Honoring local heroes: Kris Willis receives McGrady Award
by GREG KAYLOR, Banner Staff Writer
May 21, 2013 | 2685 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OFFICER EDDIE Bonnett places a wreath at the Memorial Wall as Danielle Maples, widow of Cleveland Police Officer Justin Maples, looks on. Maples’ name was added to the wall last week. A small ceremony took place just before the Cleveland 100 Awards Banquet was held and dedicated to the memory of Maples. Banner photo, GREG KAYLOR
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Kris Willis of Bradley County 911 was chosen this year’s recipient of the Courtney and Betty McGrady Award by members of the Cleveland 100 board of directors.

At the annual banquet Monday, many other law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical service employees were recognized by their departments and Cleveland 100 for going above and beyond the call of duty.

Willis answered a call for help June 28, 2012.

Two children had been outside playing. It was an extremely hot day.

The caller said the children had been brought to his home and the children were unresponsive.

Willis immediately began to assess and provide CPR instructions, all while attempting to keep the caller calm.

“Not only did she maintain her professionalism during the duration of this extremely stressful call, afterward, her concern wasn’t for herself, but for the emotional state of the other 911 dispatchers involved with the call,” said the supervisor who nominated Willis.

The children died from what was later found to be heat stress.

Willis was presented the Courtney and Betty McGrady Award, the highest honor presented by Cleveland 100. It is not given each year, because the board reserves it for an emergency service representative who has “exemplified themselves in their career and gone the extra mile in difficult circumstances.”

As the banquet opened, Cleveland 100 President Brenda Lawson dedicated the event to the memory of Cleveland Police officer Justin Maples, who died in the line of duty one year ago Monday. CPD color guard, the Maples family and area law enforcement officers attended a small service at the Memorial Wall downtown prior to Cleveland 100’s banquet. Maples’ name was added to the wall last week.

Dedicated Professional awards are given to those who went above and beyond the call of duty during the past year.

10th Judicial Drug Task Force Director Steve Lawson nominated two of his agents and a Bradley County detective to receive the awards.

Mike Patterson and Sgt. Matt Bales performed a traffic stop as part of criminal interdiction along Interstate 75.

On Oct. 4, 2012, the two agents discovered the passenger in the car provided a false name.

Detective Kevin White of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office began working with the agents and found out Wyatt Hayes was wanted in New York on a homicide charge.

“These officers went above and beyond their call of duty after the initial traffic stop to identify the subject who was eventually charged with murder,” Lawson said.

Lawson also noted in his nomination the officers were commended by the Buffalo (N.Y.) Police Department for their professionalism and attention to detail in making the arrest.

Deputy Tommy Kimsey of the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office was also presented with the Dedicated Professional distinction after he was nominated for entering a burning home to rescue the owner and his son.

Kimsey was first to arrive on a residential structure fire on April 14, 2012. The fire had started on a porch of the home and burned its way inside.

He attempted to extinguish the fire. When the homeowner opened the door, flames engulfed the structure. Kimsey went inside the home, “with more concern for the occupants of the residence than for his own safety,” according to Capt. Brian Quinn.

Bradley County Sheriff’s deputy Sam “Bo” Collins also received the Dedicated Professional award for his service during the April 2011 tornadoes.

A family was trapped inside their mobile home located on Bell Road after the deadly F-4 tornado ripped through the Blue Springs valley that evening. Medical personnel were not able to reach the home due to downed power lines and trees.

Collins entered the ruins and pulled two adults and a teenager to safety.

Collins then took the lead and directed several civilians to assist in getting the victims to an ambulance located in the area.

He reportedly coordinated the efforts as other tornadoes were spotted in the area, disregarding the warnings to seek shelter for his personal safety and ensuring the family was rescued from the rubble and received medical treatment, according to Capt. Tom Wasson of BCSO.

Collins worked throughout the night to help with rescue efforts.

Wasson noted that Collins’ actions displayed dedication, ethics, heroism, valor, courage, integrity and tenacity.

School Resource Officer Angie Whittemore was recognized for two instances of heroism and going above and beyond the call of duty.

