AMHERST, Va. – Amherst County is celebrating the heroism of three Sheriff's Deputies caught in a shootout earlier this year. The suspect involved ended up killing himself, but not before hitting one of the deputies.
Nelson County was where it all started with a homicide that August early Sunday morning. The chase that followed down Route 29 ended in neighboring Amherst County, putting a shootout right in the laps of three unsuspecting deputies.
"It felt like it lasted forever, it was about a three minute, thirty seven second gunfight where we were actually taking rounds and returning fire, it was really intense.," Amherst County Deputy Sheriff Michael Baldwin said.
The suspect shot through his windshield, hitting Baldwin in the foot. His partners Deputies Mark Jordan and Brian Tharpe were shot at as well, although not hit. Thursday night all three of them were honored for following gut instinct and stopping a violent situation in its tracks.
"Their bravery, their heroism, it was just awesome, the training, the demeanor on the radio, everything was perfect, I'm just so proud of all three of them and thankful that they're all alive," Amherst County Sheriff Ernest Viar said.
The suspect in the case had killed a family member before killing himself alongside the highway. All three deputies were later deemed to have acted perfectly in their scope of keeping the public safe.
"They did their job, they did what they were trained to do, we as a community can't be more grateful and more thankful for the courage they exhibited," Delegate Scott Garrett said.
The deputies all received the medal of valor and Baldwin received the purple heart for his injury as well. His recovery wasn't easy and he thanks his family and friends, as well as the Virginia Law Enforcement Assistance Program, for their help along the way. Most of all, he's thankful to be back at work knowing his partners are right there with them.
"When you take an oath with a badge you know there's inherent risks that are associated with the job, but you want to go home everyday to your family," Baldwin said.
This was the second such incident in 2018 for the relatively small department and Sheriff Viar said it comes down to good training every time.