Pelham honors officers, including Philip Davis, for service

Published 10:48 pm Monday, August 1, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

The Pelham Police Department recently honored five of its own, including slain officer Philip Davis, for their contributions to the department during the agency’s annual awards day.

During the awards day, Pelham police Chief Tommy Thomas presented four Certificates of Commendation to officers who were involved in a pair of high-profile incidents. Thomas also presented posthumously a Medal of Valor to Davis, who was shot and killed by Bart Johnson during a December 2009 traffic stop on Interstate 65.

Thomas nominated Davis for the award because of the officer’s “unwavering commitment to professionalism and excellence, and his ultimate sacrifice for this community and his department,” Thomas said.

A few days before he was killed, Davis issued a safety training bulletin to the department titled “Reinvent the Wheel.” In the bulletin, Davis warned his fellow officers of the “indifference to human life and to police that seemed to be the growing trend around the nation,” and encouraged all officers to take their safety precautions seriously, Thomas said.

“In light of his last writings, many of us feel that this bulletin was Philip’s last gift to us,” Thomas said.

The department also honored officers Jason Vandiver and Norm Bernard after the duo was involved in arresting a man on assault and robbery charges in August 2010.

Vandiver stopped the suspect after he noticed the man’s vehicle tag was expired.

Thomas said Vandiver then discovered a wallet and two credit cards in the suspect’s vehicle belonging to someone else. The suspect told Vandiver the cards belonged to someone who had been riding in the car earlier.

Bernard, who provided backup for Vandiver in the case, also noticed the suspect had a blood spatter and staining on his jeans. When the two officers were unable to gather enough information to bring charges against the suspect, the officers kept the wallet and credit cards and allowed the suspect to leave the scene.

Vandiver attempted to locate the owner of the wallet for several hours before the department received a call reporting an assault victim had been found unconscious and suffering from severe head injuries in the parking lot of a business off Morgan Park Drive.

Police determined the victim was the owner of the wallet, and later arrested the suspect at a nearby apartment complex. Police said the suspect beat the victim with a baseball bat and then robbed him.

“Without officer Vandiver’s stop, it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to identify the offender in this case,” Thomas said. “Without the keen eye and inquisitive nature of officer Bernard, the blood stains and blood spatter on the suspect’s pants, which were a key piece of evidence, could have been easily missed.”

Thomas also gave Certificates of Commendation to officers Mike Williams and Mike McGee after Thomas said they were involved in thwarting a suicide attempt.

The officers responded to a May 2011 suicide attempt call in the Ballantrae subdivision. When officers arrived on the scene, they were unable to locate the home’s occupant.

After the officers entered an unlocked door, they discovered a man slumped over the steering wheel of a running vehicle inside the closed basement garage.

Thomas said Williams then checked the victim while McGee opened both garage doors to allow the exhaust fumes to vent.

The officers then removed the victim from the house, and had the victim treated by fire department medical personnel. The next day, the victim called the police department to thank the officers for saving his life, Thomas said.

“The victim further stated that he was receiving the appropriate treatment and was on the road to recovery, thanks to the action and compassion of these officers,” Thomas said.