2023 Hometown Hero Nominations
Julia Parrish – Jacksonville Police Department
Special Victims Unit Detective Julia Parrish does phenomenal work for her community, especially for the children of Jacksonville. She provides a safe environment for victims and protects those who can’t speak up for themselves. She is committed to excellence and exemplifies what it means to lead by example and put others first.
Michael Jordan – Jacksonville Fire and Emergency Services
Deputy Fire Marshal Michael Jordan is a true leader at the Jacksonville Fire Department and in his community. He is a fire investigation instructor at local, state, and national levels and is always willing to pitch in and lend a hand. Michael is also a technical rescue team member and manages the UAS program for the department and city.
XY Brown – Jacksonville Police Department
Officer Brown is a WWII Veteran and has been an officer of the Jacksonville Police Department for over 65 years. He is thought to be one of the oldest serving officers on duty in the United States today. Officer Brown works as a school crossing guard and is a steadfast pillar of the community.
Matthew Wineman- Jones County Sheriff's Office
Sheriff Matthew Wineman was elected sheriff of Jones County in 2022 after his appointment as interim sheriff upon the death of former Sheriff Danny Heath. Sheriff Wineman has continued the legacy of Sheriff Heath and has gained the respect and support of the people of Jones County.
Jacob Strickland- NC State Highway Patrol
Trooper Strickland responded to a vehicle collision in which the vehicle and building were on fire. Without hesitation, he removed the vehicle from the burning building and single-handedly extracted the driver from the car. Due to Trooper Strickland’s bravery and determination, the driver survived.
Cameron Joyner & Vicky Hussey - Rocky Mount Police Department
Sergeant Joyner and Corporal Hussey responded to a reported stolen vehicle where the suspect had fled on foot. The suspect fired several close-range shots at Joyner, rendering his firearm inoperable. Corporal Hussey then returned fire, striking the suspect, and stopping the threat. Joyner and Hussey’s combined efforts and bravery stopped the potential threat.
Exavier Ruffin - Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office
Deputy Ruffin responded to a call where he found a driver pinned inside her vehicle. He ripped open the door to extract and carry her to safety away from her smoking car. His quick decision-making saved the driver’s life.
Christopher Crispin - Edgecombe County Sheriff's Office
Detective Crispin assisted in pulling a woman from a pond in which she was drowning. He performed CPR alongside a citizen until EMS arrived. Detective Crispin, brave and determined, also serves our nation in the United States Navy Reserves.
Amy Hawkins - Gaston County Sheriff's Office
Deputy Amy Hawkins pioneered the Citizen’s Academy at the Gaston County Sheriff’s Office. She also restarted the Sheriff’s Office cadet program, now the largest program within the Sheriff’s office. Her dedication, vision, and passion for community outreach for the citizens of Gaston County make her an honorable Hometown Hero.
Robert Sneed - Gaston County EMS
Captain Robert Sneed began his service at the Gaston County EMS where he worked his way through the ranks. Captain Sneed served as a mentor for new EMS providers as he led the United Way campaign. Due to his incredible efforts, the department has led the County in United Way donations for the last eight years. Currently, Captain Sneed serves as the department’s scheduling captain, a complex, 24/7, largely thankless position.
Barrie Walsburger - Gastonia Fire Department
Fire Captain Barrie Walsburger has been a valued member of the Gastonia Fire Department for over 11 years. He is a fearless leader who focuses on training and safety and inspires his peers to be their best. Captain Walsburger’s unwavering commitment to the department keeps his community safe. Currently, Captain Walsburger is assigned to the Special Operations Division.
Clay Anthony - Matthew Black - Austin Woods - Gaston County Police Department
Officers Anthony, Black, and Woods responded to an assault with a weapon call. Communications advised that an unknown suspect was holding someone at gunpoint. Despite knowing the suspect was armed, Officer Anthony deployed with his K9 partner, Mack, to attempt to track the suspect.
