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2 officers awarded for saving boy allegedly shot by father

The officers quickly treated a 4-year-old after the father allegedly tried to hide a gun when it discharged, hitting the boy


Daily Commercial, Leesburg, Fla.

LEESBURG, Fla. — Two Leesburg police officers were honored Thursday for saving a 4-year-old boy who was allegedly shot by his father in November.

Sgt. Travis Whitley and Senior Officer Brandon Brinkman were presented with "Life Saving" medals for their efforts during the incident. "Chief Rob Hicks recognized both men for their life saving service, and the department is equally proud to have them both in service to the citizens of Leesburg!" according to a press release from the department.

The officers responded to a shots-fired call at 12:39 a.m. Nov. 28 in the Stock subdivision of Leesburg. When they got to 1305 Berwick Drive, they saw a red Chevy Avalanche parked at the residence. A woman was standing beside the vehicle on the passenger side. Herbert James, 24, was sitting in the car on the passenger side.

The couple said they had not heard any gunshots.

Police left, but then got another call about a man running through a yard on Lancaster Avenue, which backs up to the Berwick address. When police returned to Berwick, they found James sitting on the front step.

James denied knowing anything about a man running through his yard. It was then that one of the officers noticed two bullet holes in the Avalanche windshield on the passenger side. James said he didn't own the vehicle and didn't know how it ended up in his driveway or how the vehicle had been struck with bullets.

"The defendant then became hostile and stated he wanted us to leave his property because we didn't need to be there," the arrest affidavit stated.

James went inside his house and officers began doing an inventory of the vehicle. He then came back outside, started yelling profanities, said the residence was his property, that his son was inside sleeping, that he owned a firearm and that he was not a felon, all "while attempting to taunt the officers..."

The officers told him to go back inside or he would be arrested.

He "continued yelling, 'I'm scared of y'all,' and 'Y'all shoot black people.'"

James retreated back inside the home and about 10 seconds later officers heard a gunshot. They kicked in the door and found James walking out of a darkened hallway with a gun in his hand. Police shined a light on him and ordered him to drop the weapon.

A woman in the home was carrying the child and telling officers that he wasn't breathing. "Take him, he's been shot," she said.

The boy had been shot in his upper torso. Whitley, who is a certified EMT and Leesburg Police SWAT medic, began treating the child's wound. He then took the child outside, where he got into another officer's patrol vehicle and met the ambulance.

The child was initially taken to Leesburg Regional Medical Center, then airlifted to Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital in Orlando.

James was arrested and charged with aggravated child abuse and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

The woman told police that James was moving the gun from an unsecured place on a closet shelf while police were outside. The weapon discharged and a bullet went through the closet wall, into the adjoining bedroom, where the child was struck while sleeping on an air mattress.

On Thursday, police said the child is recovering, "largely due to (the officers') swift and efficient treatment during this critical incident."

©2018 Daily Commercial, Leesburg, Fla.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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