Washougal police officer Francis Reagan’s life-saving actions on the Washougal River in May 2019 have been recognized with Washington state’s most prestigious law-enforcement award.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee presented Reagan and 13 other officers with the Washington State Law Enforcement Medal of Honor on Oct. 8, in Olympia.
“We are extremely proud of Francis Reagan and his unselfish action to protect the life of another,” Washougal Police Chief Wendi Steinbronn stated in a news release.
This award recognizes officers who have been killed in the line of duty or distinguished themselves with “exceptional meritorious conduct,” according to the news release.
Candidates were nominated by their supervisors or peers.
Reagan was one of the first officers to respond to a 911 call on May 4, 2019. The caller reported they had heard a woman screaming for help in the Washougal River. The 28-year-old woman, Emily McCauley, of Portland, had fallen from her inner tube and was trapped by a rock and developing hypothermia when first responders arrived.
Reagan directed other officers to tie two rescue lines together, then put on a lifejacket and swam out to McCauley. Reagan held her head above water for 20 minutes before fire and rescue team members arrived. Reagan and a local firefighter freed McCauley 20 minutes later.
“I didn’t do it alone. I would like to thank Washougal police officers Ryan Castro and Trevor Claudson, along with Clark County Sheriff’s Office deputy Greg Marek and Camas-Washougal Fire Department captain Josh Proctor,” Reagan stated in the news release. “Without them, there would have been more casualties.”
McCauley’s companion, 30-year-old Stephen Barnaby, also of Portland, did not survive the accident.
Barnaby’s body was located in the Washougal River more than two months later, on July 22, 2019.
Reagan spent eight years as a member of the United States Navy before joining the Washougal police force in 2014.
He credited the training he received as a member of the Navy’s Sea, Air and Land (SEAL) team for giving him the skills needed to rescue McCauley from the cold, rushing river water.
“(Being a SEAL) helped me be comfortable in the water, and with my confidence and knowing that I was potentially hypothermic,” Reagan told the Post-Record in 2020. “Also, my whole platoon had gone to North Carolina for swift water rescue certification. We spent a week in rivers just like this practicing swift-water rescue techniques and tactics. Thank God I went to that course, because it really helped.”