K9 Mack located a book bag and AR-15-style rifle; due to the risk to the public, the three officers continued their pursuit of the armed and dangerous suspect. The suspect ambushed the officers with gunshots from inside an abandoned car. The officers maintained their composure and returned effective fire.
The suspect surrendered, and the officers immediately transitioned to a lifesaving role, providing the suspect with immediate medical attention. Officers Anthony, Black, and Woods displayed extraordinary professionalism and courage during this incident through expert decision-making, bravery, and compassion.
J. Scott Bell - Atlantic Beach Fire Department
Captain J. Scott Bell joined the Atlantic Beach Fire Department as a seasonal lifeguard and eventually worked as a full-time firefighter and paramedic. In 2020 Captain Bell and the late Fire Chief Adam W. Snyder formed the Atlantic Beach Fire Department Junior Lifeguard Program, the first of its kind in the state. Captain Bell remains an active, dedicated, and loyal servant to the citizens and visitors of the Town of Atlantic Beach.
LaWanda Mock & Jason Weiss - Durham Police Department
Officers Mock and Weiss organized the Community Police Academy this year. The Academy is the premier program for those wanting to learn more about the operations of the Durham Police Department and experience a day in the life of a uniform patrol officer. While learning what it takes to keep Durham safe, participants visit the range, the Emergency Communications Center, and are trained on the use of force simulators, as well as other various department classes.
Michael Adams- Durham Police Department
Corporal Adams created the Criminal Investigation Division Mentorship Program to allow uniform patrol officers to expand their knowledge in investigations within the Durham Police Department. His implementation of this program has allowed investigators to pass on valuable experience to patrol officers.
Curtis Woody Jr. - Greensboro Fire Department
Captain Woody Jr. is a fire service professional with over 22 years of experience. He is dependable, knowledgeable, and a true leader among his peers. Captain Woody is dedicated to finding safer and more efficient equipment, tracking repair costs for the Self-Controlled Breathing Apparatus, and working to maintain proper staffing levels.
Diyana Azlan - Greensboro Police Department
Officer Azlan created a mentoring program for middle school-aged girls struggling with behavioral issues. Previously, she worked in an off-duty capacity at the Guilford Preparatory Academy, where she interacted with students and recognized a need for such a program to provide a safe space for the girls to speak freely about their feelings and personal issues. Officer Azlan has continued her selfless service by establishing a relationship with Scale Academy on the North Carolina State Board of Education, a targeted support and improvement school, where she is organizing a winter coat drive for students in need.
Jonathan Matthews - Greensboro Police Department
Jonathan Matthews is a dedicated 15-year officer who has served in multiple vital roles, some tasked with locating and arresting Greensboro's most violent offenders. Matthews is regionally recognized in the community and founded a mentoring exercise program for young men designed to partner first responder mentors with young men to keep them on the proper path.. Matthews is the type of officer others aspire to become and truly represents the Greensboro Police as the best of the best.
Soonaoso Letuli & Stephen Gardner - Lillington Police Department
Lieutenant Letuli and Detective Gardner demonstrated outstanding service this year during their investigation of the vehicle heist at John Hiester Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Lillington. After hundreds of hours, these detectives brought 11 suspects to justice and recovered 8 out of 11 stolen vehicles.
Braxton Trenum - Fuquay-Varina Police Department
Officer Trenum encountered a devastating scene where a fatal crash had occurred. Despite being off duty, he courageously intervened and offered vital assistance. He fearlessly confronted raging flames to extract the driver and children from the wreckage, risking his life and exemplifying the finest qualities of a law enforcement officer.
Michael Altier - Fuquay-Varina Fire Department
Captain Altier has over 20 years of fire service experience and was promoted to Fire Captain this year. He has served on the building committee for the town's new fire station, working countless hours to ensure the facility serves the community’s needs. Michael and his wife have helped build almost 100 beds for underprivileged children through the Fuquay-Varina Fire Department organization, Sleep in Heavenly Peace. Captain Altier has a servant’s heart and will do anything to help his fire department and community.
