La Crosse Police Department honors officers for their call to action

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) -- - Police officers often have to make decisions that can mean the difference between life and death.

The La Crosse Police Department is recognizing two officers for their call to action last August. 

Last summer a man held a woman at gunpoint and took her car with her daughter still inside. 

The quick response by the La Crosse Police Department helped to save an innocent life. 

Now, the state of Wisconsin is recognizing these individuals for their heroic efforts.

"I love it," said officer Stephen Hughes. "There's is no other profession out there for me." 

Whitney Hughes said she and her husband have one thing in common.

"My dad told me as a kid that you never work if you go to a job that you love and I definitely think that's what I do," Whitney said. 

Together they call La Crosse home. 

"We wanted a city with more opportunities and that's what the city of La Crosse has brought to us," Stephen said. 

It also gave them a chance to work side-by-side. 

"I don't recommend it for everyone," Whitney said. 

Stephen said his wife is his favorite partner on the job. 

"I would say out of everybody in the police department there wouldn't be a person over Whitney to work with," he said. 

One August afternoon would change their lives. 

"It was a nice sunny day, just like today," Stephen said. 

A call came in about a possible carjacking with a 1-year-old child in the back seat.

"I was sitting in the Walgreens parking lot off of West Avenue and handling a phone call," Stephen said. 

He said it wasn't long before he saw the SUV. 

"As I am sitting in the parking lot, lo and behold, here's the vehicle in front of me," Stephen said. 

The driver led police on a chase though a construction site and crashed into a parked car.

"From that point forward all of my training came into play," Stephen said. 

He said when 54-year-old Roger Burzinski wouldn't cooperate they had to take action. 

"At that point, we had no other choice," Stephen said. 

Hughes and officer Andrew Adey made a choice to draw their weapons and open fire. 

"If I was put in that situation 100 times over I would do it 100 percent the way I did it," Stephen said. 

Burzinski, who had several run-ins with the law, died at the hospital. However, the infant in the car was unharmed. 

"It was just another day in the life of a police officer," Stephen said. 

He remains humble but many people in the community are calling their actions heroic.

I might be a little biased, what can I say, but I think he is a hero and I think everybody that I work with on a daily basis is a hero," Whitney said.  

Shortly after that day they welcomed a new member into their family. 

"Zeus is my K-9 partner," Hughes said. "He is a Belgian Malinois who will be turning 2 years old next month on the eighth."

Whitney said Zeus helped the healing process. 

"Zeus has definitely been a blessing to this family," Whitney said. "Getting Zeus at that time was great for Steve and me. It gave us a positive during a difficult time for us." 

Zeus was officially sworn in this week as La Crosse's fourth member of the K-9 unit. 

Hughes said he brings a new spirit to their job. 

"They don't look at it as work," Stephen said. 

When many people are in search of their passion. The Hugheses are living theirs.

"I'm just proud," Whitney said.  "I am very proud of what I do. I am proud of the community I work for and I am proud of the department I work for and I am proud that I get to go to work with my husband." 

Officers Stephen Hughes and Andrew Adey were presented the 2018 Award for Valor. Dispatcher Jason Allen was given the Certificate of Merit. 

Whitney Hughes received the chief's achievement award for her dedication to service and commitment to giving back to the community. 

Hughes and Adey received national honorable mention recognition at the NAPO's Top Cops Awards in Washington DC. 

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