BERRIEN SPRINGS — Berrien Springs police officer Ryan Venno was working a speed trap with a team of four or five other officers when he slipped and fell off the Snow Road bridge and landed very close to traffic on the US 31 Bypass. It happened just before 6 p.m. Wednesday.
The accident is the talk of Berrien Springs.
“I’m wondering how he is,” said Jim Payne.
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“How’d he fall off?” wondered Nathan Jarman.
“It’s shocking that an officer who puts his life on the line every day ends up getting hurt doing traffic enforcement,” said Liz Olson.
Venno, 24, spent most of his Wednesday doing seat-belt and speed enforcement with other officers in the Berrien Springs and Oronoko Twp. area. About four or five other police units were parked on a nearby on-ramp to the Bypass waiting for Venno to radio to them which cars were speeding.
Venno was sitting on a ledge on the top of the bridge with a radar gun when he lost his positioning and fell. He bounced off a second ledge, then dropped down 23 feet. None of the other officers could see him so he radioed the call in to Berrien County dispatch himself.
“This is just a very unfortunate and very freak accident that occurred,” said Berrien Springs Police Chief Milton Agay.
Payne saw the aftermath of the fall.
“He was already on the ground when I went by,” he recalled. “There were two police cars there when the state police had arrived. So I figured the best thing for me to do was stay out of the way.”
Venno suffered a compound fracture in his leg. Agay said he doesn’t want something like this to happen again.
“We’ll definitely make sure officers don’t take positions like that in the future. But again, he was trying to find the best place out of sight, non-conspicuous to motorists coming through,” Agay explained.
Part of Venno’s pant leg and sock remained under the bridge Thursday — evidence of a bad fall that could have been much worse.
“He’s very lucky that he’s alive,” said Agay. “Falling 23 feet, he’s very fortunate.”
Venno has already undergone one surgery on his leg. He’s scheduled to have another one Friday. He’s been on the Berrien Springs Police Department for about 18 months.
- By KELLI CHEATHAM | WSBT-TV
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