Donald Hussey - Holly Springs Fire Rescue
Battalion Chief Hussey’s exceptional leadership with the NC Fallen Firefighters Foundation and his invaluable contributions to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend Command Staff make him a true Hometown Hero. He is passionately committed to honoring the fallen and supporting their families.
Utarious Murchison - Lee County Sheriff's Office
Sergeant Muchison was attacked while escorting an inmate to meet with his attorney. He sustained injuries to the face and a torn patella tendon that required surgery. During this critical incident, Sergeant Murchison stayed in the fight and never relinquished control of the situation until his backup arrived. This is an example of the dangerous and unpredictable situations that detention officers face daily, most of which are not seen publicly!
Hector Alonso - Angier Police Department
Two young firefighters responded to a tragic wreck where an individual was fatally injured. Corporal Chaplain Hector Alonso arrived on the scene and stayed with his fellow first responders the entire time. He lent support to his peers, this being their first time at a scene of this nature. His kindness and bravery make him a valuable leader at the Angier Police Department. He thrives on mentoring new officers and consistently makes himself available to his peers and community.
DeeAnna Fairley - Harnett County Sheriff's Office
DeAnna Fairly, calm and collected in the face of an emergency, assisted a caller in active labor at 38 weeks. The call began with the woman requesting a check-up from EMS. Three minutes into the call, the woman started contractions. Ten minutes in, the baby had to be delivered by the child present. Fairley walked an 8-year-old child through how to deliver the baby! She kept the caller and mother calm while giving necessary instructions to the child after the successful delivery of the baby. Ms. Fairley’s professionalism, intense training, and kind spirit helped to bring the child into this world.
Shannon Warren & Laura Wargny - Benhaven Emergency Services
EMTs Shannon Warren and Laura Wargny were dispatched to a maternity call. The patient had no prenatal care during the pregnancy and required assistance. As the patient was preparing to be loaded into the ambulance to be transported to the hospital, the baby was delivered immediately and with no pulse. Through their tireless work and that of their crew to provide expert care, the newborn baby survived.
Andy Thomas - Benhaven Emergency Services
Chief Andy Thomas joined the Benhaven Emergency Services 21 years ago and has been instrumental in the Benhaven Emergency Services’ success. Under his direction, the department has purchased the only ladder truck on the western side of Harnett County and is currently building a third station.
Sonya Bost - Concord Fire Department
Fire Administration Manager Sonya Bost helped to sponsor over 100 underprivileged kids within the school system - ensuring they received clothes and toys for Christmas. Embodying the kindest parts of humanity, she went as far as to offer to sponsor them herself if no one else stepped up. In addition, Ms. Bost has her own company that helps homeless individuals and is constantly assisting someone in need. She has received numerous awards. Among them is the President’s Award from the Cabarrus County Branch of the NAACP for her selfless service to the community.
Matthew Truitt - Hight Point Police Department
Assistant Chief Matt Truitt is a shining example of a selfless first responder. His tenacity, drive, and critical thinking skills make him a great asset to his community, and the High Point Police Department is lucky to have him on their team.
Jeff Barger - Eric Sprinkle - Lucas Carter - Hickory Fire Department
The Hickory Fire Department has created a Peer Support Team to provide emotional and behavioral support services for department members and other first responders in the area. In addition to providing resources for job-related stress, support team members also offer services when firefighters may be experiencing distress in their personal lives. For instance, team members train to provide a listening ear for those who need encouragement or someone to talk to. Members of the team have received training in areas of crisis intervention for groups and individuals, as well as line-of-duty deaths, emotional stress during a pandemic, and suicide prevention for first responders.
