Sheriff, family of slain Decatur Co. lawman gather for billboard lighting ceremony

Sheriff, family of slain Decatur Co. lawman gather for billboard lighting ceremony

BAINBRIDGE, Ga. (WALB) - Justin Bedwell’s family members opened up publicly for the first time after he was shot in the line of duty and died earlier this month.

They did so Tuesday morning in Bainbridge during a billboard lighting in honor of the fallen officer.

His daughter Madison, or known as “Maddie” to Justin, talked about home life with him, including tender moments like everyday jokes on “momma.”

“Every time she walked in from work, we would say ‘yep, she’s mad, she’s not in the mood today,’” Maddie said.

Madison, Georgia, and Katherine standing together during Tuesday's ceremony as Katherine read the family's statement.
Madison, Georgia, and Katherine standing together during Tuesday's ceremony as Katherine read the family's statement. (Source: WALB)

April Fool’s Day was always a winner between the father and daughter duo.

Maddie laughingly recalled one joke she and Justin played on her mother by “putting blue Gatorade in the bottle, bleach bottle and drinking it whenever she got out of the shower.”

These laughs and memories were shared during a Bainbridge billboard lighting ceremony Tuesday in the fallen Decatur County Sheriff’s Office captain’s honor.

Just before the lighting, his wife, Katherine, Madison, and his mother, Georgia, stood in front of a crowd with brave faces on.

“The days since Feb. 27 have been nothing more than a blur for Georgia, Maddie and myself,” Katherine said. “We’ve felt the prayers of our family, friends and those we may never meet.”

Katherine gave a brief statement but didn’t want to comment further on camera and neither did Georgia. However, Maddie did.

She called Justin her “best buddy” and said with no doubt in her mind that he was the “best babysitter ever.”

One of the fonder times between the two was trips to Walmart after Justin got paid.

“We’d each get a prize. (Mom) got chocolate donuts. I got a couple of million toys,” Maddie said.

A family photo of the Bedwells.
A family photo of the Bedwells. (Source: Bedwell Family)

There will be five billboards across South Georgia lighting up in Bedwell’s honor.

One billboard can be seen off the 84/27 bypass in Bainbridge from now through July.

Decatur County Sheriff Wiley Griffin also spoke at the ceremony.

Griffin said he’ll have to drive by this sign every day, forever reminding him of his fallen officer.

Griffin spoke to a crowd of people who came out to watch the billboard light up.

He said his office still gets mail from people and agencies across the county.

Griffin said he can’t think of a state that hasn’t sent their condolences.

Wiley Griffin, Decatur County sheriff, spoke at the Tuesday event.
Wiley Griffin, Decatur County sheriff, spoke at the Tuesday event. (Source: WALB)

“A lot. I’m talking about they started coming in that quick. I’m still getting them today. I’ll have another 25 today when I get there. They’re still coming in,” Griffin said. “I did yesterday’s mail today, this morning. That’s where the Tennessee State Patrol one came from. They come from all over the United States.”

Back the Badge Big Bend, a nonprofit based in Tallahassee, Fla., put the signs up.

Founding member Brad Gray said he never met Bedwell but it’s an honor to light up his memory.

Brad Gray, founding member of Back the Badge Big Bend, a nonprofit based in Tallahassee, Fla.
Brad Gray, founding member of Back the Badge Big Bend, a nonprofit based in Tallahassee, Fla. (Source: WALB)

“We started a little grassroots movement last year in an effort to show a little bit of respect and appreciation for law enforcement,” Gray said. “Considering all the vilification they’re under on the national level and we wanted to show a little bit of support to our local law enforcement in North Florida and South Georgia.”

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