Man Dubbed Local Hero Laid To Rest - NBC4: Columbus, Ohio News, Weather, and Sports (WCMH-TV)

Man Dubbed Local Hero Laid To Rest

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A man who is being called a local hero was honored Thursday after he died trying to save a 5-year-old boy who fell into an apartment complex pond.

James "Russell" Jenkins died trying to save Elijah Walker from an icy pond in a southeast Columbus apartment complex on February 7.

Jenkins died at the hospital Thursday night after being in the water for nearly 60 minutes. Walker died at Nationwide Children's Hospital on Sunday.

Columbus police officers escorted the procession from Jenkins' funeral to the church at 9 a.m. Thursday. Visitation hours were scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Messiah Lutheran Church on Waggoner Road. The funeral began at 12 p.m. Thursday. He will be taken to Gary, Ind. for burial.

Jenkins' family members said they are overwhelmed at the support they've received since his death.

"He was awesome. He was my best friend. He earned his wings, too," said Edmund Cox. "He lived his life the way he talked about it. We all did music together, and he was a stand-up guy."

"We're going to be together. I know where he is. I know where he is, so it's all well," said Walter Jenkins II, Russell's father. "Fear is always going to be there, son. But you have to learn how to put it in your back pocket and go forth, whatever it is. At the time he was dealing with bullying at school, you know. I said, 'You gotta stand up for yourself, so put that fear in your back pocket.'"

The first responders say they are treating his funeral like that of a fallen brother.

"What an example he is, an example for all of us to follow, to help a stranger, a Samaritan, a perfect story, a great story, and it's a great person who did this," said Columbus police Lt. Dave Hughes.

Witnesses say Jenkins did all he could to try and save the boy's life. He held his head above the water as they both struggled in the icy water.

Officer Christopher Smith-Hughes also dove into the water the night Jenkins died. The last sign he saw of Jenkins was of him treading water, himself submerged, but holding Walker's head above the water.

"There's things I learned that day. I actually got to see a hero in action, and I attempted to emulate some of that, and I always will remember this day, and that day," Smith-Hughes said. "That's a hero. I mean, I don't know what other words to say but hero. His acts were heroic."

"We're honored to be here today to do this, to show the respect we can for this hero. This good Samaritan is an absolute hero and role model for all of us," Hughes said.

"He was a brave soul, a valiant guy, just somebody who gave his heart, his all, to save the life of a child," Smith-Hughes said.

One of the officers who jumped into the icy water gave a eulogy at the funeral.

All officers and a firefighter who jumped into the water were present at the services.

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