James Patrick Auton - Mountain View Frie Department
James Patrick Auton joined the Mountain View Volunteer Fire Department last year and is a retired Fire captain from the City of Hickory Fire Department with 30 Years of service. Captain Auton is also a retired member of the North Carolina National Guard, serving in the Army and Air National Guard for 21 years. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal, among other honorable accolades, for his actions on May 20, 2004, in providing combat lifesaving measures during an ambush to fellow soldiers in Baghdad, Iraq.
Jamie Buchanan - Valdese Police Department
Assistant Chief Jamie Buchanan has been a police officer for 25 years, 24 of which have been at the Valdese Police Department. Officer Buchanan always makes himself available in times of need to coworkers and citizens of Valdese. Jamie will always answer the phone, whether on the weekend or during planned time off. He works well with all departments and is truly an asset to the Town of Valdese.
Michael Cristobal - Morganton Department of Public Saftey
Public Safety Officer Cristobal is a competent and patient officer who values making lifelong ties in the community on every call. He always puts others before himself through his actions and attitudes and will do anything for the good of the shift, agency, and community.
John Jernigan - North Catawba Fire-Rescue
Lieutenant Jernigan is a true example of dedication and commitment to his community and country. He Joined North Catawba Fire-Rescue as a Firefighter Paramedic and was eventually promoted to Lieutenant this year. Lieutenant Jernigan was an active military member until 2015 before stepping down to the role of a Coast Guard Reservist where he is active to this day. This year Lieutenant Jernigan was awarded the Coast Guard Achievement Medal for superior performance. Public safety is his priority on and off the job, and he deploys fantastic leadership skills to help younger firefighters with training and development.
Duane Daniels - ECU Health North Hospital
Captain Daniels has been serving the Roanoke Rapids community for decades. He models the behavior of a community leader in countless ways. He worked in the Roanoke Rapids Police Department for seven years and serves as a leader for hospital security and the police force. Captain Daniels is active in several community support activities, including food banks and clothing drives.
Greensboro Police SRT Team & Negotiations Team
These Greensboro Police Officers located a pair of suspects who were wanted on a combined 44 arrest warrants. Officers surrounded the residence of the suspects when an uninvolved occupant exited the structure and informed officers that the suspects were inside and armed with a handgun. The occupant
told the officers that one suspect’s girlfriend was also inside the residence. Shortly after, the suspect contacted 911 and stated that he was armed, had taken his girlfriend hostage, and made threats to her life. The Special Response Team (SRT) and Negotiations Team (NT) were immediately deployed due to the threat of harm to a hostage.
SRT members arrived on the scene. Their priority was to establish hostage rescue teams. Due to the violent and volatile nature of the situation, the threat to the life of the hostage can occur at any moment.
SRT members did not know the location of the hostage or hostage taker within the home. Because of this, they worked in tandem with the Greensboro Police Department Negotiations Team.
As these hostage rescue teams were in position, the negotiations team was in contact with the hostage taker. The suspect repeatedly threatened the life of his girlfriend, himself, and any officers who entered the residence. After several hours of negotiations, the rescue teams on the scene heard a gunshot within the residence. Believing the life of the hostage was in immediate danger, the rescue teams entered the structure. SRT members finally located both suspects and took them into custody. The hostage was secured and safely escorted from the residence. She was not injured.
The actions of the team members involved in this incident show that they placed safety and the life of the hostage above their own. These first responders exhibited gallantry and extraordinary heroism. Their actions that day were, without a doubt, above and beyond the call of duty.
Greensboro Real-Time Intelligence Team
The Greensboro police department’s real-time intelligence center is a fusion command center staffed by only these three full-time detectives. This unit brings together modern technologies to fight violent crime and keep officers and citizens safe. They have incorporated over 2000 visual video streams that help officers fight crime in real time. In the first 30 days of its creation, this unit generated five leads for local homicides and was critical to the swift closure of one of those homicides. These detectives have been tireless in their efforts to build community-based partnerships, and they very quickly learned to implement and adapt the most modern technologies available to law enforcement.