LIMA — Nearly a year ago, Sgt. Dave Gillispie was beginning what seemed like a routine day at the Lima Police Department.
He was settling down behind the desk to look over some paperwork when he and an officer were called outside. Moments after he stepped outside, a man charged him and stabbed him in the head with a screwdriver. Gillispie’s skin was pierced but not his skull.
Gillispie’s training took over. He reacted, pulling his gun and firing several shots hitting John Heffner twice. Gillispie was rushed to the hospital where he would be treated for a wound that he would learn was not life threatening.
On Friday, Gillispie was named the 50th recipient of the Lima Exchange Club’s Police Officer of the Year Award winner, joining 49 other law-enforcement legends.
Gillispie spoke about the incident for the first time publicly on Friday. He said it changed his life. Out of something that could have potentially ended his life actually came something good.
Gillispie gained a new perspective for police work and the citizens he serves each day. After he returned to work, Gillispie found himself with a new appreciation for the job and was reenergized.
“I had a lot of calls and a lot of cards from citizens, some who I dealt with, some I hadn’t, that really made the difference,” he said.
Gillispie said he was surprised by the number of people who actually took time to contact him.
“It’s very easy to take things for granted when you do this job for so long. One is what you believe the citizens think of you and a lot of times you think it’s a negative feeling. It wasn’t. A lot of people really came out of the woodwork and spoke their mind. A lot of well wishes and a lot of support,” he said.
Gillispie said it’s also made him love and appreciate his wife and five children even more.
“I’m alive, I’m enjoying my family, I couldn’t ask for anything better,” he said.
Gillispie is a 17-year veteran of the department. He’s the second-shift supervisor but also is part of some memorable moments and tragedies at the department. He was one of the first officers on the scene of the Eureka Street killings in 2002 that left two girls dead and at least four others injured. He was credited in 2000 with stopping a man from shooting an officer during a traffic stop.
In 2003, Gillispie stopped a car on a traffic violation and noticed stereo equipment inside. He connected it to a series of thefts from motor vehicles that led to arrests.
In 2005, Gillispie chased a man with a submachine gun, got into a struggle with him before gaining the upper hand and stopping the man with his Taser.
In 2007, Gillispie ran into a burning house to rescue a paraplegic woman who was trapped there in her wheelchair.
Gillispie has been a member of several special teams at the department, from the SWAT team to the PACE Unit. He was a range officer and a Bike Patrol instructor. In his spare time, he volunteers for causes associated with his children such as coaching a sports team or helping as a Boy Scout leader.