California State Prison, Sacramento.

CSP-Sacramento, file photo.

By Lt. Tony Quinn, AA/PIO
California State Prison, Sacramento

A normal day for Correctional Officers T. Castech and C. Peterson quickly turned into saving the life of a fellow officer.

“I was inside the B Gym staff office talking to Officer C. Peterson. Officer Zerr was sitting in the B Gym Yard Office eating his lunch when all of a sudden, (he) pushed himself away from his desk, dropping his sandwich and flopping around his upper torso in his chair, waving his arms and scooting his feet towards the trash can near Officer C. Peterson and I,” said Officer Castech of the April 19 incident.

Officer Zerr was clearly in distress. Witnessing Zerr’s panicked behavior, Peterson asked Zerr, “Are you choking?”

Zerr’s eyes were watery and he was unable to speak however he nodded his head “yes.” About this time, he began to turn blue and his body drooped down over the office trash bin and he stopped moving in his chair.

“The back of his chair was in front of me within my reach,” Officer Castech said. “Peterson signaled to me to do the Heimlich maneuver. While standing behind Zerr, I wrapped my arms and grasped my fist with the other hand in the mid-line just below his ribs, causing his vest to ride up. I made a quick hard movement inward and upwards against his diaphragm in attempt to assist in him coughing up the object. I repeated the same movement again with force until what was lodged came out and he was able to breathe.”

Peterson saw the object lodged in Zerr’s throat fly out.

“I stepped back and observed Zerr with C. Peterson and noticed that Zerr no longer had a blue coloring of the skin but had become pale white and was breathing. Zerr gained some composure and then I asked if he wanted to be evaluated by medical. Zerr assured Peterson and I that he was OK and did not want to seek any medical attention,” Officer Castech said.

(Editor’s note: The officers involved declined to have their photos taken for this story.)