A Twin Cities police officer saved a toddler’s life 16 years ago and this year the two were reunited.
Frank Roth retired from the Brooklyn Center Police Department in 2015, where he had supervised the crisis negotiation unit for the last 20 years of his career.
On May 26, 2007, he and a few other officers responded to a domestic call in an apartment building that quickly escalated to an Amber Alert situation.
The officers walked into the building to see a young woman lying in a pool of blood. Savannah Stevens had been stabbed nearly 80 times by her boyfriend, Jermaine Dickerson. Roth and two other officers kept Stevens alive until the paramedics came. She later died in a hospital.
Kim Potter was a domestic response officer for the police department and she had met Stevens just the day before. Stevens had visited the department wanting information on protection orders and possibly pressing charges for domestic violence. She had two young children with her. Sadly, Stevens said she’d think about it all through the weekend, but it was too late.
When Potter informed Roth that there should be two children in the apartment, a two-year-old and a six-year-old girl, the case escalated immediately.
“It really was an evolving situation,” Roth told Liz Collin on her podcast this week.
The officers tracked Dickerson to a relative’s apartment, then to his grandmother’s house — where he left the six-year-old girl — and then to his aunt’s house, where he stole a truck and took the two-year-old, Tianna, with him.
“He had made references that he didn’t want to live anymore and Tianna wasn’t gonna live anymore either, and that was the first time that we caught wind of the threats for the suicide and for Tianna’s safety,” Roth said.
They could attach the stolen truck to Dickerson, so an Amber Alert went out.
“We started getting hits on it right away, and then one of our officers came on the radio that he was chasing a vehicle,” he said.
The officer was chasing Dickerson in the stolen truck, and when Dickerson reached the eastbound bridge over the Mississippi River on 694 in Fridley, he pulled over and jumped out. He swung both legs over the side of the bridge and held Tianna in his arms.
Roth and a few other negotiations officers arrived on the scene, and Roth took over the conversation from the cop who had chased Dickerson.
“First I started talking with Jermaine, let’s slow this down, let’s take a step back here, let’s breathe, let’s make some rational decisions,” Roth explained. “It was trying different things to see if there was anything I could say or do that would get a reaction with something you could build on.”
The baby had been crying, and Roth offered a tissue, which Dickerson took to wipe her tears. A “minor breakthrough,” according to Roth.
“I really felt like this was going to be successful,” he said. “He wanted to know how Savannah was … and he wanted to go see her. So that became the most important thing to him at that time, and obviously the most important thing to us was getting Tianna out of his arms.”
Roth told Dickerson he would take him to see Savannah if he would hand over Tianna.
“And lo and behold, he did, he released Tianna to me, and I in turn gave her to her grandmother and two other officers,” he said. Then he got Dickerson off the bridge and handcuffed him.
“You have to be professional, but it was kind of a big deal,” Roth said. “It was very rewarding. It was rewarding for all the officers that were involved. We had just been to a homicide scene.”
In today’s society, it’s a dark time to be a police officer, but Roth said most cops just want to “make a difference.”
“The officers right now are good officers, they’re good people, and that story doesn’t get told. It takes stuff like this where people can realize that cops do some good things,” he said.
A reunion years in the making
This past spring, Tianna Brickman’s adoptive family tracked down Roth after 16 years to thank him for saving her life. Roth was able to meet Brickman, an “incredible” time, he said.
“She had a lot of questions about the day,” Roth recalled. “I shared as much information with her as I could, and let her know that her mother was strong and cared about her.”
He continued, “It was remarkable, it was very touching … I hope that her dreams come true.”
Brickman joined Liz Collin to give a brief update on her life. She was adopted by two loving parents, has five siblings, lives in North Carolina, and is going to school to be a nurse.
She is outspoken about domestic violence and wants people to know they can get help in whatever situation they are in.
“Looking at this story, that it could help more people get help, not just stay in the same situation, otherwise things happen to you, to your family, to others around you,” she said.
She credits Frank Roth with saving her life.
“I just think that it was great that he was there and he could say all the right things [to Dickerson],” she said.