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Connecticut – Corrections Officer Saves Colleague’s Life

Peter Kuhlman, Michael Whitehead, Ray Soucy
Corrections Officer Peter KuhlmaNn (left) chats with fellow officer Michael Whitehead (right), who was awarded a Medal of Valor for saving Kuhlmann’s life. Local 387 Treas. Ray Soucy looks on.

The assault inside the Somers, Conn., Northern Correctional Institution happened more than two years ago but Corrections Officer Michael Whitehead still remembers vividly the incident that almost cost his fellow officer’s life. During a routine shakedown at the state’s maximum security prison, an inmate violently attacked Peter Kuhlmann, slashing his neck with a handmade weapon. Whitehead, a member of Local 391 (Council 4), quickly jumped in, held down the inmate and prevented what could have been a fatal injury to Kuhlmann.

“Until that night, I had never encountered a life-threatening situation like this,” recalls Whitehead, who had been on the job for only two months. “But I expected a certain level of stress and danger when I chose law enforcement as a career. We always have to be on guard.”

To Whitehead, 29, mental preparation and the skillful use of force are very important.

“When stuff happens, it happens in the blink of an eye. All that training kicks in as you’re reacting and figuring out what to do.”

Before the near-fatal attack, Whitehead and Kuhlmann had never met or spoken to each other. “He was brand new to an incredibly dangerous job,” Kuhlmann points out. “But he stuck it out there for the fight like a warrior. I thank Michael for saving my life.”

For his courage and heroic action, Whitehead was honored with the Connecticut Department of Corrections’ Medal of Valor. He was also given a standing ovation by his comrades at last year’s AFSCME Public Safety Congress.

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