Air Force Recruiting Service captain bravely puts others first in roadside de-escalation

  • Published
  • By Maj. Mark Lazane
  • 362nd Recruiting Squadron Director of Operations

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, Calif., -- The motto of the Air Force Recruiting Service is “inspire, engage and recruit.” An Air Force captain took the “engage” portion of the motto to heart recently to bravely deescalate a potentially deadly roadside situation, saving the lives of at least three strangers

Capt. Jamail Walker, a San Antonio, Texas, native and 362nd Recruiting Squadron support flight commander, was traveling on the freeway with a friend, June 12, 2020, when he noticed a physically-injured and emotionally-distraught individual outside his vehicle, walking in one of the traffic lanes.

Walker quickly pulled over, called for emergency services and, using techniques learned in his role as a master resiliency trainer, successfully persuaded the individual to exit the roadway.

The man explained that he and two other individuals had been involved in a physical altercation amongst themselves in their vehicle which continued when the driver of the car pulled onto the side of the road.

During the altercation, keys to the vehicle had been removed from the car and were lost, and personal belongings had been thrown into traffic and destroyed.

“I could see this individual was emotional, and I felt he was going through a lot of stuff, so I decided to stop,” Walker said. “He was in extreme distress. He may have been going through a lot of things in his life and I wanted to help how I could. I wanted to let him know he had someone there to help, a third party, so even if he thought no one else cared about him, he knew I was there, and that I cared.”

From the safety of his vehicle, Walker used verbal de-escalation tactics he learned in MRT training to try and calm the situation.

“The guy in distress seemed to be mutual friends with both aggressive parties, so he was sad over the whole situation,” Walker said. “I feel like, for a minute or two, we had a little mentorship connection. He became a little bit calmer.”

As Walker spoke to the distressed individual on the side of the road, other occupants of the vehicle emerged, and a fistfight again broke out between the three individuals, with the men pushing each other into oncoming traffic, endangering their own lives and the lives of other drivers.

During this new altercation, the original agitated individual removed his shirt, put his hands up and deliberately walked into oncoming traffic. Observing lives were in imminent danger, Walker exited his vehicle and dragged the distressed individual out of the active roadway while the other two males continued fighting on the side of the road.

Once the distressed male was safe on the side of the road, Walker physically separated the two remaining fighters and again used verbal de-escalation tactics to calm all three individuals until the arrival of highway patrol personnel, who took control of the situation.

“I was pretty grateful to have the training, because no one else stopped to help these men,” Walker said. “The responding California Highway Patrol officer said had I not been there, there probably would’ve been at least three lives lost that day. But now these guys have a chance to change their situation, and their families aren’t grieving a loss today, so I am grateful I was able to help.”

The policeman told Walker the call originally came in as a public disturbance but ended up being labeled as assault and battery.

Walker’s heroics are not surprising to his squadron teammates.

“If you could design an officer in a lab, it’d look a lot like Capt. Walker,” said Lt. Col. Matthew Tipton, 362nd RCS commander. “The details of this event are shocking, yet the brave actions taken by Capt. Walker surprises no one who knows him. He is the epitome of what squadron members aim to be: selfless, brave, calm in the face of calamity and relentlessly professional. His efforts saved the lives of three men who were having a really bad day, and who knows how many other lives were positively affected by having these men safe today rather than something far more tragic.”