The Driver with the Leatherman

Editor’s Note: This story is describes true events and contains explicit (graphic) detail


According to Burke Law VT, in 2016 there were over 2,500 DUI’s processed in the state of Vermont, making them a fairly common occurrence. For many police officers, a suspected DUI stop is standard. But what if the person you stopped, would rather die than go to jail?


Anthony Mazzilli has been a police officer for over 15 years and loves every day of it. He first began in 2004 working with the Waterbury Police. Then got moved to the Stowe Police and has been working there ever since. He explained the average day of a police officer as being 95% boredom and 5% adrenaline. Over those 15 years, there is one moment of adrenaline that sticks out to him as his hardest day on the job.



Mazzilli was the officer closest to the scene when a call for a suspected DUI came in. When he arrived, all he was expecting was a typical car stop. Little did he know that he would remember this day back in February of 2013 for the rest of his life. 


After pulling the man over, Mazzilli got out of his car and went up to the driver’s door to begin his inspection of the driver’s drunkenness. When he got to the window, it was rolled up and locked with the driver showing no signs of wanting to interact with him. Mazzill went back to his own car to get tools to use to open the suspect’s door himself. 


“I still get a little choked up,” he said when explaining what he witnessed after he returned to the car.


After returning with a kit that is provided to the department by AAA he watched the driver reach into the back and grab his multi-tool Leatherman. Still having a glass barrier between them, Mazzilli was helpless as he witnessed the man cut his own throat with the leatherman. 


“[We] train very hard not to have preconceived notions before arriving.” When a police officer arrives on the scene they are trained to take in all the information before acting. Sometimes things happen quickly as they did for Anthony Mazzilli on this day. 


Mazzilli needed to get into the car as fast as possible so he could attempt to save this man’s life. However, he still had the locked door and window as a barrier in between him and the man who would die soon if he didn’t act quickly.


 A lot of people would choose not to do anything because they are removed from the situation. This is not what police officers are trained to do.  Mazzilli’s morals were telling him that he needed to get into the car and save this man’s life even though he was clearly showing he did not want to live anymore. He could have let the man die on his own terms. But instead, he chose to risk his life by getting into the same vehicle as a man with a knife. 


Mazzilli didn’t want to risk getting glass in the wound or the driver’s eyes by breaking the window but knew he still needed to get into the car. Scrambling, he was able to hammer the plastic wedge from the car kit provided by AAA between the door and the car frame so he could open the door using the bar.

Once Mazzilli was in the car, he knew that he would have to do everything he could to try and save this man while waiting for an ambulance to arrive at the scene.  


Luckily, he had a First AID kit with him. He was able to use it in an attempt to save this man’s life. Mazzilli began stuffing gauze into the seemingly never-ending wound. At first, he was unpacking the gauze. However, he soon was stuffing the entire packaging into the wound since the gauze was soaked through almost instantaneously. 


With blood still spewing out of the wound, Mazzilli took his gloves off and applied pressure while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. The paramedics hadn’t been far away, so it didn’t take long for them to arrive. When they did, the man was taken to the hospital and into surgery where the doctors were miraculously able to save his life. 


Over the next year, this man saw several doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, and counselors to help him take back control of his life. About one year later, Mazzilli got to see the same man in a new light. In that time, he had gone to Alcoholics Anonymous, gotten sober, and was able to get his life back together. This included reconnecting with his family. “So a positive story,” Mazzilli said.  “But a really scary moment.”


Without the help of Anthony Mazzilli and all of the medical professionals, that man might not have been alive today. And without the help of a lot of supportive people, counselors, and mental health professionals he wouldn’t have been the man Anthony Mazzilli got to see two years later.


 The quick thinking and training that police officers go through allowed Mazzilli to get into the car and save that man before he died. This gave the man the chance to start his life over. 


After this event the Waterbury Police Department, Mazzilli was awarded the Life Saving Award. The award is currently being stored in a box along with other memorabilia from his office at Waterbury Police. Mazzini has plans to hang it back up if he ever gets back into an office at the Stowe Police after COVID-19.


The fast-thinking skills he used on this day will be used again the next time he has an “Oh sh**!” moment.  



What type of mindset/thinking are police officers trained to have in situations like this? 


How would the average person react/respond compared to how Mazzilli responded?


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