PERRY — Jeremy Gass was tired and ready to head home to see his dog, Mia, after a 12-hour shift.
The Perry police officer didn't know what trouble was brewing within when arrived at his house next to the Perry Airport at 6 a.m. Dec. 30.
Gass, 30, said thick black smoke hit him in the face when he cracked open the door.
He returned to his patrol car to call for help and then ran inside the house, looking for his dog.
By the time he found her, it was too late.
“She's all that I could think about because she's what I have,” Gass said. “I would go through everything again just to have her back. I kept coming back out for air and running back in again.”
Gass said he cradled Mia and went outside as the fire overtook the house. He watched the house burn to the ground with all of his possessions inside.
“It was tough,” Gass said. “Now I'm just trying to put the pieces back together. You have to move on.”
Perry Police Chief Brian Thomas said Gass is a good guy and has been a dedicated officer for the past four years.
He didn't even have a toothbrush, Thomas said, but the community has rallied around him.
“He's just taking it all in, but he's doing well,” the chief said. “Lots of support from the community and people just sent him everything from clothing to pots and pans, anything to help get him going again.”
Fire investigators said they are unsure what started the fire, which Gass said makes the situation more frustrating.
Supporters set up an Officer Gass Relief Fund at Exchange Bank in Perry for donations. Gass said it's tough for him to seek help from people.
As an officer, he feels like he should be the one helping others, he said.
“It's hard to even let people help because that's what I do for my job,” Gass said. “I don't want anyone to see me like this. The support has been great, and you realize how much you really need help and friends when you're down.”
Gass said he's staying with a friend in town while he looks for a new place to live. He might return to work this week if a twisted ankle he suffered in the fire is healed.
When he does return, Gass said he will remember all the good will shown to him and try to pay it forward.
“It's something I'll use for the rest of my life as far as my job goes,” Gass said. “That understanding and being there for others, it really does make a difference.”
It's something I'll use for the rest of my life as far as my job goes. That understanding and being there for others, it really does make a difference.”
Perry police officer