21-year-old tow truck driver rescues CHP officer being stabbed

This story originally appeared on KCRA.

A 21-year-old tow truck driver is being called a hero after he ran to the rescue of a California Highway Patrol officer who was under attack.

“I saw the cop car pulled over with the lights on,” said Christian Melendrez, a tow truck driver who just happened to be in the right place at the right time Friday night along Interstate 5, near the Colusa County town of Williams.

The CHP says Officer Philip Martinson was stabbed in the back with a knife by a suspected DUI driver who was pulled over after speeding at more than 100 mph with hazard lights flashing.

Melendrez said it was instinct that made him respond to an officer in trouble. He said he jumped into action to follow the wounded officer’s instructions.

“The next thing was, ‘Can you grab some handcuffs? Help me,'” Melendrez said. “So I did. I took the handcuffs off his belt from the back, turned her over, got one arm in, put one on, got the other one.”

The struggle wasn’t over yet, though.

“And then I turned her over and realized the blade was still underneath her. So I grabbed the blade and threw it on the asphalt,” Melendrez said.

The woman arrested was 25-year-old Haile Neil, of Martinez. She is now in the Colusa County jail, where KCRA 3 interviewed her on Tuesday.

Neil said she was en route to Oregon to visit her sister when she was pulled over. She said she was confused about what happened, but she denied attacking the officer.

Meanwhile, the CHP is grateful that Melendrez intervened.

“The good Samaritan, he put his life on the line,” said CHP Officer Franco Castillo. “We appreciate what he did for Officer Martinson.”

“It was definitely a brave act and very heroic on his part,” Castillo added.

Melendrez’s boss, Brad Selover, said he is proud of his employee’s heroic actions. He said he instructs his drivers to be on the lookout for officers in trouble.

“They are out there daily helping us to slow down traffic, so I teach them to return the favor — you know, keep an eye on the officers and make sure they are standing upright when they go by,” Selover said. “I train them to keep their eyes open for scenarios like this.”

He said the hope is that “they never come across one — that an officer is never in that position. But it happened and he acted and he did the right thing.”

For his part, Melendrez said he’s glad he just happened to be in a position to help save the officer.

“I’m glad he’s good,” Melendrez said of Martinson. “I hope to see him soon and talk to him.”

Martinson is a four-year veteran of the force. The CHP said he is sore from his stab wounds but home now, resting, and expected to make a full recovery.

Neil is facing charges of attempted murder of a peace officer, assault with a deadly weapon and driving under the influence of a controlled substance.

This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/i5-chp-haile-neil-christian-melendrez-13630973.php.

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