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Local law enforcement honored with Valor Awards

By Shiann Sivell

The LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce presented its 2021 Valor Awards to several public service individuals Thursday evening at Great Wolf Lodge.

As the chamber commended the individuals for their bravery and dedication to their community, the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack weighed heavily on the minds of those in attendance.

“Probably everybody here can remember where you were when you heard the news,” said Chris Carr, Georgia’s attorney general, who served as the keynote speaker for the event. “One of the things that will stick with me are the images of that day. Not just of buildings burning and the Pentagon [being on] fire, but the images of firefighters entering the building, police officers standing on the street … those images are forever seared into my mind.”

Carr reminded attendees of the recent passing of James Wade, an EMT who was killed on Interstate 85 earlier this week while assisting an injured car crash victim.

“You put your life on the line for us, and some of us will never know exactly the countless acts and unsung acts of heroism and daily sacrifices you make on our behalf,” he said.

Shining Star Award

West Point Fire Department’s Chief Milton Smith was the recipient of the Shining Star Award, which is awarded to an individual who has made exceptional contributions in both professional and personal endeavors over an extended period of time for those to follow.

With a career spanning 34 years, Smith started off as a volunteer before transitioning to a firefighter, a lieutenant, a captain, an assistant fire chief and finally a chief. In his spare time, he serves in several organizations and as a deacon at his church. He has also spearheaded an EMS training program in addition to putting into place a paramedic training agreement with LaGrange College. 

Medal of Merit Award

The LaGrange Police Department’s Marcus Horne was awarded the Medal of Merit Award for his commitment to education and outreach in the community. Horne works as a resource officer for Garder Newnan Middle School.

Lifesaving Award

The Troup County Fire Department’s Capt. Rusty Brown, Firefighter/EMT Eric Rogers and volunteer firefighter Jason Cadenhead were the recipients of the Lifesaving Award, which is given to a public safety official or unit for their valor during a life-threatening event.

The three responded to a house fire where an individual was still inside. The person was trapped inside, and one of them went through a window to get to the victim as the other responders accessed the fire outside and inside the residence. As the house fell around the firefighters, the firefighter inside quickly got the individual out, saving her life.

Public Safety Person of the Year

LaGrange Police Department Detective Jason Duncan was the recipient of the Public Safety Person of the Year Award, which is awarded to an individual who has performed their job with exceptional skills, expertise and results.

In one case, Duncan was investigating an entering auto case and received visual evidence from video cameras and a description of the suspect. Duncan eventually made contact with a suspect who matched the description they were looking for, and he was able to match him with 36 other incidents.

Using technology and his own expert attention to detail, Duncan was able to solve various other crimes, including a murder.

Public Safety Unit of the Year

The LaGrange Police Department’s Lt. Mark Cavender and Sgt. William Nelson were awarded the Public Safety Unit of the Year for their investigation in the case of a man who was serving time in prison for a crime he did not commit.

The team worked tirelessly to reinvestigate the 40-year case and located new evidence to assist them with proclaiming the individual’s innocence.

Communication Person of the Year

Troup County 911’s Shannan McLaughlin was awarded the Communication Person of the Year award for her assistance in helping a woman who had given birth in an isolated location. McLaughlin was able to help the woman with her medical needs all while assisting the EMTs in pinpointing the woman’s location.

Medal of Valor – Bronze

The LaGrange’s Fire Department’s Deputy Chief Willie Bradfield, Lt. Troy Reynolds, Sgt. Sean Guerrero, firefighter Caleb Alldredge, Lt. Caleb Harrison. Sgt. Andrew McNeil and firefighter Brandon King were awarded the bronze medal of valor due to their complex assistance in saving a passenger from an overturned car accident.

Using careful procession and various resources, the unit managed to free the passenger from the car, which had fallen several feet off a bridge, and flown safely to the hospital.

Medal of Valor – Silver

Troup County Sheriff’s Offices Investigator Jamie White was awarded the silver medal of valor for his work in disarming a suspect who would not put down his gun. Officers fired shots at the suspect to protect themselves, and the suspect fell into a lake. White subsequently went into the water to attempt lifesaving measures.

Medal of Valor – Gold

Georgia State Patrol Trooper First Class Brian Harman was awarded the highest medal of valor due to his courage during a dangerous pursuit.

Harman pursued a suspect who had a gun and a woman locked in the car with him. The suspect crashed his car into a ramp but continued to attempt to flee, forcing Harman to use his own car to push the suspect’s car out of the roadway and thus protect other drivers. While the woman of the car managed to escape, the suspect stayed in the car and held a gun to his head. Harman stepped forward to reason with the suspect and subsequently used his taser to stop him from causing harm bodily harm to himself or anyone else.

Richard English Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award

The recipient of the new award was Troup County Marshal Chief Lonza Edmonson, who has served the county in various capacities for over 30 years.

English’s sister, Rosalind, and her husband, Kenneth, helped present the award along with Commissioner Chairman Patrick Crews.