Published on Wednesday, November 10, 2004
in the Jackson County Floridian
During an emotional ceremony held Tuesday morning in Marianna, three members of Florida Highway Patrol Troop "A," based in Jackson County, received the state's highest honor.
Accepting Medals of Valor for risking their lives in the line of duty were Sergeant J.D. Johnson, Corporal Rick Warden and Trooper Milton Brown.
Florida Highway Patrol Director Col. Christopher Knight called the members of Troop A "some of the finest personnel in the state." He said that over the past year six members of the unit have been named as "Trooper of the Month" for the State of Florida.
Knight said Brown would be receiving his second Medal of Valor, the first presented to him for pulling a motorist from a burning vehicle.
Johnson received his medal for being "instrumental in bringing a dangerous situation to a conclusion."
Knight said that on Dec. 27, 2002, Johnson staked out and subsequently pursued two armed bank robbery suspects in Jackson County. He said Johnson placed himself in imminent danger by continuing the pursuit he was under fire.
"One round came into the patrol car hitting right behind his head," the colonel told the crowd. He said one of the suspects took his own life and the other was captured.
"He is to be commended for his act of heroism," Knight said.
Johnson received a framed certificate for his "Personal Act of Heroism," a framed Medal of Valor and a Medal of Valor which was pinned on his uniform by his wife, Laurie.
Warden and Brown received their medals for their involvement in helping save the life of Bonifay Police Officer Stephen Lee. Lee responded to a call for assistance from someone at a Bonifay residence. The officer was shot by a subject at the residence who had an assault rifle. He called for help with Brown and Warden responding.
Knight said "both are credited with helping save Lee's life by placing themselves in great danger to assist their fellow officer."
When the call for help went out, Corp. Warden immediately responded and notified Brown by radio. Brown was near-by and responded as well, Knight said. Warden found Lee on the ground.
"The suspect was standing in his yard with an assault rifle aimed in his direction. Corp. Warden then placed his patrol car in between the suspect and the officer in order to protect him," Knight told those at the ceremony. Trooper Brown also arrived and placed his car in "a strategic location not far from Warden."
Brown then exited his vehicle with his shotgun and began working his way towards the front of the suspect's house via a ditch located on the opposite side of the street.
The suspect had retreated inside his house and "fired repeatedly at both officers," Knight said.
A tactical team arrived at the scene and fired gas into the residence. They found the suspect on the floor, "unresponsive."
Knight said the two troopers went above and beyond the call of duty.
Brown and Warden each received a framed certificate for a "Personal Act of Heroism," a framed Medal of Valor and a Medal of Valor. Brown's wife, Genevelyn, and Warden's wife, Sherry, each pinned the medal on their husband's uniform.
Lee and his parents, Cindy and Ronald Lee, were present for the ceremony.
"If it had not been for them being there, things would have ended a lot different," Lee said. "I will never be able to repay them." He said by the time the two troopers arrived he was "pretty well out of it" because of his wounds. Lee said there is a bond between the three of them that will never be broken.
Warden, a 23-year veteran of FHP, said he had spent a lot of time wondering "where I am and what I was doing" and that he has realized that "something is in control that is a lot bigger than me."
He gave credit to a "higher power." "Because of that, Stephen is still with us. That day changed my life," he said.
Brown, a 20-year veteran of FHP, also gave credit to a higher power for his being in Bonifay on the day Lee was shot and needed help.
"There were so many things at work," he explained. The trooper was supposed to be at home, he said. The two officers had worked a traffic fatality with Warden heading to Bonifay to make a death announcement. Brown said something told him he needed to go with Warden.
"I just felt an urging that I needed to go. That's why I happened to be there that day," Brown explained. "I did not have to go, but just felt like I needed to. Now I know where that urging came from."
Johnson, a 21-year FHP veteran, said he feels great about the honor.
"It is nice to be recognized by your peers," he said. He said he does his job "not just to protect the people of the State of Florida, but those in the community where I live." He said there are a "limited number of officers" to respond to a call.
"I go to see what the Highway Patrol can do to assist," he added.
All three troopers expressed that they were simply doing their job.
"You try to do what is safe and right for the the citizens of Florida," Johnson said.
Medal of Valor Honorees