Ben Russell, NBC 5 News
The Fort Worth Police Department on Friday formally recognized the heroic actions of restaurant owner Mike Smith who used the Heimlich maneuver to save the life of an officer earlier this week.
The Fort Worth Police Department on Friday formally recognized the heroic actions of a restaurant owner who used the Heimlich maneuver to save the life of an officer earlier this week.
The incident occurred when Officer Tyler York, a five-year veteran of the department, stopped at the Paris Coffee Shop for a last-minute lunch shortly before 2 p.m. Tuesday.
The restaurant, a Fort Worth institution at the corner of Hemphill Street and West Magnolia Avenue, only serves breakfast and lunch and closes at 2:30 p.m.
York was in a hurry, but also has to carefully chew his food because he's still recovering from losing several teeth in a softball accident earlier this year.
York, 31, ordered the Tuesday Special -- beef tips and steamed rice, along with a serving of mashed potatoes on the side. He gingerly chewed a few bites when he started choking.
"The panic was tremendous," he said. "I couldn't breathe."
He fought for air for about 45 seconds.
Mike Smith, owner of the Paris Coffee Shop for the past 48 years, stepped in to help.
"I heard him in distress, and I knew he was in trouble, so I jumped up as soon as I could and I ran back here," he said.
York said about two dozen people were in the restaurant, but the only person to come to his aid before Smith was another employee who made a failed attempt at the Heimlich maneuver.
But Smith confidently stepped up and administered the Heimlich maneuver, York said.
"I jumped in and did the Heimlich maneuver on him like I'm supposed to," Smith said. "And I was afraid [with] my size I was going to break his ribs, but I just wanted to make sure he got it out so he could breathe."
Smith said he has witnessed two other choking incidents in his nearly half century of owning the shop.
In front of Friday's lunch crowd, Fort Worth Police Chief Jeffrey Halstead presented Smith with an official plaque thanking him for his quick thinking.
The plaque reads:
"For providing extraordinary service and effort to save the life of a Fort Worth Police Officer, T. York, on August 7, 2013."
"Mike, you're a hero. Thank you," Halstead said before a round of applause filled the restaurant.
"It stresses the fact that all of us can be engaged in a life-saving effort," Halstead told NBC 5. "You never know; that life you save could be a loved one, could be a family member, could be a police officer."
Smith said he is proud to accept the honor.
"It's a very nice surprise," he said.
The plaque will soon have a place on the restaurant's wall, alongside the dozens of photographs of celebrities and athletes who have dined there and the decades-old photos of customers.
Smith now has a new customer for life.
"I just want to thank him again for saving my life," York said. "He went above and beyond the call of duty to save an officer's life when nobody else would, and I appreciate that 1,000 times. I can't say it enough."