2018 POAM Police Officer of the Year

Chris Smith, James Gilbert & Nick Godwin, Port Huron Police

A machete-wielding madman, hell bent on causing as much bloodshed as possible, was subdued one morning last spring by a trio of quick-thinking Port Huron Police Officers, who relied on ingenuity, bravery and training to prevent a potential tragedy.

The chaos was ignited when an argument between two brothers erupted into violence. The suspect became agitated when he was asked to leave his mother’s residence after sparking a confrontation with his brother. When the suspect refused to leave and continued to spew violent threats toward his family members, he was taken to the floor by his brother, who placed him in a chokehold. The suspect, still intensely agitated, escaped the restraint by biting his brother on the forearm. He then stormed out of the second story room and ultimately seized a machete from the home’s garage.

Responding to a 911 call from the residence, Port Huron Officers Chris Smith and James Gilbert arrived at the scene almost simultaneously. As soon as Officer Smith arrived and exited his patrol car, the suspect emerged from the side of the home and charged Officer Smith while holding the machete in a threatening fashion in his left hand.

Upon observing the suspect charging his colleague in a life-threatening manner, Officer Gilbert swiftly maneuvered his patrol car between the suspect and Officer Smith, while at the same time alerting dispatchers that more officers would be needed. Unfazed by Officer Gilbert’s diversion tactics, the suspect’s aggression grew, and he continued to advance toward Officer Smith. With every move the suspect made, Gilbert countered by using his vehicle as a protective barrier for his colleague. While the situation unfolded, Officer Nick Godwin pulled up to the scene, armed with a non-lethal shotgun.

The officers yelled a steady stream of commands at the suspect to drop the weapon, but he only grew more rebellious, screaming, “I don’t care! I don’t f’ing care!”

He paced back and forth in front of Gilbert’s patrol car, brandishing the machete as if ready to strike at any second. The suspect then bolted toward Gilbert’s patrol vehicle, the machete primed to strike the vehicle. Gilbert deftly positioned his car to nudge the suspect away as he tried to divert the suspect’s attention from Officer Godwin, who was armed with his shotgun. When the suspect did notice Godwin, and now in his most agitated state, he charged Officer Godwin. Officer Gilbert accelerated his vehicle toward the suspect, forcing him to abruptly stop his attack.

Godwin then quickly discharged several rounds from his shotgun, striking the suspect in the arm and torso. In obvious pain, the suspect stopped his aggressive behavior and began walking toward the home’s garage. The situation was finally defused when the suspect threw his machete to the ground and followed the officers’ commands to lay prone on the ground.

With little time to plan, Port Huron Police Officers Chris Smith, James Gilbert and Nick Godwin utilized effective tactics to subdue a crazed man looking to cause severe injury and even death.

For their efforts, the Police Officers Association of Michigan would like to present them with its 2018 POAM Police Officer of the Year Award.

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