John Thomas Prokop, owner of James Street Billiards in Duncan, will receive a rare and prestigious Carnegie Medal for his heroic actions during an incident in the summer of 2016.
The Carnegie Medal is given throughout the U.S. and Canada to those who risk their lives to an extraordinary degree while saving or attempting to save the lives of others.
Prokop, 49, who will receive his medal on April 3 from North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring, is just one of two Canadians to be awarded a Carnegie Medal for heroism this year, as well as one of only 1,000 Canadians who have received the medal since it was first introduced.
A total of 10,062 Carnegie Medals have been awarded since the Pittsburgh-based Carnegie Hero Fund Commission’s inception in 1904.
On July 8, 2016, Prokop helped to rescue a police officer from an assault in Duncan.
During the incident, which occurred on a street in downtown Duncan, a police officer struggled to detain a man who violently resisted arrest and was reaching for the officer’s duty belt which held a holstered handgun.
Eventually the struggle continued on a church’s front porch, where the assailant put the officer in a headlock.
The nearly exhausted officer later stated that he had difficulty breathing during the incident.
Prokop ran to the scene and grasped the assailant, allowing the officer to escape the headlock.
All three fell to the church steps, and the officer held the assailant in a headlock while Prokop pinned the assailant’s legs until backup officers arrived.
The officer recovered from soreness to his throat and neck, while Prokop scraped his arm and face but did not require medical attention.
Prokop was also honoured by the RCMP in 2017 for his actions that day in an award ceremony in Victoria.
The awards ceremony, in which Prokop received a commendation for his quick actions, highlighted exemplary work done by police officers and civilians alike when faced with challenging situations.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Prokop said when asked about receiving the Carnegie Medal.
“It’s surreal to be honoured for doing the humanely right thing to do in that situation. It all happened so fast it seemed like a blink of an eye, but I was glad I could make a difference.”
Prokop said he also received a $5,000 U.S. grant from the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, which he used to pay off his credit cards.
“I was also informed that the commission will pay for my tuition, books and fees if I choose to go back to school,” he said.
“I was thinking on upgrading my drivers’ licence so I could drive a charter bus, or something similar, after my days at the pool hall are over.”