'Why we do what we do': Perry Police see outpouring of community support after chief wounded in shooting

Allison Ullmann
Perry Chief
Perry Det. Josh Sienkiewicz talks with Brenda Swigert and Vicki Klein during the Perry Police Appreciation Day on Monday, May 16 in the Perry Hy-Vee parking lot.

The Perry community has come out in force to support its police department, especially Chief Eric Vaughn, who sustained a gunshot wound to his upper thigh last week.

“It’s shocking news right off the bat,” said Perry Hy-Vee Store Manager Nate Brokaw. "Your first instinct is, what can we do to help?"

And so Perry Police Appreciation Day was held Monday in the Hy-Vee parking lot.

Support for Vaughn and the Perry Police Department swelled soon after the shooting, with community members posting on Facebook and sending or delivering cards, flowers, food and more to the police station. Brokaw said the Perry Hy-Vee store first came up with the idea of donating a portion of sales from specially decorated baked goods to the Perry Police Department.

Steve Frazer, owner of Totally Rolled Ice Cream, reached out, as did St. Patrick's Catholic Church. Hy-Vee set up a grill. Hy-Vee and Totally Rolled each donated 25% of their proceeds from the event to the Perry Police Department.

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Tables filled with cinnamon rolls at 3 p.m. were empty within an hour, every package sold. St. Patrick's donated all of the proceeds from sales of their baked goods to the police department.

Perry Det. Josh Sienkiewicz shakes hands with community member Donna Royer during the Perry Police Appreciation Day on Monday, May 16 in the Perry Hy-Vee parking lot.

“It’s been great how it’s all kind of snowballed into this,” Brokaw said while looking around at all of the community members gathered Monday. “This just speaks volumes of how great the community is.”

The outpouring of support from the Perry and surrounding communities has been appreciated by the police department. “It means everything to me," Vaughn said. "It kind of gives validation for what I’ve been doing for the last 28 years.” 

Vaughn started in law enforcement in Denison in 1994 before moving to Perry in 1997. He served as a patrolman for about a year and then served in the canine department. He was promoted to assistant chief in 2006 and has served as chief since 2014. 

From left, Perry Det. Josh Sienkiewicz, Perry Hy-Vee Store Manager Nate Brokaw and Perry Officer Jordan Berry, chat during the Perry Police Appreciation Day on Monday, May 16 in the Perry Hy-Vee parking lot.

While members of the Perry Police Department have sustained injuries over the years, from shoulder to hand or leg injuries, Vaughn wasn’t aware of anyone having been shot.

Vaughn, Perry police officers and Dallas County Sheriff’s deputies were involved in a "rolling standoff" with a man suspected of shooting out the back window of a vehicle in Perry on May 10.

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Jeremiah Messner has been charged with attempted murder, possession of a firearm by a prohibited person, going armed with intent and trafficking stolen weapons, all felonies. A preliminary hearing has been set for Friday, May 20.

Vaughn sustained a single gunshot wound to the upper thigh during the standoff and was transported by air ambulance to a hospital in Des Moines before being released the next day.

From left, Perry Det. Josh Sienkiewicz, Perry Hy-Vee Store Manager Nate Brokaw, Perry Officer Jordan Berry, Hy-Vee District Store Director JJ Hesnard and Totally Rolled Ice Cream Owner Steve Frazer pose for a photo during the Perry Police Appreciation Day on Monday, May 16 in the Perry Hy-Vee parking lot.

“I think the biggest thing I can say about that is the great response. We were assisted there by the sheriff’s office and the state patrol. Their work that day helped us resolve this issue as quickly and safely as we could,” Vaughn said. “My injury was an unfortunate circumstance of that, but all of the officers were doing a great job. We were all working to try and resolve this peacefully, without anybody getting hurt any further.”

Vaughn also thanked the EMS and LifeFlight crews, as well as Mercy Medical Center staff.

“I can’t say enough about the care that I had after my injury. It’s just incredible,” he said.

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The same goes for the level of support shown by businesses, organizations and individuals for the Perry Police Department.

“It’s been incredible. From messages on Facebook to cards to balloons and flowers,” Vaughn said. “Cards come everyday in the mail; people are organizing fundraisers, from yard signs to the event at Hy-Vee, it’s just incredible.”

Perry Police Officer Jordan Berry chats with Perry Police Chief Eric Vaughn during the Perry Police Appreciation Day on Monday, May 16 in the Perry Hy-Vee parking lot.

Tiffany Olejniczak saw the supportive comments posted by community members on Facebook and wanted to find a way for people to continue to show their support. She reached out to Graphics2U about organizing a fundraiser. She then posted on the Perry Iowa Community Facebook page to see how many would be interested in purchasing yard signs in support of the Perry Police Department.

“I was hopeful there would be a lot of support, but I wasn’t totally sure until the comments on my post really started blowing up,” Olejniczak said.

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She initially ordered 200 yard signs and 50 window decals and more can be ordered as needed. The yard signs and decals will be available next week, and Olejniczak plans to post where they will be sold on the Perry Iowa Community Facebook page. The yard signs will be sold for a minimum donation of $20 while the decals will be $5, with proceeds going to the Perry Peace Officers Association.

“This will be a longer lasting visual of support while at the same time raising some funds for equipment for the police department,” Olejniczak said.

Vaughn said that all of the proceeds from the various fundraisers will go towards the police officers association for equipment purchases. 

From left, Kerry Royer, Susan Andrews, Perry Det. Josh Sienkiewicz and Janice Summerson pose during the Perry Police Appreciation Day on Monday, May 16 in the Perry Hy-Vee parking lot.

“I’m not sure what we’ll use those funds for. We’ll make those decisions down the road, maybe to purchase new body cameras or maybe a new speed sign — but something that we can use every day that can continue to help our community and help us do our jobs,” Vaughn said.

For now, Vaughn and members of the Perry Police Department are thankful to see the support from the community.

“We, myself and the other officers, that’s why we do what we do to help out the community. You don’t always see that appreciation but this past week, we’ve seen so much appreciation for the job that we all do every day,” Vaughn said. “I’ve built some great relationships with people in the community, in and outside of work, but you really see that support now when you need it. It means a lot. It helps my spirits a lot and keeps me going.”