Lowndes County Sheriff Mike Arledge, right, addresses a group of law enforcement officers during a Thursday ceremony to welcome the return to duty of deputies Lt. Clint Sims, left, and Lt. Larry Swearingen, center. The two deputies were wounded during a March incident in New Hope. Photo by: Luisa Porter/Dispatch Staff
July 11, 2014 10:35:22 AM
Two Lowndes County Sheriff's Department deputies who were shot in the line of duty have returned to work.
Lt. Larry Swearingen and Lt. Clint Sims were honored Thursday along with the E-911 dispatchers, first responders and fellow officers who were on the scene of the March 18 shooting in a New Hope subdivision.
Sheriff Mike Arledge addressed a gathered crowd of law enforcement Thursday afternoon to present Swearingen and Sims with the Sheriff's Award of Valor and the Sheriff's Purple Heart.
The two were shot this spring when Kenneth "Kent" Coscia, 30, allegedly shot at them from behind the closed door of his home on Drake Circle.
Sims and Swearingen were part of the department's Special Response Team that responded to Coscia's home for a welfare check. SRT was involved in the welfare check because deputies knew Coscia was armed, according to department officials.
Sims was shot in the leg and Swearingen was shot in the stomach. Deputy Scott Glasgow also sustained injuries during the incident.
Coscia was arrested on scene. He was charged with three counts of aggravated assault against a law enforcement officer and one charge of shooting into an occupied dwelling. Coscia remains in custody at the Monroe County Detention Center on a $3,050,000 bond.
Before Thursday's ceremony began, Sims led the honor guard for a presentation of the colors.
"March 18 was a sad day. It was a terrible day. It was a stressful day. But today is a good day." Arledge told the audience of law enforcement personnel in a ceremony marked with emotion.
"People say if you can remember a specific date and time, generally something really bad happened that day," Sims said after being presented with the Award of Valor. "That may hold true. However, my experience I see differently. Yes, Lt. Larry Swearingen and I were shot. Yes, it hurt. Yes, we stayed in the hospital and yes, we were off work for a while. That is part of the reason I do remember that day. What happened that day and for months to come is what I remember most."
Sims also spoke about how the law enforcement community closed ranks around the fallen deputies.
"We were not rookie or veteran, deputies or police officers," he said. "We were all law enforcement. On that day, we stood as one while two of our own fell. As one unit, they rushed in and protected their downed officers. As one unit, they got them to the hospital for the help that they needed and as one unit, during the chaos, during the bloody scene, their fellow officers prayed.
Deputies, police officers, fire fighters, state agencies, EMS, bowed their heads and lifted up their officers. How great would it be if, every day, people across this great nation did that for each other."
In the aftermath of the shooting, Sims said both he and Swearingen felt the support of the community.
"People will say that is our job, we knew this might happen getting into it," Sims said. "I did not hear any of that from our community. All we got from this community was support and it was overwhelming. We got cards from students, donations, lots of calls from people inquiring how we were doing, asking if we needed food, prayer or anything.
"I cannot explain what it's like to wake up, or come home from a doctor's visit and the yard is mowed and someone is at your house that evening with supper already cooked. To everyone that helped Larry and I, thank you. I cannot say that enough.
"To my law enforcement family, if there was any day, any doubt, should one of us fall, that we would not rally the troops, just let Tuesday, March 18, 2014 erase all that doubt."
Sims and Swearingen are each currently working on light duty, Arledge said. They are expected to return to full duty in the coming weeks.
Sarah Fowler covered crime, education and community related events for The Dispatch.
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