Public safety workers honored by Exchange Club

Detective Shaun Bridger

lfabian@macon.comOctober 18, 2013 

Macon police Detective Shaun Bridger has a knack for solving violent crimes quickly.

Bibb County Sheriff’s Deputy Christine Head calms troubled children in court.

Macon-Bibb County firefighter Cpl. Garin Flanders routinely risks his life to save others.

Crime stories, tragedies and reports of officer misconduct make headlines, but individual efforts are rarely recognized, said Macon Exchange Club member Bobby George.

The civic organization recently recognized all three for outstanding work in 2013.

Firefighter of the Year Flanders said the recognition caught him off guard.

“It’s an honor to get it, but there are 400-plus people on this job that deserve it as much as I do,” he said while packing up his equipment after a Thursday morning house fire.

On Labor Day, four Mercer University students trying to get off the Ocmulgee River got lost in a swamp.

Flanders braved the murky water frequented by alligators and other creatures and helped bring them to safety.

The avid swimmer who became a firefighter in 2005 also rescued two men whose boat capsized on Rocky Creek during spring flooding.

He and a dive team colleague tied a rescue line across the creek, and Flanders swam in the swift current to reach them. He continually reassured the non-swimmers as he swam them to the bank.

His heroics were written up in The Telegraph after he and another firefighter recovered the body of a scuba diver from Lake Tobesofkee in July 2009.

The sun was setting, leaving little time for divers to search before nightfall. Seeing the family on the bank, he couldn’t bear to wait until the next day.

“We wanted to do something other than just stand there,” he said later.

Flanders and another diver tethered themselves together and found 48-year-old James Tyson’s body on the bottom of the lake.

“We did what we could do,” he said.

Deputy Christine Head

A passion for working with children was entrenched in Head since before she joined the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office more than 14 years ago.

The former school bus driver has been assigned to the Juvenile Court system for more than three years.

She deals with troubled youngsters who are victims of horrific abuse or who have a variety of mental problems, such as bipolar and reactive attachment disorders.

“Countless times, Deputy Head has been observed using a peaceful, soothing voice with those children,” Chief Deputy Russell Nelson wrote in her nomination.

Sheriff David Davis reiterated her impact at Thursday’s luncheon.

“The value of how she approaches the child in custody is apparent, because a child will often cooperate with her, even when the child has not been compliant with anyone else, including their parents,” Davis said.

The 2013 Deputy of the Year says she loves the children and her job. Raising her own special-needs child has given her a heart for the mission to intervene and help turn a youngster’s life around.

“Most of the time they just want someone to talk to,” she said. “They want someone to listen.”

Detective Shaun Bridger

Listening to people on the streets is a big part of Shaun Bridger’s job as a Macon police detective.

“If you’re out there and you’re talking to them, they’re more apt to come out there and help you out and give you the information you need to try to get these criminals off the street,” Bridger said after picking up his 2013 Officer of the Year award Thursday.

Since January, he’s arrested an accused killer, two bank robbery suspects and several alleged armed robbers.

“Often he doesn’t get credit for the arrest, but he’s always right there doing the legwork and helping us with the takedowns,” Interim Macon Police Chief Mike Carswell said.

He described the six-year veteran of the force as a tenacious crime fighter and selfless detective.

In August, Bridger helped convict Desmond Deonta Gibbs of attacking a 25-year-old mother inside a College Street apartment and raping her in front of her 3-year-old daughter.

Gibbs was given back-to-back life sentences.

“Every time I arrest somebody and we go to trial and the judge hands down a sentence, that’s always justification for me and it’s the happiest day of my life,” Bridger said.

He loves being an investigator, a job he’s aspired to all his life.

Jami Gaudet, public information officer for the Macon Police Department, praised those who work for modest salaries, spend long hours away from their loved ones and shun accolades.

“They never know what will happen in a traffic stop or on patrol, but they do it anyway,” she said.

The sheriff echoed her sentiments.

“The people of this community can rest assured and feel comfortable that we have more just like these officers out there protecting them, and we’re very proud of their accomplishments,” Davis said.

Information from The Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.

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