Iowa State criminal justice student was there to help pull man from burning car

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A routine ride-along for an Iowa State University intern took a fiery turn on the evening of March 10.

Nick Schroeder, a criminal justice major who is interning with the Urbandale Police Department, helped Officer Zac McDowell pull a driver from a burning vehicle. The driver had become lodged in his car after spinning donuts in a snow-covered church parking lot. He lost control and hit an air conditioning unit near a brick wall, causing his engine to catch fire.

The scene, captured by a dashboard camera, has gone viral. The Des Moines Register, The Today Show, CNN and other news sources across the nation have shared the story.

Schroeder, who will graduate from ISU this spring, was riding with Officer McDowell when they were dispatched to the incident.

When McDowell spotted the teen, who was unconscious but breathing, he broke the passenger side window with a striking stick and opened the door to pull 18-year-old Ian Waseskuk from the smoke-filled vehicle. As McDowell checked for additional occupants, Schroeder pulled Waseskuk a safe distance from the vehicle.

“I am extremely proud of Nick,” Matt DeLisi, ISU professor and coordinator of the criminal justice studies program. “The video showed that he was cautious and deferred to the officer at the beginning of the event, and that he took action to remove the man from harm’s way while the officer put out the fire. Nick was prudent, decisive and brave, and exemplifies the character that criminal justice practitioners have.”

Schroeder said he could hear coughing and gagging before Waseskuk was pulled from the car, which was filled with black smoke.

“I reached inside, but I had to back away because of all the smoke,” he said. “Officer McDowell saved the subject’s life."

Schroeder, who has wanted to be a police officer since he was young, said his experiences at the Urbandale Police Department have only fueled his desire to work in law enforcement, as well as his experience studying criminal justice at Iowa State.

“We are very proud of intern Nick Schroeder and his brave actions,” Sergeant Dan Stein of the Urbandale Police Department said, who thanked DeLisi for sending “such a quality intern.”

“Criminal justice majors are young people who are committed to public service, to public safety, and to helping people,” DeLisi said. “They want to make a difference in the world by helping people. Nick certainly did!” -30-

About Liberal Arts and Sciences The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is a world-class learning and research community. Iowa State’s most academically diverse college, LAS educates students to become global citizens, providing rigorous academic programs in the sciences, humanities and social sciences within a supportive personalized learning environment. College faculty design new materials, unravel biological structures, care for the environment, and explore social and behavioral issues. From fundamental research to technology transfer and artistic expression, the college supports people in Iowa and around the world.

NEWS RELEASE College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Iowa State University

Contacts: Matthew DeLisi, Criminal Justice Studies, (515) 294-8008, Jess Knight, Liberal Arts & Sciences Communication, (515) 294-9906,