Russell, Bass honored as state#039;s top officers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 21, 2006

Two of Greenville's finest were honored for going &#8220above and beyond the call of duty” this week.

Greenville Police Department Officers Byron Russell and John Bass were selected as the Statewide Law Enforcement Officers of the Year. The two were recognized during a special ceremony on October 17 at the Attorney General's 2006 Law Enforcement Summit in Birmingham.

Attorney General Troy King presented the statewide Certificate of Merit to Russell and Bass for their &#8220courageous” response to a gun man walking the halls of the Comfort Inn in Greenville earlier this year.

The officers responded to a &#8220man with a gun” call at the local hotel on the evening of January 14, 2006.

Wayne Vasquez of St. Bernard, La., had been roaming the Comfort Inn's hallways, brandishing a firearm.

He returned to his room upon the officers' arrival. Officer Lionel Davidson, Bass and Russell, were dispatched to the scene. Vasquez returned to his room upon their arrival.

The man refused the officers' request to open the door. When they attempted to open his room door with a passkey, Vasquez opened fire, striking Davidson on the right arm and left hand.

Bass and Russell both returned fire and Bass was wounded in the right arm during the confrontation.

As the wounded officers were being evacuated, Vasquez left his room and tried to fire again. Russell returned his fire, then positioned himself to cover Bass and Davidson.

A short time later, the Greenville Special Response Team entered the room and found the man dead. The autopsy revealed both Officer Bass and Officer Russell's return fire struck the man.

After being taken to the local hospital, Bass was airlifted to Mobile and Davidson was taken to Montgomery for treatment of their injuries.

Bass, who said he was &#8220honored and happy” to receive the award, is seeing continued improvement in his injured arm.

&#8220There are few things we are still working on. They tell me it should be fully healed within a few months,” he said.

&#8220In the meantime, I am able to use (the arm) the way I want to in my work.”

Bass added, &#8220When we come out to do our job, it isn't with the goal of winning an award, but to serve and protect our community. That means looking out for the people who live here, our fellow officers and people who are traveling through here.”

Officer Russell described being chosen for the statewide award as &#8220a great honor.”

&#8220I think it's something that reflects well on our police department and on our city as a whole,” Russell said.

GPD Police Chief Lonzo Ingram agrees.

&#8220This is a tremendous honor for our police department and our city. It's wonderful to see that type of dedication, knowing that your officers didn't blink when the rubber met the road.”

Each honoree received a gift certificate for one of the Retirement System of Alabama resorts and a framed Certificate of Merit from King. In addition, Russell and Bass were awarded with a gift certificate for a Glock semi-automatic pistol, provided by the Alabama Peace Officers Association, the Alabama Association of Chiefs of Police, the Alabama Sheriff's Association and Gulf State Distributors which is a provider of law enforcement equipment.