Man awarded by Dover police after taking part in apprehension

Dover Police Department’s Master Cpl. Ian Thompson, left, gives Dover resident Michael Babiak a Distinguished Citizen Award on Friday. Mr. Babiak was honored for his part in apprehending an armed suspect Dec. 28. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Michael Babiak, a sturdy 6-foot-3-inch, 220-pound former high school wrestler with active-shooter training experience, was well-cast for an impromptu hero’s role last month.

The 42-year-old U.S. Army veteran’s background proved invaluable when assisting mightily in the apprehension of a gun-wielding suspect fleeing from police Dec. 28.

Mr. Babiak was at home, playing soccer with his family, when “my wife (Liz) pointed out (and said), ‘Hey, look at that guy running,’ and I didn’t think there was anything special about someone running until I turned around and saw the individual running with (all) the officers in hot pursuit.”

While approaching Dover police Master Cpl. Ian Thompson shouted, “Get inside!” to the family, Mr. Babiak thought he heard the officer say, “Get him!”

And that’s just what the Overlook neighborhood resident did — using a bear hug to subdue the suspect, taking control of his wrist as police neared.

The impact jarred a firearm from the suspect’s hand. When Mr. Babiak realized a gun was involved, he held on even tighter “because I didn’t know what else he had.”

According to police, a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol hit the ground. Also located was prepackaged heroin, “in an amount that met the definition of felony intent to distribute,” according to Dover Police Chief Thomas Johnson Jr.

The fleeing man had been running toward Mr. Babiak, whose thought was “I’m in a position to give them a hand, and I can, and I can go ahead and stop him and, hopefully, save it from having it go too far because he was fast.”

Fortunately, a potentially injurious and/or deadly crisis was averted, as officers arrived within about two seconds, according to Mr. Babiak’s estimation.

The suspect was positioned between Mr. Babiak and an officer when the contact occurred.

“It was absolutely a deadly force situation and even more so because of (the suspect’s) position when the gun was present,” said Cpl. Thompson, noting that a shot toward the suspect could have struck both men.

For his brave acts, Mr. Babiak was honored with a Distinguished Citizen Award during a ceremony at the Dover Police Department on Friday. Cpl. Thompson submitted the nomination because he was “extremely grateful for Michael Babiak’s bravery and disregard for his own safety, which may have saved my life.”

The way Chief Johnson described it, “If the suspect chose to engage in a gunfight, he would have certainly had the advantage of firing first (toward) an officer with a holstered weapon and no appreciable cover in that environment.

“There’s a very high likelihood that his gunfire would have been met by justified return fire” that could have caused serious bodily injury “to officers, innocent citizens and, of course, the suspect if Mr. Babiak had not reacted in such exemplary fashion.”

The suspect involved — Devon Young of Dover — remained in custody as of Friday, Chief Johnson said.

According to Cpl. Thompson, “I have always had very good interactions with the city of Dover and its citizens. I have a lot of faith in the majority of our citizens.

“To this extent of helping out and getting involved like this, it’s the first time it’s ever happened.”

Mr. Babiak’s daughter, Katie, 8, was in the vicinity during the incident and said, “I thought it was pretty cool, and I’m very proud of him.”

She added, “He did really good tackling that guy. Honestly, I was pretty scared.”

Michael Babiak shows his daughter, Katie, his award Friday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Police said at the time of the arrest that Mr. Young, 20, had allegedly been involved in a domestic incident before fleeing from the Red Roof Inn at 652 N. DuPont Highway at around noon. Officers were told by a female that he had allegedly struck her in the head several times during an altercation.

According to authorities, Mr. Young was seen walking in the area of North State Street, south of Lepore Drive. Upon an attempted contact by police, authorities said Mr. Young ran east toward Overlook Place before the apprehension occurred.

Upon arrest, police said, the suspect was allegedly found with 70 bags of heroin.

Police said Mr. Young was charged with offensive touching from the domestic incident, resisting arrest, possession with intent to deliver heroin, possession of a firearm by a person prohibited, possession of a firearm with obliterated serial number and carrying a concealed deadly weapon. He was committed to Sussex Correctional Institution in Georgetown on a $34,000 secured bond, police said.

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