FORSYTH, Ga. – From a wild high-speed chase with bullets flying to an off-duty cop and his pregnant wife saving two lives, this year’s Governor’s Public Safety Awards had plenty of drama.
The annual ceremony hosted by Gov. Brian Kemp at the Georgia Public Safety Training Center in Forsyth honors first responders who go above and beyond the call of duty.
Like Georgia State Trooper Aaron Ramirez.
On the road as a trooper for just six months, Ramirez became involved in his first high-speed pursuit in March 2021.
A man had kidnapped a woman from her Reidsville home and was refusing to stop for authorities, eventually heading east on Interstate 16 into Candler County.
Ramirez found himself the primary unit in the chase. For the next 17 minutes he would stay close to the kidnapper who was driving with a dangling bumper and at least one shredded tire.
Moments after Trooper Ramirez managed to disable the kidnapper’s car, you can see the man grab his female hostage and head for the woods. He would later be shot and killed. His hostage was freed with minor injuries. (GA State Patrol dash cam picture)
Four times Ramirez performed the PIT maneuver, a technique that involves using the patrol car to spin the other car off the road and disable it.
But all four times the kidnapper managed to regain control and keep driving.
“It was a very eye-opening experience for me,” Ramirez remembered.
At one point on the dash cam video you can hear Ramirez and the kidnapper exchanging gunshots, one of them grazing the trooper’s head.
“He was also placing the gun to her head at times as well,” Ramirez said. “As if to show me that he was wishing to harm her as well.”
Now bleeding, Ramirez tried a fifth time to disable the car. It finally worked.
The kidnapper jumped out of the wrecked car with his hostage, climbed over a fence and scrambled into some nearby woods. He would eventually be shot by other officers and later died. His hostage survived with only scratches.
This month, Ramirez was honored with the Act of Heroism Award.
Haralson County Sheriff Stacy Williams received the Act of Heroism Award. (Photo by GPSTC)
Haralson County Sheriff Stacy Williams saved a life last year too. In November 2021, he showed up at a trailer park where an emotionally distraught man was waving a gun, deputies watching carefully from a safe distance.
“He said I want you to kill me,” Williams recounted. “And I said no, we’re not going to kill you. I want to talk to you.”
Williams calmly encouraged the man to put the gun down, then told him to walk 15 feet away from the weapon. Once that was done, Williams walked over to the man, patted him down and gave him a long hug.
For that, Williams was given an Act of Heroism Award.
“I don’t care what’s going on,” the sheriff said after the ceremony. “We’re here to help them first. We’re not here to kill people.”
Former Chattahoochee Hills Police Cpl Joe Wells received the Act of Heroism Award. (photo by GPSTC)
That’s a lesson Joe and Lauren Wells’ children learned first hand. The now-retired Chattahoochee Hills police corporal was off duty when he and his family drove by a car that had stopped in the middle of the road.
“Cars kept going around them,” he said. “Honking their horn.”
But not the Wells. Lauren, a former nurse, noticed the people inside were unconscious.
“She goes ‘Joe, I think something’s wrong,’” he remembered.
As their four children watched wide-eyed through their car window, Joe and Lauren got out, called 911 and began CPR.
The 911 dispatcher asked Lauren where they should send the ambulance. The nearest mailbox was 100 yards away.
“I had to run down the road to get that number off the mailbox and run back,” said Lauren. “And 911 was asking me all these questions and I said you’re going to have to hold on for a minute. I’m 39 weeks pregnant.”
That’s right. Nine months pregnant.
“She was about ready to have him so that was a sight to see,” laughed Joe.
Lauren Wells with son Samuel. She was nine months pregnant when she and her husband helped save the lives of two people passed out in the middle of the road. (Photo by GPSTC)
The couple inside the car would recover at the hospital. And 10 days later Lauren would give birth to their fifth child, Samuel.
He’s already the clear winner of the Mommy and Me Award.
“I’ve been on a bunch of those calls unfortunately, and they don’t make it,” said Joe. “And for whatever reason, God was with her that day.”
You can read summaries of all 2022 honorees here: