Two local law enforcement officials earned plaques and standing ovations Tuesday night at Liberty Tap Room in Myrtle Beach.
Corporal Ryan Headley, with the Horry County Police Department, won the annual “Grand Strand Law Enforcement Office of the Year Award” from the Coastal Carolina Shields organization. The award recognizes an officer who has demonstrated an “act of exceptional bravery in the line of duty,” according to the group’s website.
Investigator Melvyn Garrett, with the Georgetown Sheriff’s Office, earned a first-time award from the organization: the Meritorious Police Duty plaque.
Headley demonstrated bravery in December 2012, when he encountered a suicidal ex-marine who had already cut himself, and then threatened to kill himself with a shotgun in his home. Headley negotiated the suspect’s surrender without further injuries to the suspect, himself or any other person, said Joe Luzzi, chairman of the awards committee for Shields.
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Not only did Headley protect the suspect and those around him, but treated the ex-marine with compassion throughout the process.
“Officer Headley was able to keep the man calm, reassuring the man that everything would be OK while transported to the hospital,” Luzzi said. “The Shields recognize Corporal Headley, not only because of his acts of bravery performed while at imminent danger to himself and others, but for his compassion to save a life of a distraught military veteran.”
Saving a suicidal suspect from injury not only takes bravery, but commitment to police work.
“He did a good job because it could have escalated into something volatile,” said Dennis Cangelosi, president of the Shields. “Headley is receiving this award for his extraordinary bravery and intelligent performance in the line of duty.”
So how did a 28-year-old, award-winning officer get started? Pure interest in the field.
“I’ve always admired the work, you know, growing up watching the TV shows and everything,” Headley said. “I like the whole aspect of helping people, of bringing a suspect to justice that needs to be brought to justice.”
New experiences, a love for justice and an interesting work day leave Headley happy to return to work after a weekend.
“You come to work every day and it’s something different,” Headley said. “You don’t have that same thing, and that really helps with home life. You never know what it is – it’s always something new.”
His wife, Shanon Headley, said she was honored to be a part of her husband’s achievement.
“[Police work] is something he’s always wanted to do,” Shanon said. “It’s hard being a wife and not know what your husband’s getting into, but he works with a great bunch of guys and they take care of him.”
Garrett’s award was for leading an investigation that led to the apprehension of a suspect involved in the attempted murder of one of Shield’s members in July 2012.
“It’s awesome, I didn’t expect it,” Garrett said. “I was just doing my job.”
Garrett’s said his investigative interest was handed down from his father, but he tweaked the details of the job.
“My father retired from the Highway Patrol, but I didn’t want to write tickets and work wrecks, I wanted to actually do real police work,” Garrett said.
The Coastal Carolina Shields are a group of retired law enforcement officers representing over 100 different local, state and federal agencies from the US and Canada, according to the group’s website. The group has more than 400 members who reside in the coastal Carolina area and are dedicated to providing a fraternal and social organization for all retired law enforcement officers and to show support to our local law enforcement agencies.