Pastor Steven Kelsey is a Leukemia survivor as well as a husband and father and the leader of his church. And if that's not enough, in his spare time, he fights crime in some of the worst neighborhoods in Louisville, Ky. Pastor Kelsey says he has always been devoted to serving the Lord.
He learned to have faith early on, especially when at age 14 he was diagnosed with Leukemia. After years of extensive chemotherapy and radiation, the doctors said his cancer had finally gone into remission. Steven was elated when he heard the news that there would be no more spinal taps, no more bone marrow, and no more radiation.
With one chapter of his life over, another began. Steven received a basketball scholarship to attend Lindsay Wilson College in Kentucky. Then in 1993, he had a much larger calling. He went from Steven Kelsey to Officer Kelsey. Steven says the Lord called him to join the police department in Louisville so that he could be a part of that class that people look up to, "the person people call when they are in trouble."
In 1994, Officer Kelsey took on even more responsibility when he became pastor of his local church, and started attending mission trips around the globe. He says now some people on his beat even refer to him as the "hip-hop street preacher."
Today, Officer Kelsey responds to calls ranging from multiple homicides to simple accidents. He says that since 1997 he's handled many of the funerals for the very same homicide victims whose cases he's dealt with on the streets.
When he turned her over to give her CPR, he recognized her face.
The woman who'd been shot was Officer Kelsey's cousin.
He's also locked up 14 of Louisville's Most Wanted, and sometimes the bad guys simply call his church to surrender. "'I'm ready to turn myself in'" is what he hears from these offenders, says Kelsey. "I said, 'Now you know you call me as the preacher man, but I'm going to come lock you up as a police officer,' and they say, 'Yeah, we know.'"
One of Officer Kelsey's most recent captures was a man known on the street as "Cat Daddy." He was wanted by the locals and the U.S. Marshals because he allegedly shot a security guard. Officer Kelsey says he was at his church, on his day off, when he got a call from "Cat Daddy."
"I said, 'You know that we're looking for you,' and he said, 'Yes sir,' and I said, 'Here's what you need to do to turn yourself in to me'. I told him where to meet." Once Officer Kelsey got "Cat Daddy" safely in his car, he called his station to report the capture, and took this suspect in for booking.
"There's a trust factor, and they're ready to close this chapter, get it over with," Officer Kelsey said. Men in jail write him letters all the time, and many women and men come right off the streets to his church's front door to seek advice.
All of this is a result of the fact that Officer Kelsey has built a level of trust and respect on the streets. He says, "I see young men, and I address them as sir, and that usually catches them off guard." He belives that when people on the street feel you are being disrespectful, that's what causes them to hate you.
Sometimes, the cases Officer Kelsey encounters are personal. He was one of the first officers on the scene in 2006 when a pregnant woman was shot on the streets of Louisville, Kentucky. Officer Kelsey says he arrived to find the woman lying face down. When he turned her over to give her CPR, he recognized her face. The woman who'd been shot was Officer Kelsey's cousin.
Officer Kelsey didn't tell his bosses who she was until the next day so that it wouldn't compromise the investigation. He says that people have a tendency to act differently when it's personal. Sadly, his cousin died, and as of now, her murder is still unsolved.
On May 18, 2006, Officer Kelsey would be put to the test again. Investigators say it started when the landlord of a house in Louisville made an alarming discovery -- Earon Harper, a 41-year-old mom, and her 2-year-old daughter, Erica Hughes, had been shot. Officer Kelsey and his partner Officer Larry Riley raced to the scene, arriving just moments behind other investigators.
Over the radio, Kelsey said he heard an officer say, "We have one down, and we have a 2-year-old baby who appears to be shot multiple times." The investigators on the scene say they shined a light at 2-year-old Erica, and she replied, "Get the light out of my face!" and pushed the investigator's hand away.
Everyone on the scene was shocked, because they'd thought the child was dead. And if they didn't get medical attention for her soon, she still might not make it.
When Officers Kelsey and Riley arrived, their sergeant told them, "We got to get this baby out of the house."
The investigators scooped up baby Erica in their arms and went running for Officer Kelsey's car. Rain was pouring down, and the sidewalk was cracked and uneven. Every second counted if they were going to save the toddler's life. An EMT on the scene and another officer were able to jump in the back of Officer Kelsey's car, and Officer Riley got in the front with Kelsey.
"Fear was coming over me that this child might not make it," says Kelsey. Officer Kelsey wasn't the only father in the car that day; all of the men trying to save this 2-year-old's life were dads.
Just before Kelsey's car sped off to the hospital, the sergeant got on the radio and had other units block off intersections. Kelsey, driving as fast as he could, says he was touched by what he saw along the way. "As we were going down Broadway, the team effort, to see the streets blocked off, gave us... a sense of hope... we could possibly make it," says Kelsey.
"As I'm driving, and I'm looking over my shoulder, seeing what's going on, trying to watch, trying to listen, to see if she, if she is gone, or if she made it, and tears are coming down... just going down Broadway... my adrenaline was running, it was so high.. and I was pumped up. I had the gas petal pressed down as far as it would go."
At last, Officer Kelsey and his team made it to the hospital and raced baby Erica inside. Amazingly, they saved her life.
"I have a sign in my church that says TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK," says Kelsey, and on that day, it was clearly the teamwork that saved the baby's life. Kelsey says, "In my car we did high fives and were hugging each other. It was just awesome to know that we played a part in a situation that we didn't even know would get this big. We were just simply doing our job."
Baby Erica lived through the tragedy of being shot, but sadly, her mom, Earon Harper, died at the scene of the crime. Officer Kelsey, the man that helped to save Erica's life, also delivered the eulogy at Erica's mom's funeral.
Baby Erica was only in rehabilitation for six weeks before she was released. But even though the officers and the EMT did a great job that day, the case is still unsolved. Investigators need new leads to go on to bring justice to Erica and her mother.
Recently, AMW Correspondent Michelle Sigona, traveled to Louisville to see Officer Kelsey reunited with baby Erica at her grandmother's home.
Michelle says, "I cannot believe this baby was shot so many times, and she's able to speak, laugh, cry, and run around. Baby Erica is so loving, and aware of her surroundings. You can tell that she and Officer Kelsey have a unique connection. I am grateful for the afternoon I got to spend with such a phenomenal child."
Officer Kelsey, remembering the days when he was fighting for his own life, says: "We all have scars, it has nothing to do with where you're going, but they serve as a reminder, just so we can realize how far we have come." For now, Officer Kelsey says he is blessed to be a part of both law enforcement and religion, helping people in Louisville any way he can.
He encourages anyone with any information about the Harper shooting to submit their tip on www.amw.com or to give us a call at 1-800-CRIME-TV. Remember, you can remain anonymous.