How a volunteer mom in a school event helped save a police sergeant during a life-threatening emergency

From a fun and laidback school festival to a brush with death―this is what a Cleveland police officer experienced at Carver Park Estates on August 20, 2022.  

Sgt. Ray O’Connor, administrative sergeant at the Cleveland Police Department Fourth District, was playing football with the kids in the neighborhood when he told fellow police officer Brooklyn Barnes that he had been stung by a bee, to which he’s deathly allergic. 

Sgt. Ray O'Connor saved by a mom who used son's epipen

He’d been stung on his left and right wrists. He’d also left his EpiPen at the District 4 station. 

Sgt. O’Connor dropped to the ground and lost consciousness. That’s when they realized that they had a life-threatening emergency situation. 

They raced to move Sgt. O’Connor to their police cruiser for first aid, a quick-thinking mother and festival volunteer, Tomika Johnson, saw what happened and immediately grabbed her son’s EpiPen from her house. Officer Barnes then gave the EpiPen to O’Connor to stabilize him until EMS arrived. 

A photo of Officer Barnes

Sgt. O’Connor kept saying what he thought were his last words: that he loved his girlfriend and to give his dog to another cop for them to raise.

After that, Sergeant. O’Connor was brought to St. Vincent Hospital, where he got the medical treatment he needed and where he would eventually recover. 

It’s enough to say that, without the lifesaving EpiPens, things would have ended tragically and differently.

Allergies are your immune system’s reaction to a foreign substance that doesn’t cause a reaction in other people. These foreign substances can be a lot of things, like food, perfume, pollen, pet dander―and in Sgt. O’Connor’s case―bee stings. 

A severe allergic reaction causes your immune system flood with chemicals that can cause shock. 

A photo of an EpiPen allergy medication

An EpiPen (epinephrine injection) is used to treat severe, life-threatening allergic attacks caused by allergens or unknown triggers. An EpiPen is recommended for anyone suffering from severe allergic reactions. 

The EpiPen is a lifesaver. It works quickly and stimulates the heart, improves breathing, raises blood pressure, and reduces swelling in the throat, mouth, and face. It also reverses hives. 

Tomika is well aware of the importance of an EpiPen. Zaire, Zaire’s 10-year-old brother, is allergic. That’s why she makes sure they have EpiPens all over the house. 

Statement by the Fourth District Cleveland Police Department: “Tomika’s quick thinking, fast response, and concern for Sgt. O’Connor’s well-being demonstrated a high regard for human life.” 

Tomika and Zaire, her son, will be honored with the Citizen Award to recognize their heroic and selfless efforts. The City of Cleveland’s Fourth District Awards will happen on October 6, 2022.  

According to Sgt. O’Connor, there’s nothing that compares to this near-death experience. Even that time when O’Connor was shot twice. 

Sgt. O'Connor with Tomika and kids thanking the family for using son's EpiPen

He couldn’t breathe after being stung by bees. He knew it was the end. For a physically fit police officer who stands 6 feet7 inches tall, that day at the park was the most scared he’d been in his whole life. 

But all’s well that ends well. For Tomika, she’s just glad that she was at the right place at the right time. She insists that she only did what she needed to do, and that doesn’t make her a hero. 

But obviously, that’s not what the city thinks, especially the Fourth District Station and police officers O’Connor and Barnes, who witnessed Tomika’s heroism first-hand. 

Tomika Johnson grabbed son's EpiPen to help a police officer

Sgt. Ray O’Connor and Tomika Johnson met the following day after he was discharged from the hospital. Zaire just happened to be celebrating his birthday. So as a thank you, officers O’Connor and Barnes brought over some birthday gifts, plus a gift card worth $100. 

Sgt. O’Connor now considers Tomika his guardian angel. Without her, he wouldn’t be alive today. Tomika is the one who refused to leave when someone is in trouble. 

Tomika simply believes in the power of kindness, in being kind to everyone, and hoping that she’ll receive the same kindness back.

Sgt. Ray O’Connor and Tomika Johnson were fated to be at the same place that day. Brave police officers and quick-thinking mothers, they’re everyday superheroes indeed! 

Watch the video below to learn more about this story.


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