COPLEY TOWNSHIP, Ohio — A decision by a Copley school resource officer to poke his head into the cafeteria may have saved the life of sixth-grade boy.
Out of the corner of his eye, Officer Ben Campbell saw 11-year-old Ashton Smith jump up during lunch on Monday and realized the 11-year-old was choking.
"At first, I thought he was horsing around with his friends, but he ran straight to me and did the universal choking sign around his neck," Campbell recalled. "I saw the fear in his eyes."
The boy told News 5 he was talking and laughing with friends when he suddenly started choking on a cheese stick.
"In my mind, I was like, 'Oh my Gosh, I'm about to die. I'm about to die,'" Ashton said. "I couldn't breathe. It was like really stuck. I was thinking about getting water and I just saw him."
Ashton darted towards the officer who quickly performed the Heimlich maneuver four to five times, and then did several palm strikes on the student's upper back before the piece of food came out.
"And when he hit it — at the last second — he hit it as hard as he could and I felt it come out of my throat," Ashton said.
"He cried for a minute. I took a good, deep breath. It was traumatic for all of us," Campbell added.
It may have been fate that the veteran cop was in position to save the boy. Normally, he works at Copley High School, but he was asked to do a "walk-through" at the middle school on Monday because another school resource officer was off.
On Tuesday, the cop and the kid reunited outside of the school and hugged. Ashton's father, Jaime Smith, personally thanked the officer and said he now considers Campbell to be a member of his family.
"When it comes to your kids, it's everything," Jaime Smith said. "You always want them to be safe and happy and if you don't have those things, then what do you got?"
The boy's father also feels a higher power played a role in the rescue.
"Leave that to the big man," he said while pointing to the sky. "That's all I got to say because he was there that day. That's for sure."
Copley Middle School Associate Principal Dyan Floyd presented Campbell with a certificate of bravery and heroism for saving the student.
"I know he's going to hate this, but I do think it's heroic. He just went into action," Floyd said.
It wasn't the first time the quick-thinking officer potentially saved lives.
In 2011, Campbell shot and killed an active shooter in Copley Township who killed seven people, including three children.
Campbell and another officer spotted the shooter, 51-year-old Michael Hance, leaving a home.
Hance ignored commands to drop his weapon and pointed the gun at the officers before they returned fire. Hance died at the scene.
Campbell didn't consider his actions in 2011 heroic and doesn't believe he was a hero when he saved the choking boy.
"I don't know what it is about me. I'm just an Irish cop and this is what I do," Campbell said.
But to Ashton and his family, the officer will always be their personal hero.
"If he wasn't there, then I would have passed away. I would have died," Ashton said.