When the knife smashed into his skull, Fresno police Officer Jon Linzey thought he was being struck by a fist. The reality of what was happening rushed at him seconds later as blood flowed down his face and into his eyes, blurring his vision as he fought to stay alive.
The Fresno cop, husband and father of two young boys was ambushed in a breezeway by a knife-wielding man who murdered two women inside a Tower District studio. Linzey hadn’t yet learned of their deaths when he was attacked by Michael Crockell around 5:15 a.m. Sept. 10, 2012 outside an apartment complex near Fresno City College. As Linzey walked toward the building, he had only received a report that there was an assault victim and that the suspect was gone.
Linzey recalled that dark morning again on Tuesday after receiving the Fresno Police Department’s Van Meter Award Medal, given to officers seriously injured in the line of duty. He was among more than 40 members of the department to be recognized during an awards ceremony at Fresno City Hall that honored heroic actions that saved lives and protected people.
I thank God for them every day.
Katie Tempesta about members of the Fresno Police Department
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Linzey credits a “hard head” for his own survival: Crockell’s knife bent upon striking Linzey’s skull after it pierced his forehead.
After Linzey was struck repeatedly in the head, he wrestled with Crockell in the street. He deflected one blow with his left forearm and the knife sliced through his skin. His left ear was also gashed and nearly severed from his head. Linzey remembers his attacker yelling, “Kill me, kill me, kill me for what I’ve done,” and then, “I better kill him before he kills me.”
Linzey didn’t kill him. He got control of Crockell by the time two other officers arrived shortly after the attack began. Crockell was arrested and later sentenced to more than 40 years-to-life in prison.
The terror of that morning hasn’t changed that Linzey loves being a cop.
I want to be some sort of shining light in their dark moments because we are called to their worst times, and we need to be that calm.
Fresno Police Officer Jon Linzey
“I told someone once – and they laughed at me – but I said, ‘If someone paid all my bills, I would do this job for free’ – and it is true,” Linzey says. “I truly love the day-to-day interaction with the citizens … and I want to be some sort of shining light in their dark moments because we are called to their worst times, and we need to be that calm.”
Linzey has been that sense of calm for Katie Tempesta, whose mother, Lisa Gilvary, was killed by Crockell. Tempesta asked to present Linzey with the Van Meter Award Medal beside Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer.
“Jon is my hero. … It means the world to me to be here today to support him,” she said.
Linzey has supported Tempesta in the years since her mother’s murder. As she grieved, Linzey sat beside her in court before Crockell was sentenced to prison, and about a year after her mother’s death, he walked her through the crime scene where her mom was murdered.
Linzey wants the community to know that “police officers actually care.” Tempesta is sure of that.
“I’m so proud and honored and thankful for all of our police department,” Tempesta says, “and how they pull together to stay a team and fight the crime that’s on our streets.”