For GCU officer, saving lives is second nature

By Laurie Merrill
GCU News Bureau

Over the summer, Public Safety Officer Matthew Grupe was on routine patrol on Grand Canyon University’s east side when he spotted what looked like an apartment building on fire off campus.

His quick actions on Aug. 7 led to his rescuing a man in the apartment and earned Grupe the Medal of Life Saving from the University, which he received Thursday at a ceremony where he was surrounded by his colleagues.

“I saw what looked like smoke coming from a building,” Grupe said as he recalled the event after receiving the commendation. “Checking it out a little further, I noticed it was an actual fire.”

After radioing in the information, Grupe drove east on Colter Street until he arrived at the scene of the fire. The one-story apartment building was engulfed in flames, and Grupe noticed there were vehicles outside, but no people. Grupe kicked in the door and went in, calling out as he searched for occupants.

“There was a lot of smoke,” he said. “I flashed my flashlight, and all I could see was the beam of light.”

Eventually, he heard, “Hello.” It came from a man who had been asleep on the couch. “Buddy, your house is on fire,” Grupe said he told him.

Disoriented from smoke inhalation, the man was led by Grupe to safety. But the man kept talking about dogs, Grupe said. Even as flames spread, the man returned inside to look for them, and Grupe followed.

“I said, ‘We need to go, like, now,’” Grupe said. “He came out with me.”

By this time, the Phoenix Fire Department was on the scene, and within moments the firefighters carried out the two canines, and were able to revive them. A Phoenix fire sergeant on the scene witnessed Grupe’s heroics and reported them, said GCU Public Safety Department Commander Kirk Fitch.

“Officer Grupe put himself in peril to save the life of the occupant,” said Fitch, noting that the award is reserved for special acts of courage.

After spending much of his career in high-risk security, Grupe said he finds it second nature to face danger to help others.

“Helping people is why I’m so passionate about this job,” Grupe said. “It’s why I love this job.”

Contact Laurie Merrill at (602) 639-6511 or [email protected].

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