Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office honored for bravery and exceptional police work

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A photo from POAM's website of some of the honorees from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's office.

It was a day in September 2020, when shots were fired and a deputy was wounded that led to the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office having some of its deputies and a dispatcher being recognized for their outstanding bravery in the line of duty.

On Sept. 3, at its annual convention, the Police Officers Association of Michigan (POAM) announced the 2021 POAM Police Officers of the Year. 

This, according to the POAM, came after a process of carefully selecting the officers who have exhibited bravery and selflessness, and have gone above and beyond the call of duty to serve and protect.

Sheriff’s deputies Jeremy Ross, Jesse Smith, Brian Webb, Jesse Beever, and Michael Hogan of Washtenaw County were honored as Police Officers of the Year. Deputies Joseph Ballard and Thomas Guynes of Washtenaw County were honored with the Distinguished Service Award.

Denise Raich of Washtenaw County was honored with the Dispatcher of Year Award.

Officer Philip Beasley of Eastern Michigan University was also honored with the Distinguished Service Award.

The following is the account of that day in September 2020, put together by the POAM for the awards ceremony:

On September 16, 2020, midday, Washtenaw County Central Dispatcher Denise Raich received a call from an anxious neighbor reporting that shots were coming from his neighbor’s home and that he had sustained significant damage to his house already. The caller wanted to leave his home, but Dispatcher Raich advised him to stay in the home as it was not known where the shots were coming from. At this point, neither Dispatcher Raich nor the officers involved, realize that this would turn into an armed stand-off that would last almost nine hours.

After receiving the call, Dispatcher Raich sent Washtenaw County Deputies Jesse Smith and Jeremy Ross to the run. With the use of the internet Raich was able to pinpoint the location of the suspect’s home. Deputy Ross arrived just as Dispatcher Raich relayed this information to him. At the time of his arrival there were no shots fired, so Deputy Ross attempted to confirm he had the correct residence. The address was confirmed, and it turned out the suspect was standing on his porch. As Deputy Ross made his way to the porch the suspect went inside and closed the door.

At this time Deputy Smith reported to Dispatcher Raich that he had arrived on the scene. As Deputy Smith started to make his way diagonally across the parking lot toward Deputy Ross shots were fired and Deputy Smith was hit by gun fire. Deputy Smith fell to the ground and began to crawl to the side of a car in front of a residence for cover.

Deputy Ross immediately ran to Deputy Smith to check his condition. The suspect continued to shoot toward the Deputies from the second story window. There were bullets striking the ground all around the officers. Deputy Ross reached Deputy Smith and also sought cover behind the car. They immediately situated themselves for better protection. Deputy Smith had sustained a frontal wound through his chest and out his back. Even under fire and injured, Deputy Smith continued with Deputy Ross to keep the shooter confined to his location. All the while Dispatcher Raich heard what was going on went on and in her own words, went on “autopilot” to coordinate movements to make sure the deputies were in a safe position as the situation escalated.

Deputy Michael Hogan and Eastern Michigan University Officer Philip Beasley were working plain clothes nearby and heard Deputy Smith on the radio saying shots were fired and that he had been hit. Hogan and Beasley responded immediately and were the first backup unit on the scene. Both Deputy Hogan and Officer Beasley exposed themselves to cover Ross and Smith as they retreated. Beasley then covered Hogan as Hogan assisted Smith with first aid all while Deputy Hogan directed units where to respond to keep the arriving backup out of the line of fire.

When Sergeant Beever arrived on the scene he stayed in the woods behind the complex for concealment as he moved forward. Sergeant Beever came out of the woods adjacent to where Deputies Ross and Smith were. Protected from gunfire Sergeant Beever also helped cover the vulnerable deputies.

Deputy Joseph Ballard arrived and joined Sergeant Beever. They observed that Deputy Smith was in extreme pain, so when Deputy Thomas Guynes arrived, he and Deputies Ballard and Hogan got Deputy Smith into his vehicle and took him to the hospital, where they stayed with him until his condition was known.

By this time Sergeant Beever felt he had the back area secured, so he, Deputies Ross, and Deputy Brian Webb returned to the wooded area to make their way back to the front where the shooter was still engaged in gunfire. Some of the deputies were positioned in the woods, others in a staging area and Sergeant Beever went to check on a man lying on the ground behind a car. The man was pinned down and soon the two were joined by another man also seeking cover. The suspect then began to shoot at Sergeant Beever. The Sergeant was able to stay with the two men until they were picked up by an armored vehicle.

The suspect continued firing from the window. Eventually he moved to the rear of his home and began firing from that position. By now a trained sniper, who was working with the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Community Action Team, was able to get a shot off at the suspect wounding him in the shoulder. The suspect eventually took his own life.

Deputies Smith, Ross, Hogan and Webb deserve the highest recognition for their actions on this day as well as Sergeant Beever who planned the rescue of his wounded comrade, calmly directing units and responding to the safety needs of the public and his deputies.

Distinguished Service Awards go to Deputies Ballard, Beasley and Guynes for getting their wounded comrade out of the line of fire and to the hospital and to Dispatcher Raich for her calm professionalism that was able to help the officers keep things under control in a very tense situation.

For your bravery and exceptional police work the Police Officers Association of Michigan awards you the 2020 Police Officer of the Year Award.

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