Bedford Man’s Heroism Leads to His Arrest

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SOLON, Ohio -- He’s a hero one minute, then in handcuffs moments later.  A man was arrested after saving a woman from a burning car.

Just after 11:00 p.m. Friday, a customer alerted employees at the Sun Mart gas station at Aurora and Harper roads in Solon, that an SUV was stuck on a hill and on fire behind the store.

Clerk James Lamont, 46, of Bedford, grabbed two fire extinguishers and ran to help.

He spoke to Fox 8 by phone from the Cuyahoga County jail.

"And I started extinguishing the car, and when I was taking out the car, I noticed there was someone sitting in the car, and the car was filling up with smoke, and I grabbed the door, and told her, 'You need to get out; your car is on fire,' " Lamont said.

Police say the driver was 34-year-old Diane Duchnowski, of Cleveland.

"She didn't want to get out of the car. She kept saying, 'I need to get my keys,' and I'm like, 'Nah, you need to get out of your car now,' " he said.

"She did not want to come out. She was a little drunk; no, a lot drunk. He literally grabbed her and pulled her out of the car," said Lamont’s girlfriend Marcia Foster, who also witnessed the incident.

Firefighters arrived and put out the fire. Solon police officers say when they got there they realized Duchnowski had been drinking and arrested her. Moments later, James Lamont was in handcuffs, too.

"During the investigation of the incident and doing the report and paperwork, we did a routine computer check on the good samaritan and he wound up having a felony probation warrant through Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department," said Solon Police Sgt. Jamey Hofmann.

According to the Cuyahoga County prosecutor's office, in 2009, James Lamont was convicted of passing 15 bad checks totaling nearly 800 dollars at the Heinen's grocery store in Shaker Heights.

"I knew I had a warrant, and I knew eventually they were gonna catch up to me," Lamont said.

Even from behind bars, James does not regret jumping in to help.

"I didn't even think about a probation violation. I didn't do it to be 'Joe Hero', I mean, I just did just because there was a fire," Lamont said.

"He knew he had a warrant; he knew they probably would've ran his name, but he did the honorable thing by saving this woman's life," said Foster.

Wednesday evening, Lamont was being held in the Cuyahoga County jail.  Police say Diane Duchnowski did not take a breath test. She is out on bond.

When Fox 8 stopped by her apartment, Duchnowski said she had no comment.