AMERICUS, GA (WALB) - A Georgia Southwestern State University Campus Safety Officer has been recognized for how he helped his department through a horrible tragedy: the death of fellow GSW Officer Jody Smith and Americus Police Officer Nick Smarr.
Sgt. Michael Lewis has been named the Officer of the Year for Georgia college campuses.
"We do believe in being hands-on with our students," said Sgt. Lewis, who joined GSW's Campus Safety department more than 5 years ago.
He started working in law enforcement more than 23 years ago, but he said this last year has been especially trying.
"I was actually off and I got called in," he described of December 7, 2016.
He got the call that Officers Smarr and Smith were shot in the line of duty.
Both officers passed away.
"Whenever you get that type of phone call, you're nervous and jittery and trying to make sense of it all," Sgt. Lewis said.
It was the role Sgt. Lewis took on following that tragedy that lead GSW Campus Safety Chief Mike Tracy to nominate him for Georgia Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators' 'Officer of the Year' award.
And, he won.
Chief Tracy said Sergeant Lewis did whatever he could to help people on campus and his fellow officers in their time of need.
"We're still dealing with it," Sgt. Lewis said of the officers' deaths. "We're coming up on the anniversary now in December."
With such pride in the campus he serves, Sgt. Lewis said the award is extra special.
It's named after his former mentor, and GSW's former Public Safety Director, Chief Oris W. Bryant, Jr., who died in 2013.
"To be actually given an award that's in recognition of him makes that award even that more special for me," Sgt. Lewis explained.
The officer said he feels honored to serve and protect his campus.
During his law enforcement career, Sgt. Lewis also worked with Montezuma Police and the Georgia State Patrol.
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