How the May 6 Rescue Changed Officers’ Lives

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

CLEVELAND -- Officers Michael Tracy, Barbara Johnson, and Anthony Espada had no idea what they were getting into when they got the call to respond to Seymour Avenue on May 6 of last year.

"There's a girl on the phone stating she's Amanda Berry," was the call that came over the radio.

The name Amanda Berry stirs up emotion in any Clevelander who followed her, Gina, and Michelle's disappearance. Officers Tracy and Espada had that same emotion when they pulled up to Seymour Avenue to a woman holding a young child. Their jaws dropped when it turned out to be Amanda Berry and Amanda's young daughter.

"She tells us Gina and another girl are still in the house," recalls Officer Michael Tracy. "It's mind blowing to think that one high-profile girl is in front of us, and there's potentially two more still in the house. I'll never forget that feeling."

Cleveland police leaders say you couldn't have picked a better group of three officers to be there that night on Seymour Avenue. They are not only excellent officers, but compassionate people. It was a life changing event for them.

"I couldn't sleep that night," said Tracy.

"I continue to replay the whole thing," confessed Espada.

As good as it felt that night, and in the days after, it did change them, and not always so positively.

Officer Johnson emphasized, "Certain images you'll never get out of your head."

And the realization that Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight could be held captive for so long in a place right there in the neighborhood they patrol every day, does make them look at things differently.

They said the boarded houses makes them wonder and they look more closely at homes where shades are pulled down, wondering what's going on behind closed doors.

Sure, it may be a dark perspective to have, but having to see what those officers did, it's understandable. However, from that comes something else.  Hope.

"Could be real, gives you hope that not every call is going to be a false call," said Officer Tracy.

Hope that it could happen again. Hope that the public is looking out for people who are missing, and hope that neighbors are talking and forming stronger communities to prevent a tragedy like what happened on Seymour Avenue.

Officer Johnson believes that "we finally did something that you can see, that we did good at our job that people can appreciate."

The officers have been able to talk to Michelle, Amanda, and Gina briefly throughout the year. They are glad to see the women are enjoying life.

As the anniversary approaches, they will reflect on what happened that night, they will continue to pray for the three survivors, and they will continue working toward a positive impact on the people of Cleveland through their tireless work.

Click here for extended coverage.