Medal of Valor Awarded to 10 York County Officers, State Agents
COLUMBIA, SC & YORK COUNTY, SC - Eight York County Sheriff’s Office Deputies, including two officers from other county agencies who serve on the YCSO SWAT Team received the Medal of Valor from the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association on January 24, 2019.
The South Carolina Sheriffs’ Association Medal of Valor Award is presented to law enforcement officers who perform actions above and beyond the call of duty; exhibit exceptional courage, extraordinary decisiveness, and presence of mind; or act with unusual swiftness, regardless of their personal safety, in an attempt to save or protect human life
The Medal of Valor Award, which recognizes "courage and sacrifice”, was given to 10 York County Law Enforcement Officers, including two State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) helicopter pilots, for their heroic actions on January 16, 2018.
On January 15, 2018 YCSO K-9 Officers began a manhunt for a Domestic Violence suspect who was armed with an AK-47 Rifle. The suspect ambushed the K-9 Team shooting Sgt. Randy Clinton. Lt. Mike Ligon lay on top of Clinton protecting him while returning suppression fire causing the suspect to flee. Quickly, Ligon, Det. Chris Laurencio and Deputy Cole Greene pulled Sgt. Clinton from the scene to Lt. Heath Clevenger’s patrol car where after Clevenger took Clinton to the hospital.
Later on the 16th, the same suspect again ambushed members of the YCSO SWAT Team which included Lt. Clevenger, Lt. Ligon, Sgt. Buddy Brown, Sgt. Grady Gonzales, Clover Police Department Sgt. Judd Baird, and York Police Department Sgt. Kyle Cummings as they were preparing to search an overturned boat where they believed the suspect may have been hiding.
In the fire fight Det. Mike Doty, Sgt. Brown, and Sgt. Cummings were shot. Det. Doty later succumbed to his wounds on January 17th.
State Law Enforcement Division Special Agents Wayne Matthews and Dennis Tracy were shot at by the suspect damaging the helicopter. The pilots stayed in the air searching for the suspect up to the point where the helicopter’s fuel supply was so critical they failed to reach the Rock Hill airport, landing in a shopping center parking lot. The air crew refueled and returned to the scene to assist in air support.
The Sheriff’s Association bestowed the following officers this prestigious award:
- Lt. Heath Clevenger, York County Sheriff’s Office
- Lt. Mike Ligon, York County Sheriff’s Office
- Sgt. Buddy Brown, York County Sheriff’s Office
- Sgt. Randy Clinton, York County Sheriff’s Office
- Sgt. Grady Gonzales, York County Sheriff’s Office
- Detective Mike Doty, York County Sheriff’s Office
- Detective Chris Laurencio, York County Sheriff’s Office
- Deputy II Cole Greene, York County Sheriff’s Office
- Sgt. Judd Baird, Clover Police Department
- Sgt. Kyle B. Cummings, York Police Department
- Special Agent Wayne Matthews, SLED
- Special Agent Dennis Tracy, SLED
Detective Doty's family received the award on his behalf.
“I’ve had many proud moments in my career and I say to these men, this is as proud a moment I’ve ever had in my career to present this Medal of Valor to you and your families,” said Sheriff Tolson in a speech at the ceremony.
“These officers literally stared death in the face in an effort to serve and protect a complete stranger," Cherokee County sheriff and Sheriff’s Association president Steve Mueller said. "Their actions are worthy of our utmost respect and admiration. These types of stories are far more prevalent than we even recognize, which is what makes this such a noble profession.”
Senator Tim Scott was the keynote speaker at the award ceremony.
“It is our great fortune to have so many people like these officers do that so few want to do, but not doing at as a job but as a mission,” said Senator Tim Scott in a speech at the ceremony, “John 15:13 reminds me there’s no greater love than this, that a man or a woman should lay down their life for a friend. I do think there is something remarkable about laying down your life for a stranger and not for a friend that perhaps as part of our introspection should be to appreciate the magnitude of sacrifice when people are running in when everyone else is running away, that’s a powerful thing. So thank you all for doing that.”
Sgt. Tim Wright, from the Abbeville County Sheriff’s Office and Deputy Tony Hannon, Greenville County Sheriff’s Office were also awarded the Medal of Valor.