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Black man with contentious cop history risks life to save officer from burning car
Image source: WTAE-TV video screenshot

Black man with contentious cop history risks life to save officer from burning car: 'This man is my brother through Christ'

True faith

A man with a history of negative run-ins with local and state police saved the life a police officer after a fiery crash that surely would have taken the officer's life.

What are the details?

Daylan McLee, who is black, was sitting in his home Sunday evening when his house shook from a nearby impact.

He heard the boom just before his house rattled and believed that a small earthquake shook the city of Uniontown, Pennsylvania, — until a relative came into his house to tell him that there was a car crash outside his home.

McLee, 31, sprinted outside, only to discover Uniontown Police Officer Jay Hanley trapped in a burning police cruiser. The flames had just begun to spread into the passenger compartment when McLee intervened and dragged Hanley from the burning wreck.

"We felt it in the house and my sister came screaming that two cars hit each other and one was a cop," he recalled.

McLee said that Hanley asked not to be moved because of an apparent leg injury. He clearly didn't see or feel the flames from the wreck spreading up to the cruiser's cabin.

"Then we started to see flames start to come inside of the car from the bottom, and I knew we had to get him out," McLee explained. "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."

McLee also said that there was no way he could stand by and watch the officer burn to death.

"I know this man is my brother through Christ, and I couldn't leave him behind," McLee said. "There were people outside screaming. We felt it in the house. It was like a jolt."

State police are investigating the crash.

"The investigation is going to show whether the traffic signal was working properly, whether the lights and the sirens on the vehicle were working at the time of the crash," Trooper Robert Broadwater explained. "It's still undetermined."

First responders flew Hanley to a nearby hospital for leg surgery. The driver of the other vehicle was able to walk away from the accident.

You can watch a video report on the incident here.

What else?

Uniontown Police Lieutenant Thomas Kolencik told WTAE-TV that there is no doubt in his mind that McLee saved Hanley's life.

"Daylan actually said, 'I'm not going to let him die.' There's just no words to describe, you know," he recalled. "We are so thankful Daylan was in the area at the time. It could have been a lot worse."

Uniontown Mayor Bill Gerke said that McLee truly cares about people and is easily the strongest man in the city.

"The day I met him is still the way he is today," Gerke said. "He cares about people, he cares about Uniontown, and that's what Uniontown is all about."

He added, "He said he's a God-fearing man, and he cares about all human beings, and no one was going to die on his watch. I'm sure he didn't wake up yesterday morning and that was on his mind that he was going to pull someone out of a burning car in the middle of Fayette Street, but thank goodness Daylan was there."

What is McLee saying now?

McLee — who has had run-ins with the police in the past — said that he didn't think twice about saving the life of a police officer despite growing tensions in the U.S. between police officers and citizens.

"There is value in every human life," he said. "We are all children of God, and I can't imagine just watching anyone burn. 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.'"

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, McLee filed a lawsuit against four Pennsylvania State Troopers in 2018 for wrongful arrest after he spent a year in jail for an arrest stemming from a March 2016 fight outside an American Legion bar.

"McLee had rushed to the bar ... after his sister called saying she needed a ride home because she had been drinking and a fight had broken out," the outlet reported. "When McLee arrived, he disarmed a man who was standing in the parking lot with a gun and threw the weapon aside."

An on-the-scene trooper reportedly fired shots at McLee as he fled from the scene, insisting that McLee pointed a weapon at him on two occasions. Surveillance footage of the incident, however, reportedly showed that McLee simply disarmed the man and discarded the gun almost immediately.

A jury acquitted McLee after reviewing the surveillance footage.

Earlier in 2020, McLee encountered police officers once again after plainclothes police reportedly showed up at a gathering with guns drawn. McLee insisted that the officers did not announce that they were law enforcement officials, and so he ran. When police reportedly identified themselves, McLee said he immediately stopped and placed his hands behind his head.

McLee said that authorities charged him with fleeing and resisting arrest and claimed that an officer kicked him in the face, splitting his lip. He has said that he plans to fight the charges.

Despite his interactions with police, McLee said forgiveness is paramount in his life.

“We need to work on our humanity ... that's the main problem of this world," he said. "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."

McLee, who is raising a 13-year-old son, said that he tries to be an example.

"Some people may think I look intimidating," he said, "and I can't hate the trooper who shot at me for what he doesn't know. I don't want to be called a hero. I just want to be known as an individual who is an upstanding man."

Anything else?

McLee's attorney, Alec Wright, says that his client is the real deal.

“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."

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