Valour in the line of fire

Senior Constables Peter Bridger and Paul Coates have each been awarded the Medal of Valour for their roles in the arrest of two people involved in a car chase and subsequent shooting.
Senior Constables Peter Bridger and Paul Coates have each been awarded the Medal of Valour for their roles in the arrest of two people involved in a car chase and subsequent shooting. Claudia Baxter
Senior Constables Peter Bridger and Paul Coates have each been awarded the Medal of Valour for their roles in the arrest of two people involved in a car chase and subsequent shooting. Photo: Claudia Baxter / The Queensland Times
Senior Constables Peter Bridger and Paul Coates have each been awarded the Medal of Valour for their roles in the arrest of two people involved in a car chase and subsequent shooting. Photo: Claudia Baxter / The Queensland Times Claudia Baxter

WHEN Senior constables Peter Bridger and Paul Coates were called upon to chase a pair of armed robbers on the run, they knew they were about to put themselves in harm's way.

Both of the Ipswich Tactical Crime Squad officers packed their bullet-proof vests behind the seats, as they headed towards Aratula on the evening of July 27, 2012.

Meanwhile, Burpengary man Kyle Leslie Olsen and Ipswich woman Melissa Anne McKenzie were reaching the climax of a crime binge that included seven armed robberies and an earlier high-speed chase through Brisbane.

Their vehicle had just been spotted at Aratula, where it rammed a car containing Ipswich Senior Sergeant Brett Wendt and Kalbar Senior Constable Lyndsay Judson.

The actions of Snr Const Bridger, Senior Constable Coates and Senior Sergeant Wendt from this point on would not only result in two dangerous crooks finally being brought to justice, but also in the presentation of Valour Awards.

Snr Const Coates said he and Snr Const Bridger had received enough information by the time they'd reached Peak Crossing, to convince them to put on their vests.

After ramming the police car at Aratula, Olsen and McKenzie fled into the hills, racing through Mt Alford and up onto Head Rd - headed towards the small town of Killarney.

Police communications organised for a stinger to be set just outside Killarney, which was successful.

Riding on its rims, the fugitives' Falcon kept going until it ran into a metal gate on an isolated property, about 9km outside Killarney township.

Snr Const Bridger and Snr Const Coates approached the front of the vehicle - service weapons drawn - with Snr Sgt Wendt just in behind them.

"We didn't realise at the time, but the offender was still trying to reverse backwards - he was driving in a sort of arc," Snr Const Coates said.

"When you listen to the tapes later on it is all quite horrific - I was screaming that loud that I damaged my larynx and couldn't talk properly for two weeks."

Olsen then pulled a sawn-off rifle out from under his seat and pointed it directly at Snr Const Bridger, who was standing only a few metres away.

"The woman was yelling at him, 'Shoot the *unt, shoot the *unt!'," Snr Const Bridger said.

Olsen pulled the trigger, but missed and dropped the gun on the ground.

"I heard the bang and saw the muzzle flash," Sen Const Coates said.

"I thought I was going to find Pete with a hole in him."

Luck was on the law's side - the two Ipswich officers fired, hitting Olsen in the right arm near the elbow, as well as both legs, shattering the femur in one of the limbs.

They placed McKenzie under arrest and performed first aid on Olsen until an ambulance arrived.

It wasn't until later that Snr Const Bridger realised he'd dislocated his left wrist while trying to dive out of the line of fire.

He underwent three surgeries to repair the damage.

Snr Sgt Wendt and Snr Const Coates were not injured.

"Everything seemed surreal," Snr Const Bridger said of the moments after the gunfire.

"Police came in from everywhere, and Paul and I just sat there slumped against our car for a while.

"Because of the internal investigation, Paul and I couldn't sit down and talk about it for five days or so afterwards, and that period of time was difficult.

"It was a traumatic incident, and after that sort of thing happens, you are seeking that confirmation from the other person that what you did was right."

It wasn't until recently that the officers involved received official recognition.

Snr Sgt Wendt, Snr Const Bridger and Snr Const Coates were surprised at an annual awards ceremony at the Ipswich PCYC, when they were each presented the Queensland Police Valour Award.

The award is rarely given out and recognises officers who perform acts of exceptional bravery in hazardous circumstances.

"We weren't expecting it - we went there thinking we were just getting a certificate," Snr Const Coates said.

Although he was not presented with a valour award, Snr Const Lyndsay Judson received special mention.


JOBB WELL DONE: Paul Coates, Brett Wendt and Peter Bridger.
JOBB WELL DONE: Paul Coates, Brett Wendt and Peter Bridger. Contributed


The Medal of Valour.
The Medal of Valour. Claudia Baxter

Service rewarded

IPSWICH District Superintendent Mark Kelly received the National Emergency Medal at the same ceremony.

The medal is awarded to recognise service during a nationally-significant emergency. Two clasps have thus far been approved to be awarded with this medal - one for service relating to bushfires in the State of Victoria in February 2009 and the other for the Queensland floods in December 2010 and January 2011 and/or relating to Cyclone Yasi.

The National Medal recognises 15 years of diligent service by members of the defence force, Australian police forces and members of the ambulance and fire services.

Clasps to the National Medal are awarded for a further period of 10 years service.

Detective Sergeant Allan Fynes-Clinton and Sgt Peter Dale received their clasps for 35 years service while Sgt Graeme Orr received his clasp for 25 years service.

Senior Sgt Brett Munn also received a clasp for 35 years service.

IN MARCH, Kyle Leslie Olsen and Melissa Anne McKenzie pleaded guilty to more than 60 charges, stemming from their month-long crime spree in 2012.

The Brisbane District Court heard the pair's drug-fuelled crimes included seven violent armed robberies, arson, stealing and dangerous driving charges.

They used a handgun, sawn-off shotgun, air rifle, flares and a fishing hook to terrorise their victims.

Judge Brad Farr said he would have sentenced Olsen to more than 10 years in jail it not been for the serious and ongoing medical issues arising from the police shooting.

McKenzie was sentenced to eight years jail for her role.

Both were deemed serious violent offenders which means they will have to serve at least 80% of their respective sentences.

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