Calera officers rescue suspect from lake near Rolling Hills Campground

Published 5:38 pm Monday, February 15, 2021

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By SCOTT MIMS / Staff Writer 

CALERA — Calera Police officers risked their lives to save a fleeing suspect as well as fellow officers who pursued the man into a near-freezing lake near Rolling Hills Campground on Sunday night, Feb. 14.

The incident started when Sgt. Jay Cardwell witnessed two people behaving suspiciously near the Chick-fil-A entrance about 11:30 p.m. The restaurant was closed at the time. As Cardwell approached, one man fled on foot while the other remained at the scene and cooperated with police.

Officer Nick James, responding to the incident, pursued the suspect on foot as he headed behind the restaurant toward the campground area. The man then jumped into the lake and swam until he was near the center of the lake.

“It was about 35 degrees that night, very cold,” said Calera Police Chief David Hyche. “Two additional officers (Cody Browning and Shayne Benton) went after him. When they reached him, he was about 30 to 40 yards from the shore. On the way back all three men started to go under.”

Then James and two more officers, Grant Hogan and John McMinn, jumped into the water and were able to get the three men back to shore, Hyche reported.

“All five were suffering from pre-hypothermia,” he said.

The officers and suspect were all placed in warm cars and were assisted by Calera Fire and Rescue personnel. Fortunately, everyone involved was rescued and tragedy was avoided.

The fleeing suspect was identified as Austin McCarthy, 24, and was charged with attempting to elude, public intoxication and resisting arrest. He was also found to have outstanding felony warrants in other jurisdictions.

The other suspect was not charged, and no damage was found at Chick-fil-A.

“I think it’s significant that officers risked their lives to save a felon,” Hyche said, commending the officers for their heroic efforts to save McCarthy as well as the other officers who were struggling.