Lt. Jeff Neville: Airport attacker 'picked the wrong airport'

FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - "Between me and Rich at first, and then the chief, and then Lt. Owen from the fire department jumping in, I mean, we pulled together," Lt. Jeff Neville explained the moment of the heinous attack at Bishop International Airport June 21.

"That guy was up against more than what he thought he was up against, you know. Really. He picked the wrong airport," Neville said.

He's being hailed a hero and was treated as such in Fenton during the annual Fourth of July parade.

ABC12 in Flint sat down with Neville at Leo's Coney Island in Fenton. He was with Concern Over Police Safety (COPS) founder Herman Ferguson. They were treated to a meal by owner Jason Hussein.

"Don't forget the maintenance worker who was with me, Richard Krul, because that guy's a hero," Neville said when being called a hero. "I wear a uniform and I wear a vest, and I wear a gun. He doesn't wear that stuff, and he still pulled that guy off me so I could turn around and do my little part."

Lt. Neville says the man who stabbed him in the neck took him by surprise.

"Anybody that knows me -- I don't think there's any of us that would've quit in that situation. You always like to think you know how you'll respond, but until you're in that exact encounter you don't know how to respond," he explained. "So I just responded, I mean, I just thought about stopping him, controlling him, containing him, that's all. People ask, you know, 'Geez, why didn't you pull your gun?' They don't understand. It was a matter of 10 seconds."

His participation in the parade happened thanks to a hospital visit from Ferguson. He wanted to take him a COPS shirt and bracelet. Little did he know, Neville already had one. The two only met roughly one week ago.

Ferguson has been handing out the bracelets to police chiefs and officers in several states for the past two years. Neville wore his all the time, and he had it on during the attack.

"I remember when I was on the ground and I was on all fours, and there was a lot of blood. And, I remember there was a lot of blood. Now keep in mind my St. Christopher medal was broken off when they took my vest off. My Fit Bit got cut by the EMTs. It was gone," Neville said. "This thing [referencing COPS bracelet] is still here, and I'm looking down at it thinking 'Hmm,' you know. And, I'm in the ambulance. I'm looking at it. It's not even nicked."

Neville says he counts his survival as a blessing.

"I'm blessed. This is not luck. You know, I mean, this is mere...this far [describing how close the knife was to a main artery], and I'm gone."

While he still has to heal completely, this hero's humor is not dampened one bit.

"Good, really good. I don't shave (laughter). But, no, I'm fine. I'm fine. I go to the doctor later in the week and he'll probably start to take some stitches out, and we'll go from there," he said.

Neville retired from the Genesee County Sheriff's Office in 1999 and started working at the airport in 2001. He says, if anything, this has taught him to be more aware of his surroundings.

He is planning to eventually go back to work at the airport.

You can learn more about COPS by emailing Herman Ferguson at herm.ferguson72@yahoo.com.