MEMPHIS, Tenn. — WREG has obtained body camera footage capturing a rescue from a burning car that crashed into an East Memphis restaurant.
Several 911 calls came in on April 4, 2021, just before 10:30 p.m., telling dispatchers that a speeding car drove into the side of the Olive Garden at 5679 Poplar Ave.
Memphis police officer Justin Knox was the first officer to arrive. His body camera was recording.
He could see smoke coming from the restaurant. Below was a black SUV that had smashed into the wall.
“He crashed into the refrigerator. That’s what made his car burst into flames. The refrigerator stopped him from going completely into the building,” Knox said.
Paramedics tossed the seatbelt they cut from the driver’s side as Knox approached the vehicle. Each second it got hotter as the fire inched closer and closer.
“In my mind, I’m like, I’m not the fire department. I’m police, but I’m like let me go do what I can,” he said.
Together, they pulled the driver out.
“In those moments, you don’t have time to think. You just have to burst into action,” Knox said.
Less than a minute later, they rescued the passenger.
“I was truly thankful the car didn’t burst into complete flames. That’s typically what happens,” he said.
Memphis firefighters eventually showed up and put out the flames. The driver and passenger were taken to the hospital
The driver was taken to the Regional One. Knox said he was there when the driver woke up.
“Just to see him and know he’s fine and his partner was fine was well, that was amazing,” Knox said. “He told me, whoever helped save my life to just tell them thank you. I never told him it was me.”
Knox said he didn’t want the recognition, but he still got it. The department gave him a lifesaving medal for his actions.
He’s still in shock.
“It was one of the first critical incidents I had worked pretty much by myself,” Knox said.
That’s right, Knox is new to MPD.
“I worked at Methodist Germantown for 10 years. After 10 years I decided I wanted to be a police officer and make a difference in my community,” Knox said.
He said his background has only helped him in this new career.
Knox said he thinks about that night as well as the other countless scenes he’s since responded to.
“It’s a calling. It’s truly a calling to represent this city to go out and risk my life for other people’s lives,” Knox said.
MPD says the driver of the vehicle was under the influence that night. We reached out to the driver and passenger, but they didn’t want to talk about what happened.