Risking life and limb to help fellow residents
Area man recently recognized with Community Member Award
For Local Resident Tom Muench, it was an event when he was a teenager that helped provide motivation for actions he would take later in life.
“They’d taken everything,” Muench recalls of the break-in that had occurred at his house on the Saturday before Christmas many years ago. “When I say everything, I mean everything. They took all my underwear.”
Understandably upset at the time, Muench says that the event had a lasting effect on him, “I remembered that,” he says. Muench was recently one of 41 individuals recognized with the Toronto Police Service’s Community Member Award. The awards recognize “unselfish acts of bravery, courage and assistance to the Toronto Police Service.”
“My wife didn’t tell me what it was about,” Muench says of the awards reception held at police headquarters in downtown Toronto. “She just said we’re going someplace on Sunday. I didn’t even really know.”
Last September, Muench was at his mother’s house in the Yonge Street and Finch Avenue area helping with work around house. It was dusk, and Muench was sitting in his car when he saw a man being pursued by a police officer come running out of Hendon Park, which borders the back of his mother’s property. “I saw it evolve and I just acted,” Muench says of his actions that followed. “So I don’t know if it was intentional or if it was a reaction, you know. I just did it.”
Getting out of his car, Muench grabbed the man, attempting to pin him between a row of cedar bushes for the trailing officer. The man was able to escape, however, and Muench and the officer gave chase through the park. Muench was able to bring the man to the ground several times.
“I tackled him,” Muench describes. “I said, ‘I don’t know what you did, but that’s it, it’s over.’” Again, however, the man was able to break free from Muench’s hold. “He grabbed my throat and said, ‘Look, I got a knife. I don’t want to cut ya.’”
Undeterred by the threat, Muench continued after the man, dialing 911 as he ran to keep police informed of their location and providing other updates.
Eventually, however, Muench was told to stop pursuing the suspect by the 911 operator. As police began to arrive at the scene, including the officer who had initially chased the suspect from the park, a quantity of drugs, money and two knives were found.
Despite Muench’s efforts, the suspect was never apprehended.
“I didn’t sleep for a couple of nights thereafter,” says Muench of the encounter, though not for the reasons you might suspect. “I was pissed off because the dispatch made me let him go.”
Though still unsure who it was that nominated him for the award, the recognition was welcomed, even if a little overwhelming, for the humble Muench. “The police chief is wearing his white gloves, and he’s all formalized,” Muench describes Toronto police chief Bill Blair, who personally presented Muench with the award. “I was honoured.”
While the recognition and the award were a wonderful reward for his actions, the experience was not a first for Muench. In 1981, a then 17-year-old Muench was honoured for the first time by police for his helping hand in apprehending a man involved in a break and enter. “As we drove into the driveway, I saw someone run out of the front of the house,” Muench remembers.
Much like his actions last September, Muench ran off after the man, detaining him until police arrived. For Muench, it’s ultimately all about community, working together and helping one another out as the need and occasion arise. “I would hope that, if you were somewhere and your car breaks down or you need some help, then you would be able to say, ‘Hey, you’re not going to have to wait.’’’ “I believe there are a lot more people out there like me,” he says, downplaying his actions. “I would hope that people would say, ‘Yeah, that’s the community we’re proud to be part of. And I would do the same.’”