Roanoke man thanks police officers after wheelchair push photo goes viral

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ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Johnny Williams heads to the store from his home at Melrose Towers in his motorized wheelchair on a regular basis.

His normally routine trip took a different turn on Friday.

"I was going to cross the street to come home and it just died," Williams said.

The wheelchair stalled. It stopped two lanes from Dollar General and two away from the nearest sidewalk.

"I sat there and I thought that it would get itself together but it didn't," he said.

Someone finally pushed him out of the median to the curb where he then sat for 30 minutes. He waited as dozens of cars passed by. Williams finally called 911.

Roanoke Officer Daniel Jansen was nearby when the call came in.

"I sped up a little bit because I thought he was in the median which was not safe," Jansen said.

He came up with a plan when the wheelchair still wouldn't go.

"My original plan was to get a police department truck on the scene and we were just going to toss his chair in the truck and then give him a ride down here. But then my back-up showed up and we just decided to push him down this way," Jansen said.

Officers Jansen, Allen and rookie officer Romano wanted to push him out of the cold.

"It was pretty heavy," Jansen explained. "It was pretty cold that day. It was in the mid 20s with the wind chill and the snow coming down. It was probably quite a bit lower than that."

A picture of the push and the officer's good deed went viral.

The officers say they worried about Williams while he said he worried about them.

"I'm a big man and you just don't want to push a big man and all their strength was pushing me," explained Williams.

It was a more than two-block push for the officers, but a much bigger deal to the man they helped.

"They went the extra mile," Williams said.