By Sue Moore
Sheriff’s Deputy Sergeant Ward Lawrence of Vicksburg says the Medal of Valor he received from Sheriff Rick Fuller is all in the line of duty. What he doesn’t say at first is that he received it for negotiating with an armed, irrational man for an hour and 20 minutes, securing the safety of the man’s girlfriend originally standing nearby, then containing the situation until the Kalamazoo Metro SWAT team and state police arrived.
The confrontation took place in Pavilion Estates Mobile Home Park in Pavilion Township where trouble has sometimes erupted – but nothing like this standoff, according to area residents. The assailant was pointing a gun when the sheriff’s department was called to the scene. It appeared that he and his girlfriend had been living in a van as a squatter inside the park.
They were hoping to apprehend him with bean bag ammunition (knocks the wind out of the person but is not lethal) but he lifted his gun and four police officers shot at the same time to bring the man down. “There were many officers at the scene who acted courageously,” Lawrence said.
“It was a delicate situation,” Sheriff Fuller said. “A life was lost, due to the actions of the man himself. It was a valiant effort which we felt was worth recognizing. We have a board of review of several law enforcement people who went over the list of candidates and what specific award they should receive. The Medal of Valor is our highest award. As far as I know, Lawrence is the first person to receive it.” Lawrence has been a sheriff’s deputy for many years. Previously, he served as an officer in Texas and Ferndale, Michigan. He has been a member of the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Mounted Division since 1996.