The three men who were with slain Clayton County Sheriff's Deputy Rick Daly the day he was shot were honored Tuesday night with the Medal of Valor during the department's first awards ceremony in at least 25 years.
Investigators Justin Mitchell and Jimmy Black, and Daly's partner, Minh Doan, were lauded for their valiant efforts during the July 20 shooting. Sheriff Kem Kimbrough said the three showed bravery above and beyond the call of duty.
";They didn't make the ultimate sacrifice but they carry the hurt, they carry the doubt, a lot of wishes they could have done something more without recognizing they did better than anyone could have,"; said Kimbrough. ";Justin Mitchell was actually in his first week with the Fugitive Squad and went to Deputy Daly's side. Deputy Doan was with Rick in his final moments. He stood by his side.";
Mitchell and Black had tracked down fugitive Johnathan Bun, 17, and called for a marked unit to assist in taking Bun into custody. Doan and Daly responded. Police said Bun exited the car firing at Daly, hitting him outside the area of his bulletproof vest. Doan returned fire and Black called for help on the radio while chasing Bun, who continued shooting, into the woodline.
Bun eluded capture for about five hours. He is being held without bond on murder and other charges in the Henry County Jail.
";I can't think of anything more they could have done,"; said Kimbrough. ";I truly believe all of us, if we found ourselves in that situation, would comport ourselves in that fashion.";
Daly's family attended the presentation but did not address the audience.
The ceremony was held at the Griswell Senior Center in Jonesboro. Chief Deputy Garland Watkins said it is the first time awards have been given by the department in the 25 years he's worked there.
";We want to magnify what these officers have done,"; said Watkins. ";In years past, we have failed to give officers the recognition they deserve.";
Kimbrough, who took office in January 2009, agreed the awards were long overdue.
";I wish we could recognize each and every deputy, but we are constrained by resources and circumstances to always make that happen,"; he said. ";I'd like to acknowledge the contribution you make every day. Everyone who wears a uniform and a badge, you make a difference.";
Kimbrough recognized deputy Sgt. Grace Taylor for being the first jail officer in the state to pass the American Jail Association test. Taylor scored 166 out of 175, the highest score during the test session, he said.
";She's had challenges but she's remained steadfast,"; said Kimbrough. ";She's bounced back from all her trials and tribulations.";
Deputy Robert Williams received the Sheriff's Star for saving the life of a driver who had a seizure while on I-75 in August 2009.
";He placed his life at risk to save that driver,"; said Kimbrough. ";Whenever he's asked about it, he just says, 'I was just doing my job.'";
Deputies Terry Evans, Isaac Britt, Josette Raymond, Sgt. Desmond Coleman and Sgt. Kathy King got the Star because they helped save the life of a teacher who tried to commit suicide. Evans was working as a School Resource Officer when a teacher told him she was concerned about a teacher at another school. Instead of letting her concerns go unchecked, Evans and the four others went to the teacher's house and found she'd tried to kill herself.
";If they had not taken the extra steps, this young lady would have lost her life,"; said Kimbrough. ";They kept on, followed that intuition. That's heroism.";
Jail Officer Galo Cruz received the Star for saving the life of an inmate who tried to hang himself.
";He put the inmate's life and safety before his own,"; said Kimbrough. ";He lifted the inmate up to take the pressure off his neck. Lo and behold, we had a life saved. Officers are still human and he followed his instincts to save a life.";