Hero bailiff saves life of circuit court judge

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ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. (KTVI) – As a bailiff with St. Louis County Courts, Harvey Burnett knows what it takes to maintain peace and order in the courtroom.

But he and his colleagues never expected what he would encounter on a recent morning.

Judge David Lee Vincent III had just concluded a hearing when he began to slump over in his chair.

Burnett and other bailiffs were quickly summoned to the courtroom to assist with a defibrillator.

“We checked. There was no breath. I grasped the judge. I applied the shock. Judge Vincent was unresponsive, so then we went into applying CPR,” Burnett said.

A crew with the Clayton Fire Department arrived on the scene and took over, transporting Vincent to the hospital.

Burnett is being hailed a hero for his actions. But he refuses to take credit.

“It’s something you accept because it’s what you’re supposed to do. And just be thankful it turned out the way it did,” Burnett said.

That attitude doesn’t surprise Burnett’s bosses.

“Harvey did his job, but he did it extremely well. And that’s the point that needs to be made here,” Deputy Sheriff Supervisor John Connolly said.

Connolly added that bailiffs are required to be AED and CPR certified every two years. But all of the training, he said, is only as good as the execution.

“There’s no preparing for it,” Connolly said. “It happens right now. You have to be on point. You have to do exactly what you’re supposed to do. Add in the emotions, and adrenaline, and excitement. Not good excitement, but negative excitement that comes in a situation like this. And keep your head straight during all of this. And that’s what Harvey did.”

Burnett, Connolly, and the other bailiffs who assisted Vincent have all been hailed as heroes.

Judge Vincent, who is recovering at home, emailed a note of gratitude.

“While trying to work on legal matters in the courtroom during this unusual and stressful pandemic season, apparently my health was unexpectedly negatively impacted. Dedication to public service can sometimes have unforeseen health risks. Thank goodness the St. Louis County Court bailiffs who were involved were prepared for these unknown risks by using a defibrillator to save my life. Great Job and a ‘thank you’ to these men.”

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