It was a moment that would change both of their lives forever. Civilian Joseph Chambers spotted Officer Mark Kimsey trapped in a police car that was engulfed in flames just meters away from where he was standing. And Chambers knew that he had to do something.
The date was November 8, 2014, and the then-17-year-old Chambers was waiting for his brother to return with takeout from a store in Grays Ferry in Philadelphia. As he waited at his half-sister’s home, the teenager heard a strange loud noise, but he had no idea what had caused it.
“We were watching TV and heard a loud boom,” Chambers said, telling The Delaware County Daily Times about the moment. His sister initially thought that the sound might have been a gunshot and rushed to shut the windows to protect the home. But when Chambers looked outside he saw a police car.
The loud bang had in fact been a car crash, and so Chambers dashed outside. However, the police car had already caught fire by the time he reached the scene just moments later. Worse, Chambers spotted the police officer there inside the car. He therefore knew that he had to do something.
The officer was Philadelphia cop Mark Kimsey – and he was trapped inside the burning vehicle. Chambers, then, enlisted the help of a neighbor in a bid to free Kimsey from the lethal situation. And fortunately, the pair successfully hauled the officer out through one of the car windows and carried him out of harm’s way.
“When I reached the car, he was really out of it,” Chambers told The Delaware County Daily Times. “He didn’t know where he was. All he knew was that something was wrong.” Chambers then rushed back to rescue the man who was behind the wheel of the pickup truck that had hit Kimsey’s patrol car.
Speaking about the second man, Chambers said, “He was slumped over, and I [pulled] him out, too.” Meanwhile, though both of the rescued men were now safe and on their way to hospital, Chambers’ hands were covered in blood following his efforts – and he went to hospital as a precaution.
Some might say that Chambers’ heroic efforts to save a police officer were unusual in a tough neighborhood like Grays Ferry. However, the young man’s mom, Judi, said that she wasn’t surprised by her son’s brave actions. She was nervous, though, when she heard that her son had gone to hospital after the rescue.
And yet she was soon overwhelmed with pride about her son’s actions. For his part, Chambers credits his mom Judi and late father John with teaching him his values. “My parents taught me that if someone needs help, you help,” he explained.
Officer Kimsey, meanwhile, later praised the young man for his bravery during the daring rescue effort which had saved his life. “He really was in the right place at the right time,” Kimsey told The Delaware County Daily Times. “Unless another cop would have pulled around the corner, I would have still been there.”
The day soon came, then, when Chambers visited Kimsey in his hospital bed. Speaking about the event, Chambers’ mom Judi described the emotions that she felt as she watched her son visit the man whose life he had saved. “Oh, my gosh, when we got there and those ten officers parted ways as Joe walked through to go into Mark’s hospital room – my knees got weak,” she told The Delaware County Daily Times. “It was so emotional.”
In the weeks and months that followed, moreover, Chambers received praise from local officials. “Whereas some may rush to their own safety or stand by and wait for others to help, Joseph Chambers displayed heroic action, ultimately saving a life… The bravery of a young hero like this shines as a bright inspiration to all,” read a piece delivered by Delaware County Council.
And once Kimsey was released from hospital and back on his feet, he and Chambers even made an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to speak about the rescue. “It was an experience of a lifetime to actually meet such an iconic person,” Chambers said. “It was awesome.”
But that wasn’t the end of the story for Chambers and Kimsey. In fact, the two became friends following the crash and subsequent rescue. Then, after graduating from Ridley High School, Chambers went on to the Delaware County Municipal Police Academy and trained to join the force.
What’s more, months later he began his first shift as a part-timer. Speaking ahead of the occasion, Chambers told The Delaware County Daily Times, “I’ve always wanted to be a cop since I saw my first police car. I always thought they were just so cool. They were people I really looked up to.”
Before being appointed to the position, Chambers met with local police chief Robert Ruskowski in June 2016. “We heard about him, and the next thing, he shows up at the station,” the chief told the same newspaper. “He had experience dealing with emergencies and radio procedure, and he put himself through the academy, which really gave him a leg up.” In fact, the chief ultimately hired him the same day.
It wasn’t long before Chambers had impressed his boss while on the job, too. A local university called the station to commend the young officer, as he had successfully broken up a fight between students on campus. “They just thought it was something I should know,” Ruskowski said. “He’s a good kid.”
But despite his ambition and his success, Chambers certainly didn’t forget the officer he had saved on that life-changing day. Indeed, he asked none other than Officer Kimsey to hold the Bible as he got sworn in as a part-time law enforcement officer. “I was super proud of Joe and of the accomplishments he made in such a short time,” Kimsey told The Delaware County Daily Times. “I was happy that I was able just to be there, number one, and to be a part of it. He’s like a little brother to me… Joe is part of our family. My kids call him Uncle Joe.”
Speaking about the day when Chambers became a police officer, his mother, for her part, revealed, “I stood there looking at him, and I was thinking how proud his father would be. His dad would be over the moon and back up there. We both are.” That said, she has admitted that she worries for her son’s safety. “As soon as he puts on that uniform, my heart is in my throat,” she added. “But I know it’s what he’s wanted to do since he was a little boy.”
Meanwhile, Chambers has said that he hopes to become a full-time officer in the future. And who knows where he might end up? One thing is for sure, though: “I would love to work with him,” confirmed Kimsey.