By Cody Neff
As everyone gathered to celebrate several awards at the Raleigh County Sheriff’s Office Friday, Sheriff Steve Tanner told a story about bravery and sacrifice.
Deputy Billy Adkins had been sent to look for a missing person, Tanner said. His search led him to a gas well road in the area of Sandlick.
Adkins found the missing man’s car, but the man was nowhere to be seen. He started to search the area until he’d covered a mile in every direction from the car. The search was made harder by the fact that it was 8 p.m. and 6 degrees outside. Not to mention that it was snowing.
Radio contact was bad at best, but Adkins radioed for a K-9 unit. The only unit was busy, so Investigator Don Kelley of the Division of Forestry geared up and brought his bloodhound. It wasn’t long after that Sgt. Randy White showed up with his K-9, too.
The weather got worse as the night went on, but the three decided to start a night search.
The dogs led the three to the missing man. They found him face-down on a logging road that was a mile-and-a-half away from the man’s car.
The man had no shirt, coat, socks or shoes. He only had a pair of pants to protect him from the cold.
The three officers took off their socks, shirts and jackets and put them on the missing man. He was nearly dead at this point from hypothermia.
With no radio contact and because they were so far off the beaten path, the three realized they would have to carry the man out. They took turns carrying him on their back. Hours later, they made it to safety.
The missing man made a full recovery, Tanner said.
“If there is anything more deserving of a meritorious conduct award, I’ve never heard it,” he said. “They saved the life of a stranger at their own sacrifice so someone else would live.”
Tanner presented Investigator Kelley, Sgt. White and Deputy Adkins with an award for their efforts. This is Adkins’ second meritorious conduct award, so his award bears a gold star that shows he has won multiple awards. Tanner said the men would add the award pins to their uniform so everyone could know what they’d done.
White said getting the award felt good, but that’s not why they do what they do.
“When you go on a call like that, you put yourself in the position of the family,” he said. “You’re looking for their loved-one. You do it without thinking.
“When you’re with two great guys like this, there was no planning. We knew what we had to do and we did it. It wasn’t a decision we had to make.”
Tanner said the office also wanted to honor two of its retirees who had given a lifetime of service. Capt. Joseph Williams and Lt. James Miller received awards and were given their service weapons for their 20 years of service.
Williams said he plans to stay active in Raleigh County.
“I plan on helping the citizens of Raleigh County,” he said. “This is our county. We’ve worked a long time and we’re not just going to walk out and leave it alone. I’m going to work with Alpha Natural Resources as their security supervisor. What I’ll miss about this job is that it’s like a family. I’ll really miss that family atmosphere.”
Miller said he isn’t actually retiring either.
“I’m just working a different job and I’ll be in a different arena with the criminal justice system,” he said. “It’s not that I can just sit back and do what I wish, which would be buy the boat and go fishing. I’d just take care of my property and my children. I’ll be going on with another career.
“I work for the West Virginia Supreme Court as a criminal records specialist researching the dispositions of criminal cases and reporting those to the State Police’s Criminal Investigation Bureau. That’ll help officers on the street and judges in their sentencing in determining the outcome of a case and the criminal’s history.”
Miller said he’ll miss the family atmosphere, too.
“I’ll also miss the ability to close a case,” he said. “There have been many a case in the past 20 years where I had a piece of info someone didn’t know about or vice-versa. I like the way we worked together. It’s been a unique career and I’m going to miss that.”
Tanner also took the time to thank County Commissioners Dave Tolliver and Linda Epling for supporting the office so much.
“We have managed to remodel most of the office,” He said. “We have an office we’re very proud of. One person accomplishes nothing. It has to be a team effort. This can’t come from the sheriff alone.
“The county commission has fought tirelessly to get us the first-rate equipment and vehicles that we need. They supported our remodeling every stop of the way.”
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