By JB Clark
TUPELO – Police Officer Joseph Maher, along with his parents, wife and daughter, were on hand Wednesday to receive the Law Enforcement Purple Heart during the Crime Stoppers of Northeast Mississippi Awards Luncheon.
Also honored were the families of fallen Tupelo Police Sgt. Kevin “Gale” Stauffer and fallen Union County Sheriff’s Deputy Clinton Frazier, who received the Law Enforcement Cross. The cross was given as recognition that the two officers gave their lives while on duty.
Wednesday was Maher’s first public appearance since being wounded in a shootout while responding to a bank robbery on South Gloster Street on Dec. 23.
Stauffer was killed in the same shootout.
Frazier was killed when his car was pushed off the road while responding to a call.
Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre said Maher looked great and it was rewarding to honor him for his service.
“He came fully dressed in his uniform,” Aguirre said. “He still has some surgery to go and his speech is still affected but he’s doing great.”
In addition to the new awards, the four annual awards were handed out.
The Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award was presented to Lt. Mike Mewlin of the Itawamba County Sheriff’s Office.
Bill Allen, treasurer of Crime Stoppers of Northeast Mississippi, said Mewlin was chosen for his thorough investigation of the capital murders of Fred and Mildred Joy House – his first case as an investigator, which concluded this week with the accused murderer, Jake Carpenter, pleading guilty.
John Walden of Chickasaw County was named Board Member of the Year for his more than 15 years of service to Crime Stoppers of Northeast Mississippi.
Larry Brymer, a former Fort Worth, Texas, police officer and manager of Carlock Toyota, was given the Community Service Award for his support of Crime Stoppers and the annual Blue Steel Challenge.
The Media Representative Award was given to WTVA.
Officer Stauffer and Deputy Frazier were also recognized at the state Crime Stoppers training conference in Biloxi last weekend with the Law Enforcement Lifetime Service Award.
There, Crime Stoppers of Northeast Mississippi was named the top program in the state, Allen was given the Lifetime Service Award and WTVA was given the statewide media award.
Allen has served as a board member for 10 years in the different positions of chairman, vice-chairman and treasurer.
Crime Stoppers of Northeast Mississippi covers Alcorn, Chickasaw, Itawamba, Lee, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Tippah, Tishomingo and Union counties.