For UGA police officers, going beyond the call of duty is a tall order. On a daily basis they confront disorderly or violent people who are often a threat to themselves and others.
It’s reasonable then, that reaching beyond everyday bravery is cause for tribute.
One such instance happened during the early morning hours of Dec. 3, when Cpl. Derrick Gregory and Officer James Simons dashed into a burning fraternity house to save its residents.
“You served us on a much higher level that night,” says UGA Police Chief Jimmy Williamson, who handed the officers the rare Medal of Valor award for the actions regarding the incident.
“This is the first time since I’ve been here that we’ve given this award,” he also says.
Simons and Gregory noticed the fire on a routine patrol of campus. Gregory says they dashed toward a gray column rising from the Tau Epsilon Phi house on Baxter Street.
Arriving before Athens-Clarke County responders, the UGA officers went into the house without fire gear to help residents still inside.
“There wasn’t any hesitation. We both saw the situation and responded. We wanted to get everyone out as quickly as possible,” Gregory says.
All 22 people in the house escaped without injury. The incident is still under investigation. The fire caused an estimated $100,000 of damage to the house.
In addition to the valor medals, the police department also handed out the following awards: Uniformed Officer of the Year: Sgt. Virgil Stephens; Communications Officer of the Year: Officer Matthew Estes; Plain Clothes Officer of the Year: Sgt. Allan Hatcher; Administrative Support Employees of the Year: Mary Stephens and Melissa Byrd; Public Safety Employees of the Year: Sgt. Thomas McDaniel and Cpl. Adam Fouche; and Excellence in Marksmanship: Sgt. Lee Williams, Sgt. Allan Hatcher, Sgt. Will Graham, Cpl. Scott Rowell, Cpl. Adam Fouche, Cpl. Derrick Gregory, Cpl. Lance Tipton, Officer Matthew Mortensen, Officer Chris McPipkin and Officer Johnny Seawright.