At a ceremony today at the Florida State Capital, Attorney General Pam Bondi presented Polk County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sheriff Michael Braswell the 2011 Law Enforcement Officer of the Year award. Go here for a release from the Attorney General’s Office: http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/070EC84E1FE8E69D8525799D005D7CEE
Braswell was previously awarded the state wide Florida State Lodge Fraternal Order of Police award in 2011 and was the Polk County Sheriff’s Office’s Deputy Sheriff of the Year. He was also awarded the PCSO Medal of Honor and Purple Heart. The awards were presented to Braswell for his courageous action during a shooting in the South Wabash area of unincorporated Polk County, just outside of Lakeland. Braswell’s partner that evening, Deputy Sheriff Paul Fairbanks was awarded the PCSO Medal of Valor and Purple Heart.
On June 25, 2010, Deputy Sheriff Michael Braswell and Deputy Sheriff Paul Fairbanks were proactively patrolling the area of South Wabash due to recent gang related problems in the area. At approximately 2:30 a.m., both deputies checked out with an unknown person who was riding a bicycle with no light on it at the intersection of Plateau Avenue and Josephine Street in Lakeland. During the stop, the suspect identified himself as Matthew Tutt and displayed confirming identification—he appeared to be cooperative. Deputy Braswell believed the suspect may have had drugs on him and asked for permission to search him. Tutt agreed. Deputy Braswell asked Tutt to move around the car to be searched. As Deputy Braswell was handing Tutt’s identification to Deputy Fairbanks, the stop took a tragic turn.
Without warning, Tutt produced a handgun from his waist area and shot Deputy Fairbanks three times gravely wounding him and rendering him unable to fight back. Tutt then turned the gun on Deputy Braswell as he continued to fire. Deputy Braswell was struck twice in the chest, once in the buttocks and once in his gun hand from a distance of between 5 and 6 feet by the suspect’s .45 caliber handgun. Deputy Braswell was able to draw his firearm and return fire on Tutt. Both Deputy Braswell and suspect Tutt fell to the ground from their injuries. Both were just a few feet apart from each other. The suspect had dropped his weapon close to his body during the gunfire exchange. As they were lying there, suspect Tutt began to reach for his firearm, despite numerous warnings not to from Deputy Braswell. The suspect was persistent in reaching for his gun and Deputy Braswell, though seriously wounded, took steady aim and shot and killed Tutt.
Deputy Braswell demonstrated a remarkable ability to stay engaged in the fight given his severe injuries. He also showed an amazing capacity to maintain a fairly calm and clear voice on the radio. He gave updates regarding his condition and Paul Fairbank’s condition, the location of the shooting, and the status of the suspect.
Mike Braswell’s demeanor after the shooting defines a hero. While awaiting treatment at Lakeland Regional Medical Center, he was constantly asking for updates about his partner Deputy Fairbanks, who was in very serious condition. He never showed concern for himself. During an interview with detectives just about an hour after the event, all Deputy Braswell could do was praise the agency for its training, leadership and support.
Some law enforcement officers might have given up after being shot. Deputy Braswell reacted assertively based on his training and he relied on his strength and will to live. Undoubtedly, his actions saved not only his life, but also the life of his partner.
Both deputies survived their injuries, through perseverance and resolve, though it has been a long road to recovery. Deputy Sheriff Paul Fairbanks has had an especially tough road—involving multiple surgeries and ongoing painful physical therapy. But his drive to overcome adversity, his personal strength, and his sense of humor caused his fellow deputies and friends to admire and respect him even more.
For his valor and heroic conduct during the shooting that occurred on June 25, 2010 and for his heroic grit and determination overcoming adversity during the recovery of his serious injuries received in the line of duty, Deputy Sheriff Paul Fairbanks was awarded the Purple Heart Medal and the Medal of Valor May 24, 20011.
For his extreme conspicuous bravery above and beyond the call of duty during a life-threatening and perilous encounter with an armed felon, and for serious injuries sustained in the line of duty, Deputy Sheriff Michael Braswell was awarded the Purple Heart Medal and the Medal of Honor, the highest award presented by the Sheriff’s Office on May 24, 2011.