County deputy awarded state Medal of Valor

COLUMBIA — Last Thursday, the South Carolina Sheriff’s Association awarded the 2011 Medal of Valor to Lt. J.B. Kelley of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office for his successful resolution of two 2010 incidents involving armed subjects.
As chief crisis negotiator for the sheriff’s office, Kelley has almost 15 years of experience in dealing with such tense, highly emotional and volatile situations.
On September 22, 2010, the Clemson Police Department received a report of an individual threatening to commit suicide. Officers began a search and found the man on Clemson University property, holding a shotgun to his forehead while seated in a vehicle.
The Clemson University Police Department responded and notified the sheriff’s office of the incident. Kelley was advised by responding deputies of the call and proceeded to the scene. Following attempts by university and city officers to resolve the incident, Kelley initiated a conversation with the man.
Kelley was quickly able to determine what had so frustrated the man that he had chosen to end his own life. Within approximately 15 minutes Kelley was able to get him to see that despite what appeared at the time to be overwhelming obstacles, there were other avenues for him to take in life. The man gave his gun to Kelley and exited the car.
Two months later, the Easley Police Department responded to a criminal domestic violence call within its jurisdiction. It was reported that a man had fired a handgun inside his house in close proximity to his wife and child. The first arriving officers were able to successfully evacuate the wife and child from the home, but the suspect barricaded himself inside his house. Easley PD’s dispatcher made contact with the suspect by phone and alerted officers that the man appeared to be mentally unstable. The suspect wanted officers to kill him, and threatened to shoot at the officers in an effort to force his own death.
Following attempts to resolve the situation, the Easley Police Department requested the assistance of the sheriff’s office SWAT team. Kelley was dispatched to the scene as part of the SWAT response. Upon arriving, the SWAT team secured an area around the home while Kelley met with the on-scene Easley officers to develop a crisis resolution plan. Kelley was able to make phone contact with the suspect, who was upset over financial problems and whose thinking was clouded by drug use. Over the next half hour, Kelley was able to calm the man down to a point where he could successfully be taken into custody.
“During both these incidents, Lt. Kelley placed himself in harm’s way in an effort to save both the lives of the individuals who were creating the danger by their actions, and to prevent his fellow officers from having to confront potential harm,” said sheriff C. David Stone. “His willingness to risk his own safety for the people of Pickens County reflects the highest ideals of a law enforcement officer.”