Local News

Sheriff’s sergeant gets highest SO honor

— When Sgt. John Singha of the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office arrived March 9 at Plantation Drive in the dark early morning hours, with heavy fog in the area, he knew a person was shooting at homes and two deputies who arrived earlier.

He saw the shooter drive a patrol car into his yard, get out of the car with an assault rifle, and then point it in the direction of the two deputies.

And that was when Singha fatally shot Floyd Gene Hodge.

Highlands County Chief Deputy Mark Schrader recalled those events when announcing during a quarterly awards ceremony that Singha was receiving the highest honor the sheriff’s office gives, the Award of Honor, because his actions saved lives.

“This sergeant is a hero,” Schrader said. “He did what he had to do to save lives.”

In a written nomination, he said, Singha’s actions, “during this active shooter incident, in all probability saved the lives of deputies and citizens; for it is very apparent that the suspect was intent on continuing to fire on the deputies and the houses, and had to be immediately stopped. Sgt. Singha did, in the line of duty, distinguish himself, by the above noted act of courage, involving risk of eminent danger to his life, with the purpose of saving or protecting human life.”

Further investigation showed that Hodge shot at four residences, Schrader said.

“In all, 93 rounds struck the houses, with several of these rounds actually penetrating into the living quarters of the houses; some narrowly missing the occupants,” he added.

The investigation also found that Hodge was firing an AK-47 assault rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun.

He had fired 123 rounds from the AK-47, with eight rounds hitting patrol vehicles. He also shot five 12-gauge shotgun rounds, Schrader said.

Also at the ceremony:

Detention Deputy David Sweet was recognized for saving the life of a prisoner who had hung himself on Nov. 7, 2013.

“Deputy Sweet immediately opened the cell door, called for assistance, then lifted the inmate up to relieve the pressure,” his nomination stated. “Unable to untie the sheet from the inmate’s neck, Sweet untied the sheet from the top bunk, got him down and initiated a sternum rub on the unconscious inmate’s chest.”

Chaplain William Trucano was recognized for his “availability, compassion, dependability, diligence and endurance and most importantly for his faith.”

Deputy Ryan Adair was recognized for his work to reduce crime and increasing safety on roads.

Carol McCullough was recognized for her hard work in the training and accreditation units.

Also announced by Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton at the event were several promotions, including the following:

Sgt. James Murphy became a lieutenant at the jail.

Deputy Michael Morse became a sergeant at the jail.

Sgt. Manuel Gonzalez became a lieutenant in the crime scene evidence unit.

Deputy Jeff Fennell became a sergeant in the crime scene evidence unit.

Deputy Mike Ahrens became a sergeant in uniform patrol.


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