Four Jackson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) deputies were recognized last month at the 2021 Oregon State Sheriff’s Association (OSSA) awards banquet. This included three Awards of Valor and Search and Rescue (SAR) Deputy of the year. The Award of Valor is presented in recognition of a selfless and courageous act risking their own life with full awareness of the danger involved.
On February 23, 2021, Eagle Point Police Department (EPPD) was dispatched to a domestic dispute involving a firearm. The suspect left in a vehicle while officers were en route. A few minutes later EPPD spotted the suspect vehicle and JCSO deputies responded to assist. Deputy Chad Prins and EPPD approached the vehicle to identify the suspect. Without warning a man fired a handgun from the passenger seat, striking Deputy Prins in the chest. Fortunately, the bullet struck his ballistic vest. Despite being shot at point-blank range, he moved to cover and returned fire. Realizing the driver was injured during the exchange of gunfire and in danger, Prins rescued him from the line of fire and began to render medical aid. Showing courage after being shot in the line of duty, and ultimately risking his life to save that of another, is why Deputy Prins received the Award of Valor.
On August 11, 2021, JCSO responded to a multi-agency pursuit of an armed carjacker. Deputy Brent Hegdahl quickly became lead in the pursuit. Sergeant Ben Weaver was the on-duty patrol sergeant and coordinated with multiple agencies to keep the violent offender in view. The suspect drove extremely recklessly throughout the pursuit reaching speeds of over 100 MPH multiple times. Spike strips were successfully deployed as the suspect entered the city of Medford, yet he continued to reach speeds over 100 MPH through neighborhoods. Based on the continued risk to the public, Weaver ordered Hegdahl to initiate a Pursuit Intervention Technique (PIT) maneuver, successfully disabling the vehicle by causing it to crash into a hedge. While still inside the vehicle, the suspect raised a handgun and fired at Hegdahl. Both Weaver, Hegdahl, and a Medford Police Officer returned fire, striking the suspect multiple times. Once he stopped firing and was believed to be unconscious, law enforcement approached and removed him from the vehicle to begin rendering aid until Medford Fire Department medics took over, ultimately saving his life. The man was later identified as the suspect in a string of violent crimes to include the shooting of a man in front of his child, an armed carjacking in Portland, and the disappearance of his girlfriend in Yakima, Wash. The courageous actions of these deputies alongside local law enforcement agencies, led to the arrest of a dangerous, violent offender, while ensuring the safety of our community. For that reason, Sergeant Weaver and Deputy Hegdahl received Awards of Valor.
Deputy David Duke received the award for OSSA Command Council SAR Deputy of the Year for outstanding professional achievement and accomplishment while going above and beyond in performing his duties for JCSO Search and Rescue. In 2021 Deputy Duke participated in nearly 140 SAR missions, often acting as team leader. Overall, these missions totaled nearly 1000 hours in the field. He helps run and manage the Tactical Rope Rescue Team and is a level one member. He founded the Bike Response Team, a small unit quick reaction force that responds rapidly to locate a lost or injured subject, provide initial medical care, and prep for the ground teams to carry them out. He is also a member of the Snow Response Group. In 2021, Deputy Duke obtained the highest level of advanced Search and Rescue qualification. For his selfless dedication to SAR and the safety of the County, Deputy Duke received the OSSA 2021 SAR Deputy of the Year.