Whittemore was notified of a possible intruder carrying a weapon on school property at Walker Valley. She reportedly contacted responders and the school was locked down as a search began. The incident turned out to be a false alarm, but Whittemore was praised for the way she handled the situation.

Whittemore also aided at the scene of crash in which a young girl suffered severe injuries.

Whittemore stabilized the vehicle and began aiding the girl until emergency medical help arrived.

Whittemore was presented a Community Service Award for her acts.

Cleveland Police Department officer Chris Rucker was awarded a certificate for his dedication in taking the lead in finding an 8 year-old child who was missing.

According to Sgt. Guy Ferguson of CPD’s Patrol Division, Rucker was dispatched to a Hollybrook Circle address on Aug. 20, 2012.

Rucker requested the aid of other officers and the Cleveland Fire Department.

According to Ferguson, Rucker recognized an area that had not been searched. He directed attention to the area and found the child, reuniting the youngster with a panicked parent.

Also receiving certificates for the team effort were officers Tyler McGuire, Chris Allen, Kody Fox, Jansen Vassey, Jennifer McKee, Victor Cleveland and Lt. Stacy Smith.

Sgt. Mark Miller was also presented a certificate after his effort in the location and eventual arrest of an alleged dangerous felon.

The suspect reportedly had no known address or known location in the county.

The family of the victim had concerns for their safety “as long as the suspect was at-large.”

Miller gathered his warrant search team and began following leads.

Staying with the search, Miller gained information the suspect might be living out of his car; he directed his team to search parking lots and other areas.

Eventually, the suspect was taken into custody without incident.

“This incident is an example of his willingness to go above and beyond the normal scope of responsibilities,” said Capt. Bill Dyer in his nomination letter to the Cleveland 100 board.

The leadership displayed during the apprehension of this dangerous felon is an example of a “Can Do” spirit, according to Dyer.

Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper Gray Gibson was given a plaque after he arrested a man who was found to be AWOL and wanted on homicide charges in Texas.

Gibson was presented a Dedicated Professional Award for his work.

Team nominations for the Cleveland 100 certificates continue with Bradley County Emergency Medical Service officials recognizing the need in two cases where multiple agencies were involved in rescue efforts.

Tenlie Lodgson, 15, was in her driveway sunbathing.

Her sister pulled her vehicle into the driveway, not seeing Tenlie and trapping her underneath her vehicle.

Stan Clark of Bradley County Emergency Medical Service nominated EMTs and paramedics along with members of the Cleveland Fire Department, 911 Center and Cleveland Police Department and Erlanger’s Life Force crews in their efforts.

Lodgson was on hand at the banquet to publicly thank all involved and help present certificates.

Paramedic Tony Cochran; EMT Adam Cagley; paramedic Shawn Fairbanks of BCEMS; Keisha Price; Jeremy Williams and Casey Croft of 911; CFD firefighters Ross Anderson; Ron Harrison; Aaron Jones; Eric McAmis; Duane Sullivan and Chris Townsend along with Cleveland Police officers Brett Taylor; Ken Higdon; Mark Darnell; Tyler McGuire; Daniel Gibbs; Andy Wattenbarger and Mike Harris; Erlanger’s Rick Rentfrow; Johnny Hale; Stacy Prater; Greg Taylor; Sean Cloud and Andy Lopez were presented with certificates regarding the multiagency rescue.

Another major multiagency response involved the breaking of a natural gas line that could have forced the evacuation of a nursing and rehabilitation facility. The driver of a car had struck a retaining wall.

Megan Phillips and Sean Hennessee were on the scene at Signature Healthcare when the incident occurred. They had just completed a transport returning a resident to the facility when they noticed the driver had lost control and struck the wall, rupturing the gas line.

Phillips aided in removing the driver but her passenger was still trapped.

Natural gas was flowing freely from the ruptured line.

Phillips and Hennessee worked to stabilize the passenger while CFD firefighters and police continued to make their way to the scene.

Paramedics Keith Umberger and Eric Johnson arrived on the scene to help.

The natural gas being leaked was dangerous and overwhelming, according to Clark.

All four BCEMS employees received certificates for their team effort.

Also, BCEMS received recognition for representing Bradley County and Cleveland as “Star of Life” recipients. A program is scheduled for a later date in Nashville.