Officer honored for going beyond the call of duty

Posted Friday, Jan. 18, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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FORT WORTH -- It was extremely hot that August afternoon when the 93-year-old widow's main air-conditioning unit at her Riverside home went kaput.

When Fort Worth police neighborhood patrol officer V. Coronado answered the woman's call for help, she found the bed-bound woman holed up in a side room, relying on a small window unit to fight the sweltering heat.

"The heat was overwhelming because it was coming from the rest of the house," Coronado said.

"It was clear she needed help now."

Coronado sent out a message for suggestions from other officers, then set about calling social agencies, but could find none able to respond immediately.

One of those who responded was Barry Sawyer, who worked as a neighborhood patrol officer in the far north Fort Worth area that includes The Villages of Woodland Springs.

"Officer Sawyer had messaged me and called me and was just trying to help me out with different agencies to try," Coronado said. "At one point, he just said, 'I'm coming over there.'"

Sawyer didn't know Coronado personally but didn't hesitate to get involved.

Before night's end, and with the help of two other officers and an Oakhurst Citizens on Patrol member, Sawyer had bought and helped install a new window unit. The Villages of Woodland Springs Citizens on Patrol group would later reimburse Sawyer.

"Usually we're the ones that help, but I needed help," said Coronado, who was so impressed with Sawyer and the other men that she emailed the north division captain the next day. "... It was an awesome thing to be a part of."

For his efforts, Sawyer will be honored today as Peace Officer of the Year by the Maj. K.M. Van Zandt chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution.

'He makes it personal'

Sgt. Jonathan Pruitt, Sawyer's supervisor, said going above and beyond is the norm for Sawyer.

"He always is very caring, especially if it's kid-related or elderly-related," said Pruitt, who nominated Sawyer. "He makes it personal but still in a professional way."

When a Code Blue member died last year, Sawyer bought the man's young son a game system and took up a collection from other officers to buy video games.

"His dad passed away two days before his birthday," Sawyer said. "I still get choked up to this day when I think about it. I made it a point we were going to try to make that birthday as special as we could at such a difficult time."

Donald Goodman, chairman of the Sons of the American Revolution's law enforcement committee, said those kinds of acts made Sawyer the clear choice for the award.

"Every year we honor an outstanding cop. I think he's more outstanding than any we've had in the last 20 years," Goodman said.

Sawyer served in the Marine Corps from 1992 to 1996. He received two Navy Achievement Medals and was meritoriously promoted four times in a little over three years to the rank of sergeant.

"Nobody in any of the services, but especially the Marines, gets promoted every year," Goodman said. "It just doesn't happen, but somehow or another, it happened to Sawyer."

'From the heart'

Sawyer said his desire to become a police officer began after the military while he worked as a Tarrant County corrections officer at a boot camp in Mansfield.

"These were first-time offenders that I was dealing with -- young kids who made a mistake and were trying to get their lives turned around," Sawyer said.

"There was a lot of inspiration there. I thought, 'This isn't where I need to be. I need to be out preventing them from coming to this point.'"

Even during a stint as a carrier for the U.S. Postal Service, Sawyer felt a calling to help others, once receiving a lifesaving award for helping a dementia patient who had sneaked out one August day and become stuck in her wheelchair on a busy Mansfield street.

In 2000, he joined the Fort Worth Police Department. He has worked as a neighborhood patrol officer since May 2005.

"In community policing, I have the ability to communicate with folks, not just out answering calls for service," Sawyer said. "That's where my heart is. This is just a gift that God has given me to communicate with the people."

In September, he received the 2012 Thomas R. Windham Community Policing Award.

While touched by the honors, Sawyer said: "I could go the rest of my career not getting any type of recognition for what I do because what I do is from the heart. I know it's honest work when I put on the uniform in the morning."

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