Many people have to face the possibility of their own mortality before they ever realize just how important life is. But for one Ludowici Police Department officer, his perspective changed after responding to a burglary call in December.
“It was a regular shift like any other when we (at the LPD) got a call to assist the (Long County Sheriff’s Office) in regards to a burglary taking place on Arnold Drive,” LPD Officer Adam Denton said. “Me and (Officer) Raymond (Govero) headed in that direction, and I had no idea what would take place.”
Denton said he, Govero and LCSO Deputy Andy Young responded to the burglary, where four men — two who were armed — already had crashed into a home, forced a husband, wife and two small children into a bathroom, and then began stealing valuables from the residence.
Denton said a neighbor in the area called authorities after seeing the men load items, including a large flat-screen television, into a vehicle parked in the front yard.
Before the three law-enforcement officers arrived, Denton said, that same neighbor reported that the men had left the home and told the dispatcher they were headed toward Ludowici.
Denton said he and the other officers spotted the described vehicle and chased it until the driver of the vehicle lost control on Sharpe Road. Denton said four men exited the vehicle and began running.
“Raymond and Andy went after the two that were on the passenger side, and I chased the driver and the one who was in the back seat on the driver’s side,” Denton said.
After chasing the two men through the woods, Denton reached the man who had been in the back seat. The officer drew his Taser and fired it, stopping the man.
“When I Tased him, he fell to the ground on his stomach,” Denton said. “I told him to put his hands behind him, but he wouldn’t — they were under his stomach. I also could tell from the way he was moving on the ground … I didn’t think that the two probes had made full contact.
“I told him again to put his hands behind his back, but he still didn’t,” the officer continued. “So I pulled the trigger to Tase him again and nothing happen, so I knew the contacts were not on him.”
Denton said he took his handcuffs and attempted to put them on the man, but as he did, the man jumped up and knocked him to the ground. The officer said the man jumped on top of him and began choking him.
“He had his right hand around my throat, and I felt his left hand reaching for my gun. I knew now he was trying to kill me,” Denton said. “All I could think of was my daughter and wife. I tried to keep my hand on (the gun), and as we were struggling, the gun came out with both of our hands on it.”
The daughter Denton was thinking of was his 3-week-old baby girl, Addyson, and 24-year-old wife, Amber.
“I remember thinking, ‘God, we just had a baby. Is this the end? Am I not going home?’ And it kept running in my head, ‘Survive, survive, survive,’” the Ludowici police officer said.
Denton said he began to feel light-headed from being choked and then just started firing his weapon.
“When I fired the shots, I didn’t know if I hit him because he was still fighting for the gun,” the officer said. “The gun slammed into the dirt. (The intruder) said ‘Throw your gun away; you shot me.’ I told him to loosen his grip on my hand and I would throw it.”
Denton said he actually had no intention of letting go of his gun.
“When I felt him loosen up, I broke free and jumped up, grabbed my flash light and reloaded,” he said. “When I looked down at him, he was back on his stomach, still with his hands in front of him.”
Denton said the other two officers had heard the shots and began racing toward him, Govero arriving first.
“When Raymond got there, I could see (the intruder) was bleeding,” Denton said. “Raymond reached under and pulled his hands out and cuffed him.”
Denton said the man was transported to the hospital and treated for a gunshot wound in his leg.
According to the officer, the man was arrested after being released from the hospital and charged with armed robbery, burglary, obstruction of a law-enforcement officer with violence and aggravated assault on a police officer.
After the shooting, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation conducted an independent investigation clearing Denton of any wrongdoing and ruled that it was a justifiable shooting.
Denton said the incident changed him because he now knows how precious life is and how it can be taken away from someone in the blink of an eye.
“I am very thankful to have survived that night and for being able to go home to my family,” the officer said. “Now I reflect more on things that are more important because I see how quickly they can be taken away from you.”
LPD Chief Richard Robertson presented Denton with a Medal of Valor on July 12 at the city council meeting.
“Adam put his life on the line to bring a man to justice,” Robertson said. “He represented the Ludowici Police Department in a way that shows its high standards, so I felt that he deserved this honor,” Robertson said.