At a ceremony Tuesday morning, the Vicksburg Police Department recognized three officers for acts of heroism.
Officers Africa Hunter and Matthew Barnes were awarded the Police Cross while Officer Russell Dorsey received the department’s top honor, the Medal of Valor. The officers were lauded by Police Chief Milton Moore and Mayor George Flaggs Jr. for going above and beyond the call of duty.
Dorsey joins Deputy Chief Bobby Stewart as the only active medal of valor recipient. Stewart and former Officer Greg Kurtz and Sgt. Jon Carter were awarded medals of valor for rescuing an infant on Royal Street from a burning structure in 2000.
Barnes was recognized as the departments “Top Cop” earlier this year by Central Mississippi Crime Stoppers. That award was before the incident for which he was recognized Tuesday.
Moore credited Capt. Michael Bryant with recommending the officers for these honors. He and Mayor Flaggs quoted scripture as they praised the officers. Flaggs said he hoped this would lead to recognizing officers on at least a quarterly basis for their good works. In an impassioned speech, he called on the community to support the department.
VPD provided details on the acts that led to the officers being honored:
Officer Russell Dorsey (Hire date Feb. 4, 2009. Assigned to Traffic Division)
On Monday, March 11, 2019, Officer Dorsey responded to a house fire on Howard Street. When he arrived, the house was already fully involved with flames visible. He learned from neighbors that the 68-year-old resident was still inside. Dorsey stepped onto the front porch and saw the resident inside the house, trying to exit through the front screen door, which was locked. The resident turned and walked back into the house.
Dorsey picked up a hatchet that was laying nearby and used it to chop through the door. He entered the house, looking for the resident, and located him in the living room. As Dorsey tried to reach him, part of the ceiling fell in at the rear of the house, and the structure filled with thick smoke. Officer Dorsey stepped back outside to draw a quick breath then reentered the burning house. He found the resident down behind a chair in the living room. Grabbing him by his collar, Dorsey pulled the resident out of the house to safety.
Officer Africa Hunter (Hire date Nov. 2, 2009. Assigned to B-Watch.)
On Saturday, July 18, 2020, Officer Hunter was dispatched to a local motel on a welfare check. The sister of a guest had called 911 to report that she had not heard from her sister and was concerned. Hunter tried to make contact with the guest, but no one answered when she knocked on the motel room door. She asked the desk clerk to unlock the door for her and when the door was opened, she found the 50-year-old female lying unconscious on the floor. Hunter checked the woman for a pulse and respiration but found none. She notified dispatch to send an ambulance and began performing cardio-pulmonary resuscitation. The victim responded and began to breathe on her own; however, she again stopped breathing so Hunter repeated CPR, which she continued until Vicksburg Fire Department emergency personnel arrived. The victim was again revived and transported to Merit Health River Region.
(Officer Hunter was unable to attend today’s ceremonies and will receive her award when she returns to duty.)
Officer Matthew Barnes (Hire date May 11, 2016. Assigned to D-Watch. K-9 Officer.)
On Friday, July 24, 2020, Officer Barnes was dispatched to the area of Cherry and Clay streets in reference to a vehicle blocking the intersection. The driver of the vehicle had become disabled due to a medical emergency and lost unconsciousness. When Barnes arrived, he found the car in the middle of the intersection, engine running, with all the doors locked. The driver was in obvious distress and did not respond to Barnes’ calls to wake her. The unconscious driver began to press the accelerator, causing the car to advance further into the intersection. Along with bystanders, Barnes attempted to hold the vehicle in place. With the vehicle steadily moving and the occupant in need of medical attention, Barnes made the decision to break out a window. He told the bystanders what he was going to do and said that he needed a heavy object. A hammer was provided, and Barnes used it to shatter the window of the driver-side rear door. He then entered the vehicle through that door, put the vehicle in park and turned off the engine. Vicksburg Fire Department emergency medical personnel arrived, and they were able to get the driver out of the vehicle and into the ambulance. She was transported to Merit Health River Region for treatment.