Monday, March 14, 2011

Former Marist Ass't Coach's Heroic Deed

There is just a wonderful story reported by the Poughkeepsie Journal several weeks ago detailing the heroic actions of a former Marist College player and, then, assistant basketball coach there, during a domestic dispute that turned tragic.

The MAAC connection is with George Siegrist Jr., who played at Marist two decades ago and, then, served on the coaching staff of former head man Dave Magarity for more than 10 seasons.

The newspaper report tells the story well. Here it is:

When George Siegrist Jr. saw a small child standing dangerously close to a busy street in the City of Poughkeepsie Friday afternoon, he decided to stop and see whether he could help.

Minutes later, the 41-year-old Town of Poughkeepsie man was holding the child in his arms while gunfire erupted, leading to the deaths of a police officer and a civilian. Siegrist later learned the girl's mother had been fatally shot minutes before he arrived.

Siegrist wasn't identified by name Saturday at a news conference hosted by Mayor John Tkazyik and police Chief Ronald Knapp. But Knapp called the man who had rescued the child "a hero."

As Siegrist recalled those events in an exclusive interview with the Poughkeepsie Journal Saturday afternoon, he said it was slain Officer John Falcone and other police who had acted heroically.

"I saw (the officers) walk toward a guy with a gun in his hand, and that was far more courageous than anything I did," he said.

Siegrist, who owns a construction firm in the city, said he had left his office about 1 p.m. Friday and was about to drive up a ramp to the southbound lanes of Route 9 near the Poughkeepsie Train Station when he saw gunman Lee Welch, 27, of Catskill and a child on a sidewalk near a parking lot on Main Street.

"The little girl was close to the road, and the guy had fallen down, and I thought the girl might get hurt," Siegrist said.

He put his car in reverse, backed it onto Main Street and parked, then walked to the man and the girl.

"The man stood up, and I could see he had a gun in his hand," Siegrist said. "I said, 'I can't take your child unless you drop the gun.' "

About that time, Siegrist said, three police officers arrived, and the man walked backward into the parking lot as they asked him to drop his gun.

"He wasn't near me, so I scooped (the girl) up, and the first thing she did was throw up on me," Siegrist said.

He said he took his shirt off and wiped the girl's face. He said she was asking him where her mother was as he watched the officers chase the gunman across Main Street.

"Then some shots were fired," he said.

Siegrist said he handed the child to someone else and looked inside a Chevrolet Blazer the girl had pointed to. It was then he saw a woman slumped inside.

Police later determined Lee Welch had shot his wife, 28-year-old Jessica Welch, minutes earlier.
Siegrist said his "thoughts and prayers" were with the girl "and with the police of the City of Poughkeepsie, especially the man who lost his life trying to apprehend this guy."

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