By Donald Rodrigue
For Hometown News
MARTIN COUNTY -- Governor Rick Scott recently honored a Martin County detective for a selfless act of bravery committed while on duty.
During the Aug. 19 meeting of the Florida Cabinet, Gov. Scott awarded Martin County Sheriff's Office Detective Robert Smith the Medal of Heroism for his valiant efforts last year during a U.S. Marshals Regional Fugitive Task Force operation in Highlands County.
A violent confrontation erupted when the force attempted to apprehend two suspected felons in Sebring Nov. 19, and the officers came under fire. With two officers wounded and another pinned down by the gunfire, Detective Smith calmly instructed another detective to block the suspects' view with a patrol car and then used a ballistic shield to reach the trapped officer and get him to safety. He also made contact with the suspects inside the residence and convinced them to surrender.
Mr. Smith declined to accept praise for actions, claiming they were simply part of the instinctive behavior related to his duties.
"I wasn't really thinking," he said. "I was just reacting to a situation where a friend needed some help."
Sgt. Rodney Vizzo, fugitive warrants supervisor for the sheriff's office, describes Detective Smith as a role model and "blue collar worker" who focuses on teamwork and safely while completing the task at hand.
"Detective Smith is a humble and unspoken leader who does not seek recognition or accolades for his outstanding job performance," Sgt. Vizzo said. "He comes to work every day with the belief that he does make a positive impact in the community he serves."
Though shying away from the limelight and admitting he'd never been in such a violent confrontation before, Detective Smith says he's overwhelmed by the award.
"I feel humbled and honored for receiving this prestigious award," he said. "I am proud to serve the citizens of Martin County."
The Medal of Heroism is awarded to any law enforcement or correctional officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician or paramedic who goes above and beyond the call of duty to save the lives of others. Sgt. Vizzo believes Mr. Smith is worthy of the honor.
"Detective Smith is an intelligent, courageous, and dedicated individual who does not seek recognition or accolades for his outstanding job performance," he said. "I commend him for his actions on the day of the event."
Gov. Scott also honored Florida State Trooper Marcos Diaz of Miami with the Medal of Heroism for jumping in the ocean to save a drowning boater tangled in fishing line in Monroe County.