SIDNEY — Two Shelby County sheriff’s deputies assisted Saturday in Paulding during a memorial service for U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Scott Smith, one of five servicemen killed in a Chattanooga, Tennessee, attack last month.
Deputy Ed Garrett and Deputy Jeff Gillman, both of Sidney, responded to a request by the Paulding County sheriff for mutual aid.
“The fair was going on. With that and vacations, there were not very many deputies available,” said Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart. “I feel very strong about a mutual aid call from another county or police department. I always try to reciprocate when we’re asked.”
Garrett and Gillman volunteered to go to Paulding and did so on their own time. Garrett interrupted his vacation to leave Sidney at 6:30 a.m., Saturday, to get to the village in the northwest corner of Ohio. Gillman worked a 19-hour day, because he put in a full shift at the fair when he got back from eight hours in Paulding that day.
The two joined about 150 law enforcement officials from throughout the state.
“We were assigned to traffic detail,” Gillman said. “There was concern that there were protestors coming in.” Three rings of perimeter were set up. Garrett and Gillman used Garrett’s cruiser to block access to one street in the middle ring.
“We assisted people (with directions),” Garrett added. Neither knew of any protest that took place. Garrett said he thought that the large contingent of law enforcement in the small town kept protesters away. About 2,500 people attended the memorial service in the school gymnasium following a parade through town by hundreds of veterans on motorcycles. Paulding has a population of 3,544.
“It all flowed well. Sheriff Jason Landers (of Paulding County) did a great job of coordinating it all,” Gillman said. When the two were dismissed from their post on the street, they were provided with a lunch at the Paulding VFW, and then they joined the crowd in the school.
“The memorial service was quiet and somber. (Smith) was just a regular guy that could have been any of us. When I walked in there, I remember thinking, ‘If the rest of America could be like this (all coming together), we’d be in far better shape. You’re supposed to take care of your own,” Gillman said.
When he got back to Sidney, he put together a montage of photos he had taken during the day and added some music. He showed the montage to Lenhart at the fair.
“I had two hours to download the photos. It was supposed to be a draft. He posted it (to Facebook),” Gillman said. “It was a tribute to Randall Smith.”
Lenhart is very proud of that tribute.
“They didn’t go up there for photo ops,” he said of his deputies, “and that isn’t their area of expertise. But I urge people to look at that. Kids on the street are saluting. Flags are everywhere.”
In response to the Tennessee shootings, Lenhart has done more than send deputies for mutual aid.
“The Sunday after five military recruiters were killed, people were deciding what they want to do,” he said. “I thought, ‘I can’t understand why government doesn’t move faster.’ Then I thought, ‘I can do something.’”
What he did was offer area recruiters permits to carry concealed handguns.
“By statute, I can issue emergency concealed carry permits based on need to any contiguous county. Monday morning I reached out to them. By Tuesday, I had issued eight of them. By Friday, there were four more. I wanted to do something about protecting those recruiters and their families,” he said.
Lenhart added that members of all five branches of the military had responded to his offer. Some of them work in the recruiting office in Piqua. Others live in Shelby or contiguous counties, but work in the office in Lima.
“They were very grateful,” Lenhart said. His office absorbed the cost of the permits — at $55 each, it cost Shelby County taxpayers a total of $660.
The reason the recruitment officers in Tennessee couldn’t defend themselves was that it is against federal law to have a weapon, concealed or otherwise, on federal property other than national parks and wildlife refuges. Recruitment offices, which are usually leased space in privately owned buildings, are considered federal property because they are leased by the government.
The sheriff is impatient with Washington.
“The feds are (still just) talking about it,” he said.
Gregory Becker, chief of public affairs for the U.S. Army Cleveland Recruiting Battalion, which oversees the Piqua recruiting office, confirmed that discussions are ongoing.
“All I can say is that we’re — the Department of Defense — is reviewing those policies,” he said.
Lenhart and Gillman both voiced concern about the safety of Americans in uniform in the U.S.
“Six months ago, our enemies told us that military and law enforcement officers were on their list to kill,” Lenhart said. “As a veteran and a sheriff, (offering the permits) was just the right thing to do to protect our military. They’re our first line to keep us free. But it’s a sad day in America when local law enforcement has to protect our military.”
Reach the writer at 937-548-4824. Follow her on Twitter @PASpeelmanSDN.