The emotion was clear in the voice of Havelock Mayor Jimmy Sanders as he recalled the afternoon he heard that three of the city’s police officers had been shot while responding to a call.
Sanders had been at a funeral when the incident happened on Feb. 14 and had turned his phone off. When he got out of the funeral, he knew something was wrong. He had emails, texts and voice mails on his phone.
"The first voice mail that I got was from the city manager and he said that we’ve had three officers shot. Two are en route to the hospital. I do not know the condition of … ." Sanders paused and was emotionally moved in recalling receipt of the message. "… I thought … what a senseless act … what a senseless act … I was afraid of the worst."
Lt. Brian Borton, Sgt. James Fahnestock and Patrol Officer Loren Boone were presented non-military Purple Hearts Monday night as nearly the entire police force and a standing-room only crowd including the officers’ families watched at the beginning of the Havelock Board of Commissioners meeting.
Havelock Police Chief G. Wayne Cyrus said the officers entered a closed room thinking they would be helping a man who had shot himself. Instead, the uninjured man, Richard Berry, began firing, hitting all three officers in their hands. Instead of pulling their own guns and firing back, they wrestled the two guns away from Berry.
Sanders said he was tremendously relieved when he found out the three would survive but then thought about what they did in that room.
"I think that’s testimony to you as individuals, to you as police officers, to the training and the command that you have, the chief and all of the officers," he said.
Sanders said most people would have reacted by shooting the suspect, "but you guys didn’t do it and I am extremely proud of you and very proud of the fact that you’re Havelock police officers. Even when your lives were in danger, you continued to protect and serve the citizens. My words are certainly inadequate for what you guys did."
The three men, believed to be the first in the history of the city’s police force to be shot, stood side by side as medals on purple fabric were lifted over their heads and around their necks. They received lengthy applause and a standing ovation from those in attendance.
Don Klinger, of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, handed out National First Responder Citations to each one of the men.
"Sometimes that job involves danger," Klinger said. "You never know from one moment to the next what you are going to face. This is a symbol of our appreciation for the sacrifices that you make."
Borton and Boone recovered quickly from their injuries, but Fahnestock required surgery to repair the damage to his hand and continues to recover. He is doing administrative work for the department until he fully recovers.
Berry faces three felony charges of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to kill or inflict serious injury.