MATTHEWS – It began as a typical lunch break for Officer Tyler Klemas. Ten minutes later, it was anything but ordinary.
Klemas heard a call over the radio as he was ordering his lunch at a local pizza shop on a standard workday in October 2013. The call said someone who appeared to be a teenager was sitting on the bridge over Interstate 485 at Weddington Road. Typically, Klemas would have let another officer handle the situation, but because he was so close to the scene – and because a feeling in his gut urged him to go – Klemas abandoned his lunch and raced to the bridge.
When Klemas came upon the scene, his worst fears were realized – there was a teenaged boy sitting on the bridge threatening to jump. A motorist who was passing by stopped his car and was talking to the teenager. Klemas went for the element of surprise, but the teenager saw him and let go just as Klemas was closing in. Klemas, at 6 feet 5 inches and 270 pounds, grabbed the boy as he was falling and was able to use his strength to pull the boy to safety and hold him in a “bear hug” until backup arrived about 90 seconds later.
“The guy that (had been) talking to him, the passerby that had just stopped, put his hands on both of our heads and started praying after all this started happening,” Klemas said. “It was really, really intense and emotional.”
The teenager received treatment at the hospital, and the department has been in touch with his family regularly to make sure he’s doing well.
“We’ve heard he’s doing much better,” Klemas said.
If you ask him, Klemas will tell you he was just doing his job. But others have hailed him as an everyday hero – something that, when coupled with his dedication to the Matthews Police Department, led Klemas to be named the 2014 Matthews Police Officer of the Year.
“I’ve only worked with him for a little while, but (I can tell) he’s a good worker, and he takes care of what he needs to do,” Sgt. Jim Lally, Klemas’s squad leader, said. “He comes to work, does his job, everybody gets along with him, he’s a team player … He represents the department well, he carries himself well, interacts with the public well. He considers it just part of the job.”
Klemas attended school for years in Indian Trail before moving to Alabama during high school. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps after graduating high school in 2003 and spent four years in the Marines before relocating to the Charlotte area. After being recalled to the Marines for one year, Klemas began looking for jobs in the police force in 2010. He eventually joined the Matthews Police Department and will celebrate his third anniversary with the department in July.
As Matthews does not have a high crime rate, most of the situations Klemas deals with are minor.
“You deal with a lot of people that have little issues, like possums in their sinks or something,” Klemas said. “There’s a very select amount of times where you deal with serious assaults, but for the most part it’s pretty low key.”
The biggest challenge of the job, Klemas said, is anytime he responds to a call where a child is in jeopardy or has witnessed domestic violence or abuse.
“Whether it’s an assault or an argument, seeing kids getting affected negatively by that stuff is really tough,” Klemas said.
Despite the job’s difficulties, Klemas loves not knowing what the day will hold and never living the same day twice.
“I’ve always told people this: If I don’t like the view out of my office window, I can just drive around somewhere else,” he said. “My office is 14.1 square miles, and I get to drive around and interact with dozens of people every day … Not knowing where I’m going to end up or what I’m going to be doing that day is also pretty exciting.”