and medical crews were dispatched to the home about 3:45 p.m. July 3 for an elderly man in cardiac arrest, the chief said. His survivors include his widow, officials said, and it was Shaffer who had to break the bad news to the man's family.

The man was found lying in his yard behind his house, and it was determined he suffered a fatal heart attack while mowing his grass, according to Shaffer's commendation.

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After working his 12-hour shift — from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. — Shaffer returned to the home, offered his condolences for a second time, then finished mowing the widow's lawn. He put away the widow's power equipment when he was done, according to the commendation.

"No one told him to go and do it, and he didn't tell anyone he did it," Bentzel said. "He just went and did it ... and he expected nothing in return."

'Meant a lot': Bentzel said he received a call from the York County Coroner's Office a short time later, alerting him to Shaffer's good deed.

"It may have seemed like a little thing to him at the time, but it meant a lot to that family," the chief said. "I decided that something like this needed to be recognized."

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Coroner Pam Gay said it was Deputy Coroner Onalee Gilbert who called Bentzel, after she and Gay discussed it.

"We thought that it was awesome," Gay said. "We said, 'This guy deserves a medal.'"

The family of the deceased man subsequently sent a letter to the police department, asking for Shaffer to be recognized.

'The right reasons': The young officer had a quick response when told of the family's request, according to Bentzel: "He said, 'That's not why I did it.'"

"As I told Officer Shaffer and others, the greatest gift anyone can give to another person is something they give expecting nothing in return," the chief said.

Shaffer graduated from West York Area High School in 2009, then graduated from York College in 2013 and was hired by Northern York County Regional Police on June 25, 2015, according to Bentzel.

"I'm proud of this guy," the chief said. "We work hard trying to find good people to hire, and I think what this shows is we still have good quality applicants out there who really want to be in this job for the right reasons."

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Other praise: Bentzel said he's also received two other letters from citizens about Shaffer.

One was from a victim of theft who wrote that Shaffer "is the epitome of what I think an officer should be" for exhibiting real empathy as well as professionalism, the chief said.

The other letter came from someone impressed with the care and concern Shaffer showed to a pit bull that was running loose in a neighborhood.

"Normally we get somewhere between 80 and 100 (letters of praise) each year," Bentzel said. "Police officers do a lot of good things for people out there."

Shaffer's commendation notes that Northern Regional's departmental seal contains the tenets of honor, fidelity and service.

"Your actions epitomize these beliefs and speak highly of you both as a human being and as a Northern York County Regional Police Officer," the commendation states.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.