Two Whitley County Sheriff’s deputies and a Whitley County constable were awarded the Medal of Honor from the Kentucky Sheriff’s Association Friday evening.
The Medal of Honor is the highest form of recognition awarded by the Kentucky Sheriff’s Association.
It may be presented to individuals, who distinguish themselves by an act of extraordinary courage/heroism, while engaged in personal confrontation with an armed adversary, at imminent personal danger to life, with knowledge of the risk, above and beyond the call of duty, according to the sheriff’s association website.
Deputy Jonas Saunders and Second-District Constable Ron Bowling received their awards in connection with a 2015 incident where they saved a man, who had barricaded himself into his home, threatened to commit suicide and then set himself on fire.
Deputy Brian Hensley received his award in connection with a 2013 shooting incident that occurred in the Gray community while he was working as a Knox County Sheriff’s deputy, and was shot multiple times.
“They are very deserving of it,” said Whitley County Sheriff Colan Harrell. “This just shows the caliber of individual that we have on our sheriff’s department. I feel comfortable that these deputies could or would do it again.”
The awards were presented Friday evening during the Kentucky Sheriff’s Association Convention, which was held in Owensboro.
About 7:44 p.m. on Sept. 26, 2015, Saunders received information from Whitley County E911 that David Christian, 77, of Lot Mud Creek Road, was at his residence and was threatening to commit suicide.
Saunders responded to the residence, which is located about 12 miles south of Williamsburg. Due the nature of the call, Second-District Constable Ron Bowling also responded.
Upon arrival, Saunders and Bowling attempted to de-escalate the situation. Verbal contact was made through a window. Christian was in an upstairs bedroom, cursing at officers and refusing to allow them entry.
The officers remained calm and tried to establish conversation. Christian was very upset and cited separation from his wife as the cause for why he would commit suicide by setting himself on fire.
Efforts to calm him were interrupted when he received a phone call and became even more emotional. Saunders and
Bowling listened while Christian yelled at the caller with abusive language. Suddenly they were alerted by a very strong smell of gasoline.
Fearing Christian was actually going to attempt suicide by setting himself ablaze, Saunders and Bowling took action and forced entry into the residence through a patio door. The room that they entered was on fire and filled with smoke.
They located Christian in a closet, and his clothing was on fire. He had to be forcibly removed from the residence. Even though he was combative and aggressive toward the officers, they managed to extinguish the flames. Whitley Co. EMS transported him to a nearby hospital.
“Deputy Saunders and Constable Bowling were courageous and selfless. By putting their physical safety at risk to save a suicidal man, they demonstrated their commitment to serve and protect all,” Harrell said in a release.
On Sept. 2, 2013, at about 11:52 p.m., Hensley responded to a call on Orleans Court in the Gray community in reference to a potential domestic dispute. Upon arrival, Hensley made contact made contact with Hazel Hibbard and two of her neighbors. Hibbard stated that her boyfriend, Jeffrey Frump, arrived at the residence intoxicated and upset. She stated she had not been hit but was grabbed by the arm and shoved out of the residence.
Hibbard told police that Frump may have a knife in his possession and was reportedly suicidal. Hibbard and the neighbors were then asked to leave the area for their protection.
Hensley spoke to Frump through a door. Frump cursed at Hensley and refused to open the door.
Hensley then heard a gunshot from within the residence. Fearing the worst and believing Frump may be in need of medical attention or had committed suicide, Hensley kicked open the door, only to find Frump behind a couch with a gun pointed at Hensley.
Hensley jumped behind the doorframe for cover.
Frump shot at him through the door and striking both legs. The projectile passed through one leg and then struck the other. Fearing he would be shot again, Hensley jumped over the porch railing, and a second bullet struck his handheld radio, causing it to come off of his duty belt.
Hensley fractured his left wrist and was temporarily unconscious from the jump. Without radio access, Hensley yelled toward Hibbard and the neighbors, asking them to call 911 and report that a deputy had been shot and was in need of backup.
Hensley was able to rise to his knees and observed Frump exiting the residence with a gun pointed in his direction.
Hensley then fired three shots toward Frump striking him all three times, resulting in Frump’s death.
After Hensley observed Frump fall back into the house, he limped to his cruiser and radioed for EMS and law enforcement assistance.
Hensley recovered from his injuries and now proudly serves and protects the citizens of Whitley County, Harrell noted in a release.