A Pine Bluff police officer seriously injured in the line of duty last December was awarded the Department’s Medal of Valor during an awards ceremony March 9.
Officer Leon Jackson, who is paralyzed from the neck down in a Little Rock hospital, received the award via a video hookup through the Internet.
According to a police report, Jackson was responding to an Officer Needs Help call on Dec. 20 and hit a curb while making a right turn onto West 33rd Avenue off Olive Street, striking a gas pump at the service station there.
The report said Jackson, who had been with the department since Feb. 22, 2011, told Officer Mike Sweeney “he couldn’t remember what happened.”
According to the department citation, “Officer Jackson willingly placed himself in danger and suffered debilitating injuries assisting his fellow officers. Officer Jackson’s sacrifice stands as an example of valor.”
Interim Police Chief Jeff Hubanks said Monday that Jackson is in a rehab facility at Baptist Hospital at Little Rock and “has recovered some movement in his hands.
“The prognosis is that his movement may come back all at once, or it may be gradual,” Hubanks said. “It could take months or it could take years. With this kind of injury you don’t know.”
Hubanks said the Police Benevolent Association held a fundraiser for Jackson several weeks ago, but additional money is needed to help cover Jackson’s medical bills.
“If anybody wants to contribute they can contact the police department and we will come pick it up, “Hubanks said.
Checks should be made out to the Pine Bluff Police Benevolent Fund.
“We have somebody that goes up there daily and we will see that he gets the money,” Hubanks said.
Also honored at the banquet were Officers Jason Boykin and Tamina Smith, who were recognized as Co-Officers of the Year, Boykin for saving the life of Smith and Smith for her actions that solved a robbery and attempted murder.
On Oct. 22, Boykin, Smith and Sgt. David Vilches were working a traffic checkpoint at 17th Avenue and Catalpa Street when a car driven by Diamas Williams, 22, refused to stop at the checkpoint and allegedly drove directly at the three officers.
Smith said Boykin grabbed her and pulled her and himself into a ditch, out of the way of the speeding vehicle, which fled north on Edmar Drive until hitting a sign and a mailbox before the driver fled on foot.
Williams was located and arrested the following day. In her report, Smith said Boykin “saved her life.”
Boykin also received a department lifesaving award for his actions.
Just a few days before the incident on Catalpa Street, Smith was credited with providing information that led to the arrest of Michael Lee Merritt, 19, who was accused of robbing the A&Y Shell Convenience Store at 3110 Camden Road and shooting the clerk, Haidem Shah, 37, during an attempted robbery on Oct. 18.
Smith was one of the officers who was working the night of the shooting and viewed store video surveillance.
The following day, while she was off duty, she saw a man later identified as Merritt in the area of the store on Union Streeet and notified detectives, who took Merritt in for questioning.
After obtaining a search warrant for an apartment in the 4500 block of Union Street, officers located clothing that matched the clothing the suspect in the video had been wearing, as well as a gun.
Other awards went to Lt. Shirley Warrior, who was named Supervisor of the Year; Detective Jason Howard and Lt. Terry Hopson, who each received the Catherine Whiteside Award; and a group of officers and detectives recognized for their work during the hostage situation after the slaying of Shirley Owney and the kidnapping of one of her relatives on March 23, for solving another homicide, for involvement in a large scale federal-state-local drug investigation that resulted in the arrest of 32 people and the seizure of large quantities of marijuana and cocaine, and other high-risk incidents last year.