Officer Victor Ortiz (NJ Transit Police Department)
Officer Victor Ortiz (NJ Transit Police Department)

A New Jersey Transit police officer who saved a man from the train tracks in Secaucus — with just a second to spare before a train barreled down — said he was just doing his job to protect and serve.

Officer Victor Ortiz, a 16-year-veteran of the force, said he was working an extra two hours to cover vacations when an agitated, unmedicated Alan Jefferson, 56, of Elizabeth got off a train in an angry state, ran down the platform and jumped onto the tracks yelling "I'm not going to jail" repeatedly.

As Ortiz chased him, Jefferson jumped onto the tracks

"I radioed ahead to stop the train" heading their way, Ortiz said. He tried pulling Jefferson off the tracks, but Jefferson just started to shout "I just want to die" repeatedly, Ortiz said.

Ortiz said Jefferson held tight to the rail as the officer struggled to pull the man off the rails.  At one point, Ortiz thought he would have to let him go — because he thought "this guy's gonna take me with him."

Ortiz said he told Jefferson "you're not going to die," and with one mighty pull yanked Jefferson off the tracks in the knick of time as the train sped down the rails and then came to a halt.

"It was an amazing feat," Ortiz said.

Ortiz said Jefferson reminded him of Michael Clarke Duncan's character in "The Green Mile" — at about 6 feet, 2 inches and 290 pounds. Once Jefferson was hospitalized, Ortiz said, Jefferson calmed down, thanked him and apologized for his action at the station.

"He explained that he believed that if he went to jail he would die without his meds," Ortiz said.

Jefferson of Elizabeth is charged with one count aggravated assault on police officer, two counts of resisting arrest, one count interference with transportation and one count of disorderly conduct. He was in the Hudson County jail pending a hearing on Monday.

Ortiz said that his wife and 13-year-old daughter were "super proud" of him. Ortiz said his daughter told him that he's always been a hero to her.

Ortiz was scheduled to work until 7 a.m. on Friday but earned an extra 2 hours of overtime covering for vacation because of "manpower constraints."

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